Skullcap is the name of a flowering perennial plant from the mint family, Lamiaceae. With the scientific name Scutellaria lateriflora, this plant can be found in North America’s wet habitats. Although it is widely distributed throughout large regions of North America, there are related species found as far away as China. There are a few names for skullcap, including hoodwort, quaker bonnet, helmet flower, European skullcap, greater skullcap, American skullcap, blue skullcap, blue pimpernel, hooded willow herb, side-flowering skullcap, mad dog weed and mad weed and Virginian Skullcap. Genus name comes from the Latin word scutella meaning a small dish or saucer in reference to the shape of the persistent calyx after the flowers fade. It was once used as a treatment for rabies and schizophrenia (hence the names maddog skullcap, maddog weed and mad weed). The root of an Asian species (S. baicalensis) is frequently employed in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It has been used for more than 200 years as a mild relaxant and as a therapy for anxiety, nervous tension, and convulsions.
American Skullcap has long been used in North America for anxiety and the promotion of relaxation. Skullcap is ideal to take before a nightcap so that you are wearing as many ‘caps’ as possible… One study found that blue skullcap and common skullcap when used in herbal tea could have an anxiety reducing effect across 19 volunteers.
For more than two centuries, American Skullcap has been used by both Americans and Europeans as a nerve tonic to help treat anxiety. Research has shown that the plant contains “anxiolytic activity” in animals and humans. American Skullcap is known to be able to balance stress hormone levels and reduce anxiety, which is good for preventing chronic inflammation and disease. And drinking this tea will help relieve the symptoms of anxiety and stress.
Oxidative stress affects some brain-related diseases, such as anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease, depression and Parkinson’s disease, yet research indicates that bioactive compounds found in medicinal plants, such as skullcap, may neutralize and even eliminate toxic free radicals.
When this occurs, oxidative stress is greatly reduced. Skullcap for anxiety may work because of its ability to provide significant antioxidant effects, which could make it a great option for reducing anxiety.
Anxiety and Fear:
Skullcap was the go to herb for the relief of anxiety and nervous tension. As one excerpt from an old herbal encyclopaedia puts it, “Skullcap is one of the finest nervines and antispasmodics given to humanity. It should be on every physician’s shelf”.
Studies have since shown it exhibits “anxiolytic activity” in animals and humans, meaning it inhibits anxiety. It was noticed in his own clinical use of Skullcap that in strong doses (especially with the tea), it has quite a strikingly calming effect on agitated individuals. It works well for acute and sudden onset anxiety or panic attacks. For people susceptible to sudden onset anxiety or panic attacks, fresh skullcap tincture can be kept on them at all times.
A 2003 double blind study shows Skullcap offers significant anti-anxiety benefits for healthy individuals. This research also shows that bioactive compounds in medicinal plants such as Skullcap may neutralize and even remove completely toxic free radicals. This activity greatly reduces oxidative stress, making Skullcap a natural anxiety reliever.
Skullcap relieves stress and anxiety. It works well in acute situations and can be taken over time to decrease chronic stress (along with lifestyle modifications of course). Not just for acute cases, skullcap can be taken over time as a nerve tonic to support nervous system health in people who have been through prolonged periods of stress and feel like their nerves are constantly on edge.
Skullcap is often best for those with signs of heat and excitation. This can manifest in different ways but some common characteristics include people who are easily overheated, who are more irritable in hot weather, tend to have “type A” personalities, a red tongue (possible yellow coating) and a fast or intermittent pulse.
The excited tissue state is marked by overstimulation, hyper-reactivity, processes moving too fast, increased metabolism, and increased heat. The most common presentation of mental and emotional excitation is irritability and anxiety brought on by overstimulation, made worse by heat and brightness. Skullcap works wonders in calming this kind of excitation. The tincture will do nicely, but smoked Skullcap will enter the bloodstream more quickly.
A study in 43 people found that those who received 1,050 mg of American skullcap daily for 2 weeks reported significant enhancements in mood compared to a placebo group. It’s thought that American skullcap positively impacts mood and reduces anxiety by stimulating gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter that helps calm nerves. Notably, this plant was used in traditional medicine practices as a sedative and treatment for conditions like insomnia and anxiety. In fact, many anti-anxiety medications work similarly by enhancing GABA activity.
