Primarily known as an herb loved by cats, catnip can also be made into an essential oil. The oil is not common in aromatherapy. Generally, do not use catnip essential oil (Nepeta cataria) with cats because it is too strong for them.
The herb's active ingredient that affects cats is nepetalactone. Although the scent energizes most cats, it relaxes humans because of the difference between human brains and cat brains.
Plant family: Lamiaceae
Production: Steam distilled from the leaves and flowers/buds of the plant, which is a perennial herb that grows 20 to 40 inches tall and wide.
Aroma: Herbaceous with a subdued mint aroma.
Perfume/Aromatic note: Middle
Is catnip safe to use during pregnancy? No.
Is catnip essential oil safe for children? Yes, properly diluted.
Cautions: Low risk of skin sensitization. Using this essential oil in the bath presents a higher risk of causing irritation and sensitization.
Source: Essential Oil Safety, 2nd Ed.
Penny Price Aromatherapy: Catnip oil helps relieve stress, tension, anxiety, and depression; support the digestive system; and reduce menstrual pain.
For menstrual pain relief:
Use this blend during the day as needed on the abdomen and small of the back.
To relieve cramps/spasms, including menstrual discomfort, mix a drop or two of catnip oil with a teaspoon of carrier oil and gently massage your lower abdomen. Traditionally, catnip tea has been recommended for menstrual pain (and for sleep).
To relieve stress and anxiety or to help with sleep, diffuse a few drops of catnip.
Diffuser Sleep Blend
Sleep-Inducing Bath Salts
Add ingredients to a small bowl and then stir to blend well. Swirl the salts into your bath.
Adapted from Aromahead Newsletter.
Catnip deters pests and insects, according to The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy. One catnip study found the essential oil repels mosquitoes ten times more effectively than DEET. A 2019 catnip study also found catnip effective as an insect repellent.
One way to use the essential oil to repel insects is to add a few drops to a spray bottle with water or witch hazel. Spray the blend on your arms and legs.
Bug Repellent Blend
Blend ingredients. Apply to skin as needed. Avoid sensitive areas.
Source: Kelly Holland-Azzaro et.al. "Natural Bug Repellent and Bug Bite Relief Blends." NAHA Aromatherapy Journal, Summer 2013.2, pg. 59.
To be effective as an insect repellent, catnip oil needs to have a high amount of nepetalactone isomers, according to Aromatics International. So, it's important you know the composition of the oil you buy.
Aromatics International notes catnip can help relieve muscle cramps and other spasms.
Muscle Care Oil
Combine the jojoba and essential oils in a one-ounce bottle. Shake gently. Use the massage oil on tight, achy muscles.
Shoulder Massage Oil
Make your blend in a 1-ounce (30 ml) bottle. Combine the ingredients and shake gently to blend them.
Source for the above two blends: Aromahead Newsletter
Mixing Essential Oils for Magic: Use catnip for animal and elemental magic and to attract benevolent spirits. The oil supports dream and psychic work. You can use the essential oil to attract love, friendship, beauty, happiness, and peace into your life.
Photo Credit: Jon Sullivan, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons