Catnip is a well-known herb, especially for anyone who has ever owned cats. It is appropriately named for its effects in making cats euphoric while playing with catnip scented toys. This herb isn't just for cats, however. There are several uses and benefits of catnip essential oil that are effective on humans as well.

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Catnip is a well-known herb, especially for anyone who has ever owned cats. It is appropriately named for its effects in making cats euphoric while playing with catnip scented toys. This herb isn’t just for cats, however. There are several uses and benefits of catnip essential oil that are effective on humans as well.

Catnip Essential Oil Benefits

Aside from being a popular treat for pets, catnip essential oil contains a variety of benefits for people as well. It has been used for centuries to treat muscle pains, including coughs and digestive issues, in addition to helping to calm the nervous system. Catnip essential oil may be an excellent oil to add to your collection.

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1. Calming

Your mood can be affected by many different outside factors such as a stressful job, changes in circumstance, or even just family life. When we turn to medications to help deal with this kind of stress, they usually help reduce the destruction of hormones like dopamine and serotonin in the brain, allowing them to remain longer. An in vitro study of catnip essential oil found that the oil acts as an MAO B inhibitor, much like some prescribed antidepressants. Once the brain releases dopamine, its breakdown by the MA oxidase, the reduced breakdown of these chemicals can help improve mood and prevent anxiety. (1)

2. Soothing muscle and head tension

Muscle tension throughout the body can have several effects, including inducing headaches caused when stress is carried in the muscles. This may be the result of spending time at the computer or having a job that requires a lot of stress for the body. Essential oils have been used to help relax muscles for complementary therapies to help combat this stress. A 2010 study using mice in a stressful test found that catnip essential oil showed reduced immobility in the despair test, meaning that mice were able to work through stress-inducing problems rather than stopping. This may result in lowered body tension since stress also appears to be lowered. (2)

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3. Bug Repellent

Though we may generally regard pests like mosquitoes as just nuisances, many countries around the world are plagued with diseases like malaria, encephalitis, and dengue fever, which is spread easily throughout the population by blood eating insects like mosquitoes. Access to manufactured repellents may also be an issue in these areas. A 2006 study looked at many essential oils, including catnip oil, using human volunteers who would apply the oils and then allow the insects on their skin. Catnip essential oil was found to have high efficacy when it came to repelling insects. This would be helpful for communities that are able to grow and manufacture their own essential oils. (3)

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4. Relieve minor aches and abdominal pain

Muscle discomfort isn’t always the deep ache of muscles that we use for big movement but can oftentimes be the internal muscle spasms and aches of smooth muscles used for digestion and other bodily functions. While many over the counter analgesics are appropriate for external skeletal muscles, they may not show any effect on the involuntary muscles of other organ systems. Catnip essential oil has been found to have an antispasmodic effect on smooth muscle. A 2009 study showed that catnip reduced the number of spasms in guinea pig trachea. This can be useful for abdominal cramping from gas or menstruation, especially if applied directly to the abdomen. (4)

Catnip Essential Oil Uses

Though the herb catnip is known for its effects on animals, catnip essential oil is for humans only. It may be able to promote relaxation, ease headaches, and even keep your summer nights free from pesky insects. Here is a sampling of just some of the uses of catnip essential oil.

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Aromatic Uses

  • Diffuse 3 drops each catnip, valerian, and lavender at bedtime to help promote relaxation and deeper sleep.
  • Diffuse 3 drops each catnip and peppermint during stressful situations to ease or prevent headaches.
  • In a 3-ounce spray bottle, mix 5 drops each catnip, lavender, and clary sage for a woodsy and relaxing scent.

Topical Uses

  • In a small spray bottle, combine equal parts catnip and citronella essential oils and fill with witch hazel. Apply to exposed skin and clothing for an effective insect repellent.
  • Add 2 drops to a teaspoon of carrier oil of choice and apply to the abdomen to help ease cramps and gas.
  • In a roller bottle, combine 4 drops each catnip, peppermint, and eucalyptus. Apply this to aching muscles and tense areas of the body to promote relaxation.