The effect of Scullcap on mood was assessed in 31 healthy volunteers (6 men) 19 to 66 years of age who were randomized to 350 mg of Skullcap (whole aerial parts, not a standardized extract) 3 times daily or placebo for 2 weeks in a double-blind fashion and then crossed over to other treatment. Recruitment was generally based on persistent stress, anxiety, mood swings, irritability, poor sleep, or difficulty coping, as well as the inclusion of nonanxious participants. Exclusion criteria included a history of behaviors, conditions, or medications affecting the CNS. Overall, 81% of the group had a Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI) score of 15 or less, which is considered mildly anxious at most. Although no significant difference was found between treatments measured on BAI scores, changes in total mood disturbance were significantly better with skullcap (P < 0.001). Specifically, a significant group × treatment interaction was observed for the Depression-Dejection state and an enhanced effect of skullcap for the Vigor-Activity state with a 20% increase in energy levels. A potential carryover effect for scullcap was further analyzed and a highly significant improvement in total mood disturbance (P < 0.001) was observed, an effect not seen with placebo.
Benefit for Nervous System:
If you suffer from a nervous disorder, you may have experienced seizures or other spasmodic side effects that result from a problem in your nervous system. Skullcap tea helps to soothe the nervous system and prevent these episodes. It has been traditionally used to reduce seizure frequency and severity in those patients. Adding Skullcap to drinking water once a day has also been related with this positive benefit.
A 2007 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine evaluated selected herbs for their ability to protect neuronal cells. Researchers found that Ginger and Turmeric extracts exhibited the most protective effects, followed by Skullcap, Ginkgo biloba, Chinese Cinnamon and Korean Rhubarb.
Researchers concluded that these selective herbs may be potentially important resources to discover natural drug candidates against the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Health benefits of Skullcap also include the ability to protect nerve cells against damage related to Parkinson’s disease that is considered to be a chronic condition causing tremor, the stiffness of the trunk and limbs, slowing of movement, and impaired balance and coordination. It is because this herb contains an antioxidant called baicalein that is very helpful for limiting the occurrence of this specific disease.
Research shows that Ayurveda techniques and treatments using herbal medicine, such as Skullcap, may be helpful in treating epilepsy. Specifically, Skullcap is an Ayurvedic herbal preparation that’s been described as being used for epilepsy treatment. In addition, Ayurvedic ingredients were combined using a base of honey and herbal ghee. This cocktail of herbal ingredients clearly help to reduce tremors, muscle spasms, nerve-related symptoms and headaches, ultimately aiding in the treatment of side effects caused from epileptic patients.
In addition, healing Ayurvedic ingredients were combined using a base of honey and herbal ghee. Reports suggest that this cocktail of herbal ingredients helped to reduce tremors, muscle spasms, nerve-related symptoms and headaches, ultimately aiding in the treatment of side effects caused from epileptic patients.
An animal research in Laurentian University in Canada showed that Skullcap help to reduce the risk and occurrence of seizures. Male rats were given skullcap for a period of time after being diagnosed with epilepsy and did not have seizures, while those not given the herb did. Interestingly, when the treatment was removed, seizures did occur.
Skullcap promotes sound sleep due to circular thinking, without the unwanted side effects, leaving you feeling refreshed and revitalised in the morning. As a relaxing nervine, skullcap herb is commonly used to relax a busy mind at night to promote sleep. Another insomnia indication is for someone who has tense muscles and can’t relax enough naturally to fall asleep. Restless legs at night could also be calmed with skullcap.
The Skullcap tincture does not seem to be a strong outright sedative, but is often combined with stronger sedative herbs like Valerian (Valeriana officinalis). A strong infusion of skullcap tea can be a stronger sedative than the tincture, which gives more overt feelings of drowsiness. If you want to use Skullcap for sleep, make a strong Skullcap herbal tea.
It is most useful for people who constantly need to take charge. They make constant contingency plans and feel personally insulted when things don’t go their way. They may have insomnia and cannot initially fall asleep due to thinking about all the things they could have done differently that day.
