Catnip (Nepeta cataria)

It’s not just for cats! Catnip, also known as catmint or catwort, is an awesome addition to your equine herbal treasure chest.

A member of the mint family originating in Europe, China and the Middle East, catnip is an hardy herb is very easy to grow and a wonderful aid in improving your horse’s nerves and insect resistance.

Plant parts and uses

The leaves are the most commonly-used part of the plant, often as a tea with fresh or dried leaves, or made into an essential oil for topical or internal ingestion. In addition to being a favorite among felines, catnip leaves have a whole host of medicinal benefits; they can be used as a relaxant, anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, skin-soothing agent, and a very effective insect repellent. This lovely cousin of the mint plant also features purple or white flowers –- a fragrant addition to your garden!

Most common uses for the horse

Some recent studies have shown that catnip is more effective than DEET at repelling mosquitoes and houseflies. Mix some fresh leaves with water and place in a spray bottle to keep those pests away from your horse. Alternatively, get some catnip essential oil and mix it into your favorite fly spray for an additional boost. Showing?  Trailering? Expecting your horse to go through a stressful event? No problem.  Catnip contains nepetalactone, a chemical compound very similar to those found in valerian, to help horses relax. Throw some dried catnips into his feed to help him adjust and settle down.

Home grown

This perennial herb is very invasive, just like mint, and therefore should be controlled if you are going to plant it. Place in well-draining soil with plenty of light.  Water regularly, and trim for the most robust foliage. Catnip blooms in the summer and fall so it’s best to plant during those periods. Insect- and deer-resistant, this is a great herb to situate among other plants to bolster the overall health of your garden.