Chemical composition and mechanisms underlying the spasmolytic and bronchodilatory properties of the essential oil of Nepeta cataria L

J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Jan 30;121(3):405-11. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2008.11.004. Epub 2008 Nov 8.


Aim of the study: The study was aimed to investigate the chemical composition and pharmacological basis for traditional use of essential oil of Nepeta cataria L. (Limiaceae) (Nc.Oil) in gastrointestinal and respiratory disorders.

Materials and methods: Chemical analysis was carried out through GC-EIMS, 13C NMR and Kovats Retention Indices while pharmacological study was carried out in isolated tissues preparations.

Results: Four major components; 1,8-cineol (21.00%), alpha-humulene (14.44%), alpha-pinene (10.43%) and geranyl acetate (8.21%) were identified among the 27 compounds in Nc.Oil. In isolated rabbit jejunum, Nc.Oil, papaverine and verapamil inhibited spontaneous and high K+(80 mM) precontractions, as well as shifted the Ca++ concentration-response curves (CRCs) to right, indicating calcium channel blocking activity. In isolated guinea-pig trachea, Nc.Oil and papaverine inhibited carbachol (1 microM) and K+ precontractions with similar potency, while verapamil was more potent against K+. Nc.Oil also potentiated isoprenaline inhibitory CRCs, similar to papaverine, indicating papaverine-like PDE inhibitor activity. In isolated guinea-pig atria, Nc.Oil caused cardiodepression at around 25-80 times higher concentrations, similar to papaverine.

Conclusions: These data indicate that Nepeta cataria possesses spasmolytic and myorelaxant activities mediated possibly through dual inhibition of calcium channels and PDE, which may explain its traditional use in colic, diarrhea, cough and asthma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bronchodilator Agents / pharmacology*
  • Calcium Channels / drug effects
  • Female
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction / drug effects*
  • Muscle, Smooth / drug effects
  • Nepeta*
  • Oils, Volatile / chemistry
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology*
  • Papaverine / pharmacology
  • Parasympatholytics / pharmacology*
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Rabbits
  • Verapamil / pharmacology


  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Calcium Channels
  • Oils, Volatile
  • Parasympatholytics
  • Plant Extracts
  • Verapamil
  • Papaverine