Description: Natural Order, Labiatae. Genus NEPETA: Perennial herbs, whose stems are annual. Calyx tubular, obliquely five-toothed. Corolla two-lipped, dilated in the throat; upper lip erect and notched, lower lip spreading and three-cleft. Stamens four, ascending under the upper lip, the lower pail shorter. N. CATARIA: Stems erect, square, two to three feet high, branching, downy. Leaves oblong-heartshaped, deeply crenate, light-green above, whitish-downy beneath, those by the flowers becoming small and bract-like. Flowers in dense clusters, forming interrupted spikes; corolla white, dotted with purple. July and September.
Catnip is a common herb on rich soils near cultivated places throughout America and Europe. The whole plant has a gray look, and a mild and rather pleasant odor peculiar to itself. Its best qualities are volatile; but it also contains a bitterish extractive which is not dissipated by heat. Camphor has been obtained from it according to repute, but this is more than doubtful.
Properties and Uses: This herb is a diffusive relaxant, mildly diaphoretic, slightly emmenagogue, but especially antispasmodic. The principal use made of it is as a carminative infusion for the colic and restlessness of children; and it is extremely soothing to the nervous system, and deservedly popular. An infusion is an admirable drink, used without limit, in typhus and nervous fever, measles, and all similar cases; or it may be combined with more positive diaphoretics for its valuable soothing impression on the nervous peripheries. The profession generally overlook its virtues in such connections, but it is a diffusive nervine and antispasmodic of much service. It promotes menstruation moderately in acute cases, relieves dysmenorrhea, and increases the flow of urine; and may relieve nervous headache and hysteria of a mild form. A strong infusion, prepared with boiling water and used cold, is unpleasantly bitter and somewhat astringent, and it is said to be an available emmenagogue. The leaves make a superior fomentation in painful swellings, sprains, etc.
Catnip infusion is best made by digesting half an ounce of the herb for ten minutes in a pint of water much below the boiling heat, and then straining with pressure. The most desirable properties of the article are wasted by the usual plan of pouring boiling water on the herb, and then steeping it on a hot stove. A bitter infusion remains, which is unpalatable, and possesses no carminative nor antispasmodic virtues. The infusion may be given freely; though mothers often use it so largely as to cause their babes pain by the amount of fluid given. By cutting up the fresh herb, putting it under moderate pressure, and adding a small quantity of thirty percent alcohol for a day, and then bringing it under powerful pressure, a valuable juice is obtained. A teaspoonful of this rarely fails to cut short the nervous convulsions of children; and larger doses are powerful in relieving painful menstruation and promoting the catamenial flow in cases of recent obstruction. Combined with equal quantities of essence of anise and fluid extract of valerian, it makes a nervine and antispasmodic preparation of the highest value.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com