meta name="google-site-verification" content="GVVnphmDyZK4aCulqTFlYckK1HT-PjYqu1BL70ZazFA" /> Catnip Treasure: January 2009
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Thursday, January 29, 2009


Nepeta is a genus of about 250 species of flowering plants in the family Lamiaceae. The members of this group are known as catnip or catmint because of their famous effect on cats—nepeta pleasantly stimulates cats' pheromonic receptors, typically resulting in temporary euphoria. It can also induce mild euphoria in humans.
The genus is native to Europe, Asia, and Africa. It is now also common in North America. Most of the species are herbaceous perennial plants, but some are annuals. They have sturdy stems with opposite heart-shaped, green to grayish-green leaves. The flowers are white, blue, pink or lilac and occur in several clusters toward the tip of the stems. The flowers are tubular and spotted with tiny purple dots.
Oil isolated from catnip by steam distillation is a repellent against insects, in particular mosquitoes, cockroaches and termites.
Research suggests that in a test tube, distilled nepetalactone, the active ingredient in catnip, repels mosquitoes ten times more effectively than DEET, the active ingredient in most insect repellents, but that it is not as effective a repellent when used on the skin.Additionally, catnip and catnip-laced products designed for use with domesticated cats are available to consumers.
Nepeta curviflora flowers
Nepeta cataria (Catnip, True Catnip, Catmint or Field Balm) is a 50–100 cm tall perennial herb resembling mint in appearance, with greyish-green leaves; the flowers are white, finely spotted with purple. It has been introduced to many countries, including the United States. A lemon-scented cultivar, N. cataria 'Citriodora', looks exactly like true catnip but has the scent of lemons and can be used like Lemon balm.
Nepeta grandiflora (Giant Catmint or Caucasus Catmint) is lusher than true catnip and has dark green leaves and dark blue, almost purple flowers.
Nepeta × faassenii (N. racemosa × N. nepetella; Faassen's Nepeta or Faassen's Catnip) is mostly grown as an ornamental plant. This hybrid is far smaller than either of above and is almost a ground cover. It has greyish-green leaves and light purple flowers.
Dracocephalum, Glechoma and Calamintha species were formerly classified in Nepeta.
Nepeta species are used as food plants by the
larvae of some Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) species including Coleophora albitarsella.
Selected species
Nepeta agrestis
Nepeta annua
Nepeta apuleii
Nepeta beltranii
Nepeta camphorata
Nepeta cataria
Nepeta ciliaris
Nepeta coerulescens
Nepeta curviflora
Nepeta densiflora
Nepeta dentata
Nepeta dirphya
Nepeta discolor
Nepeta elliptica
Nepeta everardi
Nepeta floccosa
Nepeta foliosa
Nepeta fordii
Nepeta glutinosa
Nepeta govaniana
Nepeta granatensis
Nepeta grandiflora
Nepeta heldreichii
Nepeta hemsleyana
Nepeta hindost
Nepeta hispanica
Nepeta italica
Nepeta jomdaensis
Nepeta kokamirica
Nepeta kokanica
Nepeta laevigata
Nepeta lamiopsis
Nepeta latifolia
Nepeta leucolaena
Nepeta leucophylla
Nepeta longibracteata
Nepeta manchuriensis
Nepeta melissifolia
Nepeta membranifolia
Nepeta micrantha
Nepeta multibracteata
Nepeta multifida
Nepeta mussinii
Nepeta nepalensis
Nepeta nepetella
Nepeta nervosa
Nepeta nuda
Nepeta parnassica
Nepeta parviflora
Nepeta phyllochlamys
Nepeta prattii
Nepeta pungens
Nepeta racemosa
Nepeta raphanorhiza
Nepeta scordotis
Nepeta sessilis
Nepeta sibirica
Nepeta sibthorpii
Nepeta souliei
Nepeta spruneri
Nepeta staintonii
Nepeta stewartiana
Nepeta sungpanensis
Nepeta supina
Nepeta taxkorganica
Nepeta tenuiflora
Nepeta tenuifolia
Nepeta tuberosa
Nepeta ucranica
Nepeta veitchii
Nepeta virgata
Nepeta wilsonii
Nepeta yanthina
Nepeta zandaensis
Natural hybrids
Nepeta × faassenii
Effects on cats
Catnip and catmints are mainly known for the behavioral effects they have on
cats, particularly domestics. When cats sense the bruised leaves or stems of catnip, they may roll over it, paw at it, chew it, lick it, leap about and purr, or heavily salivate. Some will growl, meow, scratch, or bite the hand holding it.

A domestic cat demonstrating the effects of catnip such as rolling, pawing, and frisking
About two thirds of cats are susceptible to catnip.
The phenomenon is hereditary; for example, most Australian cats do not react to it. There is some disagreement about the susceptibility of lions and tigers to catnip.
Catnip has nepetalactone, a terpene. Nepetalactone can be extracted from catnip by steam distillation. Cats detect it through their olfactory epithelium, not through their vomeronasal organ. At the olfactory epithelium, the nepetalactone binds to one or more olfactory receptors where it probably mimics a cat pheromone, such as the hypothetical feline facial pheromone or the cat urine odorant MMB.
Other plants that also have this effect on cats include
valerian (Valeriana officinalis) and plants that contain actinidine or dihydroactinidiolide (Smith, 2005).