My Favorite Uses For Catnip Essential Oil

Even though I was aware that essential oils can be made from almost any kind of plant material, I have to admit that I’d only ever known catnip in relation to watching my cats with their catnip scented toys. I’d always found it entertaining that they would drop pursuit of everything to roll around with a pleasantly scented herb. I admit to handling it a bit myself to enjoy the aroma clinging to my hands.

My family loves the outdoors, whether it is spending time in our yard or taking advantage of the many local natural areas by taking long hikes. However, we do not enjoy returning home with our legs, arms, and even faces covered by mosquito bites. Not to mention the dreaded tick checks to make sure we haven’t picked up any unwanted 8-legged hitchhikers.

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The number of chemicals found in commercial repellents is daunting, and the smell leaves much to be desired. I have been experimenting with different essential oils to make my own more natural insect repellent, and catnip was lesser-known but just as effective as popular oils like citronella. When mixed with distilled water or witch hazel, it can be sprayed on the skin and clothing to help keep us bite and bug-free whenever we spend time outside.

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Recommended Catnip Oil-Based Products

1. FELINE GREENIES Natural Dental Care Cat Treats Catnip Flavor

FELINE GREENIES Natural Dental Care Cat Treats, Catnip Flavor, All bag sizes
  • Contains one (1) 21 oz. tub of FELINE GREENIES Natural Dental Treats...
  • Crunchy texture and unique shape clean teeth and reduce tartar, while...
  • The #1 vet-recommended dental treat that offers complete nutrition for...

Cats will often exhibit relaxed and euphoric behavior after scenting a catnip stuffed toy, and this flavored treat is designed to tempt your cat with the same scent and flavor. This product is made with all-natural ingredients formulated to help you treat your pet without providing too many daily calories. These treats contain ingredients that help clean your pet’s teeth as they eat, providing a double benefit of dental care as well as treating your pet. This may help in maintaining healthy teeth and diet for your cat.


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2. Herb Pharm Certified Organic Catnip Liquid Extract

Herb Pharm Certified Organic Catnip Liquid Extract for Calming Nervous System Support, 1 Fl Oz
  • Expertly extracted to provide calming support to the nervous system.
  • Prepared from the fresh leaf and flowering top of certified organic...
  • Rapidly absorbed liquid extract.

This extract is not a pure essential oil but instead a mix of catnip extract and organic cane alcohol at a mix that is intended for consumption. This product is made from plant material that is certified organic, leaving it free from chemical pesticides that may end up in the final product after extraction. This extract is intended to provide you with the relaxing properties of catnip, through further dilution in your daily water intake. This may also have the added benefits of helping with digestive issues as catnip has been shown to affect the smooth muscle tissue that makes up the digestive system.

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Caution of Catnip Essential Oil

  • Do not use catnip oil if you are pregnant, have pelvic inflammatory disease, or experience unusually heavy menstruation. Catnip has been used to stimulate menstruation and may cause miscarriage or even heavier bleeding.
  • Always choose quality catnip essential oil from reputable suppliers.
  • Catnip essential oil may affect the central nervous system and influence depressive actions (Tisserand and Young, 2014). Stop using catnip oil at least two weeks before any major surgery, as it may affect the depressive actions of anesthesia.
  • Always dilute catnip essential oil with a carrier oil of your choice to prevent possible skin irritation. Test a section of skin on the underarm before applying to larger areas of your skin.
  • Store your catnip essential oil in a dark bottle out of direct sunlight to prevent the oil’s oxidation. Oxidated oils may lead to skin sensitivities.
  • Catnip essential oil is not recommended for use with pets due to the concentration level.


I hope you enjoyed learning about the benefits and uses of catnip essential oil. Please share with anyone who may be interested in learning about this lesser-known essential oil and may be looking for a natural way to prevent bites or ease headaches. Be sure to leave any feedback below.

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