Schizonepeta, or better known as Japanese catnip in common name and Jing Jie in Chinese name, is a medicinal herb that is frequently used for the treatment of common cold and nettle rash clinically. In addition, its green buds are also one of highly regarded pediatric sedatives. This herb is easily recognizable but keeps in mind not to mix it up with the true catnips of the genus Nepeta, which is an herb that has excitatory and hallucinogenic actions on two-thirds of the cats but does no harm to them and human beings. Since there are tons of OTC medicines available at the pharmacy for colds, why schizonepeta is the one you should choose from? Well, now let’s take a close look at this amazing Chinese herb for the answer.
What is schizonepeta herb?
Medicinally it mainly refers to two plants in the family Lamiaceae – Schizonepeta tenuifolia (Benth.) Briq. [Nepeta tenuifolia Bent.] and Schizonepeta multifida (L.) Briq. [Nepeta multifida L.]. The aerial parts are formerly used for medicinal purpose. And it has a few other names, such as keigai, Schizonepeta Stem, Cataire Japonaise, Herba Schizonepetae, fine leaf schizonepeta herb, Japanese Mint, Herb of Fineleaf Schizonepeta, Herba seu Flos Schizonepetae Tenuifoliae, hyonggae, Tenuifolia, and so on. It is mostly cultivated and mainly produced in Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Henan, Hebei, Shandong and other places. The preferable harvesting time is in summer and autumn when flowers are fully blossoming and spike are turning green. After that, get rid of the impurities, dry in the sun, cut into section, and use raw or charred.
Schizonepeta tenuifolia Briq. is an annual herb, 60 to 100cm in height. It is with a strong aroma. Erect stems are, four-angled, and with branches on the upper part and brownish purple base. Whole plant is covered with off-white pubescence. Leaves are opposite. Flowers are verticillaster and multiple rings gather on the top of branch and form the 3 to 13cm spike. Flowers are small and with funnel-shaped calyx and reddish purple crown. Nutlets are 4, tan, oblong-prismatic, about 1.5mm long, about 0.7mm in diameter, and with smooth surface. Bloom time is from July to September and fruit time is from September to November. Habitats include hillside, roadside, and valley at the altitude between 540 to 2700m. Most are cultivated but some grows in the wild.
The above-ground parts, spike, and stems contain volatile oil 1.12%, 1.69%, and 0.60% respectively, schizoneptoside, schizonol, flavonoids, etc. And main components of volatile oil are pulegone, menthone, isomenthone, isopulegone, and so on.
As you can see now, it is good at treating colds and flu, in particular the common cold due to wind-cold. This pattern usually occurs in autumn and winter and is caused by wind and cold pathogens. Clinical manifestations include sensation of chill, fever, stuffy nose, headache, runny nose, body aches, coughing up phlegm, and so on. Compared to western medicine, schizonepeta tea has fewer side effects since it brings the cold symptoms to an end in a natural way. And the efficacy will be much better if combined with fresh ginger since ginger can dispel cold and induce perspiration by entering lung and spleen meridians. Of course, from the point of view of western medicine, the explanation for how it works is quite different.
Modern pharmacology of herba schizonepetae
1. Its water decoction can enhance blood circulation, increase the secretion of sweat, and have a weak antipyretic effect;
2. Its water decoction has a strong inhibitory effect on Staphylococcus aureus and diphtheria bacilli. In addition, it also has a certain inhibition on Salmonella typhi, Shigella, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and human Mycobacterium tuberculosis;
3. It is not the raw herb but the charred one can significantly shorten the bleeding time;
4. Schizonepeta extract by methanol and ethyl acetate has some analgesic effect;
5. It has obvious anti-inflammatory effect on acetic acid-induced inflammation;
6. Its spike has a clear anti-alexin effect.
Selected herbal remedies on Japanese catnip
The Chinese Materia Medica thinks that schizonepeta is acrid and slightly bitter in flavor and slightly damp in nature. And its channel tropism includes lung and liver. Basic functions are dispelling wind, relieving exterior syndrome, promoting eruption, and stopping bleeding. Important schizonepeta uses and indications are cold and fever, headache, eye itching, cough, sore throat, measles, carbuncles, sores, nosebleed, spitting blood, blood in the stool, uterine bleeding, and postpartum fainting due to excessive blood loss. Recommended dosage is from 3 to 10 grams in decoction, pills, or powder.
1. Zhi Sou San (Platycodon and Schizonepeta Formula) from Yi Xue Xin Wu (Medical Revelations). It is mainly formulated for exogenous cough and headache. Other herbal ingredients inlcude Jie Geng (Balloon Flower), Zi Wan (Purple Aster), Bai Bu (Stemona), Bai Qian (Cynanchum Rhizome), Gan Cao (Licorice Root), and Chen Pi (Citrus Peel).
2. Jing Jie Lian Qiao Tang (schizonepeta and forsythia decoction) from Wan Bing Hui Chun (The Recovery of Ten Thousand Diseases). In this formula, it combines with Lian Qiao (forsythia), Fang Feng (siler), Dang Gui (Dong Quai), Chuan Xiong (Szechuan Lovage Root), etc. to treat swollen and painful ear and nasosinusitis.
3. Shi Wei Bai Du San (Bupleurum and Schizonepeta Combination). This prescription is mainly designed for various suppurative diseases and skin diseases. What’s more, it can be also used to improve the allergic physique. Other major herbs include Chai Hu (Bupleurum), Platycodon, Szechuan Lovage, Fu Ling (Poria), and more.
4. Jing Fang Bai Du San (schizonepeta & siler formula) from She Sheng Zhong Miao Liang Fang (Multitude of Marvellous, Fine Formulas for Sustaining Life). This recipe is primarily made to cure the beginning of flu and common colds, in which symptoms are chills, fever, no sweating, severe headache, muscle and joint aches, greasy tongue coating, and floating or floating rapid pulse. The rest herbs include siler, poria, Du Huo (Angelica Root), Bupleurum, Qian Hu (Hogfennel), and more.
Schizonepeta side effects and contraindications
Though schizonepeta comes with lots of health benefits and extensive medicinal uses, it has its limits. If you have got a sensitive skin and a liver problem, keep in mind to stay away from it. Otherwise, it is very likely to cause some unexpected adverse reactions, such as swelling, allergic reactions and aggravation of liver disease. In terms of breast-feeding and pregnancy, so far the impact still remains unknown. TCM wise, it should be avoided in the cases of spontaneous perspiration due to exterior deficiency and headache caused by yin deficiency.