Nepeta cataria Open-pollinated. “If you set it, the cats will get it; if you sow it, they won’t know it.” Hardy perennial, will self-sow once established. Grows to 3' tall and wide. Lavender blooms in late summer are a favorite of honeybees. Likes rich or sandy soils, tolerates poor soil and drought. Tovah Martin writes that rats are reputed to despise it, so it is sometimes used as a companion plant for melons and squashes. Calms mild stomach disorders, produces restful sleep and relieves fever when added to teas. Researchers at Iowa St. U. who claim catnip is a top-notch mosquito repellent suggest that rubbing crushed leaves on the skin is several times more effective than using DEET. Zones 3–8. ~1,400 seeds/g. Especially attractive to pollinators.②
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See Herb Chart in the sidebar for uses and cultural information.
About medicinal herbs: Archeological evidence dates the medicinal use of herbs back 60,000 years to the Neanderthals. 85% of the world’s population employ herbs as medicines, and 40% of pharmaceuticals in the U.S. contain plant-derived materials. Fewer than 10% of higher plant species have been investigated for their medicinal components. Interest in traditional herbal remedies continues to grow.
Statements about medicinal use of plants have not been evaluated by the FDA, and should not be used for the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any ailment. Before using or ingesting any medicinal plant, consult a healthcare practitioner familiar with botanical medicine.
Using herbs: Drying herbs at home is not difficult. Whole leaves retain their flavor at least a year. To substitute fresh herbs for dried in cooking, use triple the dried quantity called for in a recipe.
Culture: Some herbs are customarily grown from divisions because they cannot come true from seed, such as scented thymes and flavored mints. Some require fall sowing of fresh seed, such as sweet cicely and angelica, and these become available in August or September.
For the latest results of our germination tests, please see the germination page.