Long beloved by feline friends, catnip (Nepeta cataria) is just as well-liked by humans — albeit for different reasons. Native to Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, this fragrant perennial is also naturalized in temperate climates throughout the world.
It’s often grown as an ornamental plant, as well as an attractant for pollinators, but some enjoy it for its magical and medicinal uses as well.
Magical Properties of Catnip
Some grimoires may refer to this plant as catmint, catwort, or catswort.
This herb is often used in spells for love, beauty, and sensuality. When mixed with rose petals, it’s often used to make love sachets. It’s also almost as good at attracting benevolent spirits as it is at attracting cats.
As a relaxant, it’s frequently used before sleep for prophetic dreams and other forms of dream magic.
Growing catnip in the garden is said to attract luck.
Catnip is ruled by the planet Venus, and the element of water.
Benefits & Uses
Catnip contains compounds called nepetalactone and nepetalactol, which are thought to be the primary attractants for cats.
Many species of cats react to these chemicals, including lynxes, leopards, cougars, servals, and some lions and tigers. About two thirds of individual cats react to catnip, and a cat’s propensity to react may be genetic.
Interestingly, nepetalactone also acts as a mosquito and fly repellent. It’s possible that most cats react favorably to catnip because rubbing against it covered them in a natural pest repellent.
Animals with fewer pest problems would have survived longer and had an easier time attracting mates, allowing their catnip-enjoying genes to pass on in greater numbers than those who didn’t enjoy rubbing on catnip.
Catnip has a relaxant effect on humans. It’s often drunk as a tea to relieve stress and anxiety, induce sleep, and ease digestive issues and menstrual cramps.
Possible Risks & Side Effects
Some people are allergic to catnip. These allergies can show up as rashes, an upset stomach, trouble breathing, or anaphylaxis. If you’re allergic to catnip or other members of the mint family, please use a different herb.
Since catnip may impact the uterus and menstrual cycle, it might not be safe for use during pregnancy. If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor to determine if catnip is safe to use.
Catnip is generally safe for most people, but may become unsafe in high doses, concentrated forms, or when smoked.
Side effects of catnip can include headaches and nausea.
Since catnip is a relaxant, it may interfere with other medications with sedative properties. If you’re currently taking antihistamines, pain relievers, medication for depression or anxiety, or anything else with drowsiness as a side-effect, catnip may intensify this effect. Don’t drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how it affects you.
History & Folklore
The name Nepeta is thought to come from the Etrurian city of Neptic. (Now known as Nepi.) This area cultivated catnip for culinary and medicinal use.
The ancient Romans used catnip medicinally and as a culinary herb. This continued through the middle ages and colonial period, up until pharmaceutical alternatives supplanted catnip as medicine.
European colonists took catnip seeds and plants with them, hoping to establish them in the Americas. Indigenous American people saw the value of catnip as medicine, and began using it themselves.
Getting Started With Catnip
As a member of the mint family, you’ll probably have more trouble controlling catnip than you will growing it. It’ll grow pretty much anywhere it’s allowed to (and several places where it isn’t), though it prefers full sun and rich, well-drained soil.
If you plan to grow it directly in the garden, you may wish to plant it in buried pots. This can help keep catnip from spreading too aggressively, as long as you harvest it before it can go to seed.
Otherwise, you may wish to grow this herb in pots — it’ll even do well indoors, as long as it gets enough sunlight and isn’t allowed to become waterlogged. Pinch these plants often to encourage them to stay compact and bushy and produce lots of leaves.
To get started with catnip, you may wish to try including it in herbal recipes for attraction, beauty, or glamour. Traditionally, this herb has been used by women to attract men (or people with lots of masculine energy), but it can have an impact on anyone of any gender.
Candle magic is great for this, too. To make an attraction candle, all you need is a candle in pink (or natural beeswax gold), some honey, and a blend of catnip, pink or red rose petals, lavender, and any other love herb you feel drawn to use. (If you have them, you may wish to include cinnamon and ginger for a little passionate heat and extra speed.)
Hold the candle in your hands. Visualize yourself as a magnet to the kind of person you wish to attract — you are confident, fun, funny, and sensual. People are drawn to you with magnetic ease.
Ground yourself, and draw energy up from the Earth. Draw it down from the sky. Feel it mixing with your intent inside you. Let this energy course down your arms and into your hands, filling the candle.
Now, roll the candle in honey. It won’t cover it perfectly evenly — that’s okay. Immediately afterward, roll it in the herbal mixture. Not all of it will stick, but that’s okay too. Set the candle in a fireproof dish, and sprinkle the remaining herb mixture around the base.
Hold your hands over the candle. Let the energy drawn from the Earth and sky fill up a bubble-shaped space around the candle and dish. See the color of this energy. Feel its warmth. Press your hands against it, and feel the resistance.
Say, “By lavender and rose, honey and catmint, I attract who I want. I draw them in. By this wax and candle’s heat, I attract exactly who I wish to meet.”
Light the candle. Allow it to burn completely to release the power. If you wish, you can interpret the flame and wax patterns to see how your spell is turning out.
When you are through, bury the spell remnants near your front door. If that’s not possible, you can bury them under a potted plant in your front yard or near your door.
Even if you don’t have any furry housemates, catnip can make a wonderful addition to your garden. It repels pests, attracts beneficial insects, and can be an excellent way to unwind and settle an upset stomach.
The more you harvest it, the more it will reward you with. Give it a sunny spot and a little bit of attention, and you’ll have all the catnip you could possibly want.