[Herbalist] catnip vs catmint (is catmint dangerous)

Kathleen Keeler kkeeler at unlserve.unl.edu
Mon Apr 2 16:24:46 PDT 2007

christian diaz wrote:

>hi, from what i understand, catmint and catnip are two plants that are 
>commonly confused as the same plant, and that catmint is dangerous (not 
>catnip). do they look similar? and how do i distinguish one from the other. 
>any information would be freatly appreciated. thanks :)
>all comments would be greatly appreciated
>cmdiaz56 at hotmail.com
Common names are difficult.
In the US, catnip is Nepeta cataria  See these images from Google: 

I looked up catmint and found:
on the USDA plants website  http://plants.usda.gov/
Nepeta grandiflora, Caucasus catmint, reported only from Wyoming and New 
York in the US
no picture available.
Online, searching for catmint,  I got Nepeta faassenii 
Nepeta mussinii www.djroger.com/catmint.htm 

My US floras for various regions, give catmint and catnep as synonmyns 
of catnip.
In the Dictionary of Plant Names and in The Plant Book, both give 
catmint as Nepeta cataria, catnip
The Flora of Britain and Northern Europe (1989) calls Nepeta cataria 
catmint, and Nepeta nuda hairless catmint

So, I think that in the US the nepeta species that are being planted as 
ornamentals are being called catmints. Catnip is the only one that has 
been here long enough to be wild and appear in older plant books.
 Apparently there are more than 250 Nepeta species worldwide, none 
native to the US. 
I can't find any key that separates Nepeta cataria from its relatives.  
In the US that's not surprising. 
They are in the same genus:  they will be very similar.

Nothing I can find says the other nepeta's are unsafe, but negative data 
is not very satisfying.

If the plant you are seeing is ground ivy, formerly Nepeta, now Glecoma 
the 2nd ed. of Physicians Desk Reference says its safe in usual 
theraputic quantities but horses having eaten large amounts go sick.
Ground ivy is a creeper, catnip is upright: these you can easily tell apart.

Hope this helps,
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