What Is Skullcap Herb?
Skullcap is a perennial herb found in North America. Skullcap grows in moist shady environments and can be found as far North as New York and as far South as Alabama. Although there are several varieties of Skullcap, Scutellaria lateriflora, is most commonly used as an herbal medication. This type of Skullcap is found mostly in wet shady environments.
You can tell Skullcap by the lavender, tube shaped flowers and the heart shaped tooth-edged leaves coming off the stems. The skullcap found in the United States is often mistaken for the Chinese Baikal skullcap, (S. baicalensis), the root of which is the Chinese drug huang-qin. This skullcap is found in the sandy fields of Northeast China and Russia and in the mountains of Southwest China
Often referred to as maddog skullcap, the American species of the herb was traditionally used as a treatment for rabies. Folk medicine has prescribed skullcap as a nerve tonic and sedative for relieving anxiety, neuralgia, and insomnia for centuries. Baikal skullcap was first mentioned in the middle class of drugs in the Oriental traditional drug guide known as the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing. In China it is found in prescriptions for fevers, colds, high blood pressure, hypertension, insomnia, headache, intestinal inflammation, vomiting of blood, and other conditions.
The medicinal effectiveness of the American skullcap has been known and used for a long time but most recent studies have been exclusive to the Chinese baikal skullcap. Chinese studies conducted on the herb found it inhibits bacteria and viruses, is a diuretic, and lowers fevers and blood pressure. Herbal practitioners in China commonly use skullcap to treat hepatitis.
In general Skullcap is used in alternative medicine as an anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, slight astringent, emmenagogue, febrifuge, nervine, sedative and tonic. Although the full effects of the herb have not been extensively tested there are some valuable constituents found in the plant like Scutellarin, Catalpol, other Volatile oils, bitter iridoids and Tannins. Some of these constituents can be prescribed for menstrual problems and have been found to help nervous conditions including epilepsy, insomnia, hysteria, anxiety, delerium tremens, withdrawal from barbiturates and tranquilisers.
Skullcap is a natural herb that likely has only mild effects but it still should be used with some caution since it can cause giddiness, stupor, confusion and twitching when taken in overdose. Skullcap has also been linked to liver damage, though it is suspected that the source of damage was actually from Germander being substituted for Skullcap. It’s a good idea to use skullcap in moderation and avoid it if you have liver problems.
Antispasmodic herbs are being used with more frequency in the natural supplement market since some links have been shown between herbs like skullcap and weight loss. Skullcap is usually prepared in a tea of some kind and can have some soothing properties even if you do not suffer from obesity or a neurological disorder of some kind. More studies are sure to be performed but it is further evidence of the effectiveness of natural remedies.