One of the great benefits of Skullcap is for insomnia and sleep disorders. While many remedies, both traditional and herbal, can lull you to sleep like skullcap, most leave you groggy in the morning. Skullcap does have calming properties, but it can also help people who experience insomnia. It helps with restlessness, jaw clenching, and muscle tension.
This herbal tea is regularly used at night to encourage healthy and restful sleep in those suffering from sleep disorders, such as insomnia.
Both American and Chinese Skullcap contain an array of beneficial plant compounds, including antioxidants, which have anti-inflammatory effects and protect your cells from damage caused by molecules called free radicals.
The anti-inflammatory properties of this herbal tea make it a popular remedy for inflammatory bowel diseases, as well as arthritis, in addition to chronic inflammation conditions. Oxidative stress, which results from an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants, is linked to a number of chronic conditions, such as certain cancers and heart disease. Notably, baicalin, a flavonoid antioxidant in both American and Chinese skullcap, has demonstrated powerful anticancer effects and may help combat oxidative stress.
In test-tube studies, baicalin induced cell death in prostate and cervical cancer cells while significantly inhibiting the growth of ovarian and pancreatic cancer cells. Scutellarein is another American Skullcap compound that exhibits potent anticancer potential in test-tube studies.
Additionally, animal studies reveal that wogonin, a flavonoid compound in Chinese and American Skullcap, is particularly effective in treating inflammatory allergic conditions like allergic rhinitis.
It’s worth noting that Chinese and American skullcap contain many other anti-inflammatory compounds. In fact, over 50 flavonoids have been isolated from the Chinese species alone.
Fever and Flu:
According to a 2014 study by the Korean Food Research Institute, Skullcap may help reduce fever. Tests were conducted by administering the herb to subjects who had a food allergy. Temperature was monitored, and results indicated that the group given the skullcap demonstrated a drop in body temperature.
Studies also indicate that some severe cases of illness involving fever may be treated with Skullcap. Combined with other medicinal herbs, such as fried bitter apricot seeds and unprocessed rhubarb, it’s been shown to help reduce high fever, cough and shortness of breath while reducing heart palpitations, anxiety and irritation.
An excellent women’s herb, Skullcap contains large amounts of flavonoids, including scutellarin and baicalin, which are believed to be the active components accounting for its sedative and antispasmodic activity. This antispasmodic activity make it an extremely effective herb for menstrual cramps and it calming action aids PMT symptoms. It has also been used traditionally for centuries to stimulate menstrual bleeding, however more research is needed to verify this claim.
Skullcap is a mild anodyne herb and is particularly suited to relieving pain due to muscle tension. Historically it was used for numerous types of pain, including toothaches and menstrual pain. It was also used for irritability brought on by the pain of teething.
Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal:
Skullcap is a key herb to soothe the symptoms of drug and alcohol withdrawal. It eases the physical symptoms of withdrawal like muscle aches, shakiness, twitches, digestive distress, agitation, and poor quality sleep (all common signs of a hyper nervous system and muscle function in withdrawal).
With the ability to calm overactive stress responses and relax the mind and body, Skullcap acts as a mild sedative, making it an extremely useful herb for people quitting alcohol or benzodiazepine drugs (tranquilizers). Once the crisis stage is over, Skullcap can even decrease cravings for addictive substances.
- Addictions: Take leaves of catnip, Chamomile, peppermint and skullcap. Make a tea with it. Drink twice a day.
- ADHD: Prepare a decoction of skullcap root. Take half cup two times a day.
- Aerophobia: Boil 1 tbsp of dried skullcap in one cup of water for 25 minutes. Strain it and drink thrice daily.
- Agoraphobia: Boil 1 tbsp of dried skullcap in one cup of water for 25 minutes. Drink it thrice daily.
- Alcoholism: Prepare skullcap tea and give it to the patient every hour or two to drink. Start from half cup and reduce the quantity as the symptoms subside.
- Anxiety: Boil one tbsp dried skullcap in a cup of water for 20-25 minutes. Cool and drink at least thrice a day. / Prepare a tea from mugwort, Valerian, Chamomile, St Johns Wort and Skullcap. Add ¼ tsp of each herb. Add honey. Drink once a day.
- Bone Pains: Prepare a tea of the dried herb. Drink twice a day.
- Claustrophobia: Put 2 tsp of dried skullcap roots in one cup of water. Boil it for 10 minutes. Drink it twice daily.
- Convulsions: Prepare a decoction, made of skullcap roots and one cup of hot water. Consume it twice daily. OR Buy Scutellaria mother tincture from a homeopathic shop. Put 10 drops of it in one glass of water. Drink it twice a day after meals.
- Cough: Prepare a decoction of Skullcap flower and Anemarrhena rhizome. Take it twice a day.
- Epilepsy and Bed Witting: Put one tbsp dried skullcap in a cup of water and steep for half an hour. Take thrice daily.
- Fatigue: Take one tsp of each lobelia and skullcap. Mix half tsp of lemongrass and infuse in a cup of hot water 15 minutes. Drink Luke warm. It relaxes your tense muscles.
- Gastroparesis: Prepare a decoction of skullcap root. Take one cup three times a day after each meal.
- Herpes: Take 20 g of dandelion root, 25 g of skullcap root, 30 g of dried plant of Purslane, 15 g of Pinella roots, 20 g of dried indigo plant, 30 g of American Ginseng root, 20 g of Cinnamon twig, 30 g of Bupleurum root, 20 g of dried plant of Thlaspi Arvense and 40 g of Licorice root. Grind them to make a powder. Add water in the required amount of the powder to make a paste. Apply it over external herpes.
- Insomnia: Boil Skullcap and chamomile in equal amount to make a tea. Drink one cup in the evening. You may add some honey to improve the taste. / Infuse a small tsp of dried Hawthorn berry and skullcap in a cup of water for 10-15 minutes. Drink one cup at bed time. You may also substitute skullcap by valerian.
- Piles: Notoginseng, Skullcap, Sophora, Callicerpa Formosana, Amber, Sanguisorba officinalis, Corydalis in conjunction are beneficial for Hemorrhoids. You may buy the formula, containing the above mentioned herbs. Capsule form is readily available. Consume 1 capsules 3 times a day.
- Shingles: Grind together Oat straw seeds, St John’s wort flower and Skullcap root. Take two tsp two times a day with water.
Traditional uses of Skullcap:
- Skullcap is used in herbal medicine as a mild sedative and sleep promoter.
- Skullcap is a very effective nervine that has traditionally been used in the treatment of a wide range of nervous conditions.
- Its tonic and restorative properties help to support and nourish the nervous system, calming and relieving stress and anxiety.
- Leaves are antispasmodic, slightly astringent, diuretic, nervine, sedative and strongly tonic.
- It is used in the treatment of various problems of the nervous system including epilepsy, insomnia, anxiety, delirium tremens, withdrawal from barbiturates and tranquillizers, and neuralgia.
- An infusion of the plant has been used to promote suppressed menstruation, relieve breast pain and encourage expulsion of the placenta.
- Plant was once believed of use in the treatment of rabies.
- Some Native American tribes used it as an emmenagogue to bring young girls into womanhood.
- It was traditionally used to bring on visions (in large doses) during spiritual ceremonies.
- It was once used as a treatment for rabies and schizophrenia.
- It is helpful in the treatment of many nervous conditions such as epilepsy, hysteria, anxiety, delirium tremens and as a remedy for panic attacks.
- It has also been found useful in treating symptoms of withdrawal from barbiturates and tranquilizers.
- Medicinal infusions of this herb have been used to promote menstruation.
- An infusion of skullcap may also be helpful in treating throat infections and, due to its antispasmodic and sedative effects.
- It is also used for treating headaches from stress, neuralgia, and from incessant coughing.
- This herb can also be used to induce sleep naturally without the negative effects of many prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids.
- Skullcap is gaining some recognition as an alternative treatment for attention deficit disorder (ADHD/ADD).
- Plant is sometimes used to treat the symptoms associated with anorexia nervosa, fibromyalgia and even mild Tourette’s syndrome.
- Skullcap is used as an herbal treatment for asthma and as a hiccup and hangover remedy.