Skullcap herb has been used extensively for years as an alternative medicine to help heal inflammation, provide relief from spasms, stimulate blood flow in the pelvic region, encourage menstruation, help eliminate headaches, reduce fever, treat gout and work a sedative for relaxation. Additionally, it is also used to treat conditions such as epilepsy, insomnia, hysteria, and anxiety. Botanical Name of skullcap is Scutellaria lateriflora. It comes in two varieties: American skullcap and Chinese skullcap. Skullcap is the name of a flowering perennial plant from the mint family, Lamiaceae. Also called the mad dog or blue skullcap, these are a hardy, moderate sized plant with blue or purple flowers from the leaf bases on the main stem.
Nutritional Value of Skullcap
Skullcap contains beneficial and essential substances like flavonoids, iridol, sesquiterpene, tannins, bitter substances, essential oil, resin, iron, silicon, calcium, magnesium, lignin, and wogonin. Rich in these constituents, skullcap help in providing a robust health condition.
Folklore and History
This herb was well known among the Cherokee and other Native American tribes, as a strong emmenagogue and female medicinal herb. It was used in some tribes as a ceremonial plant to introduce young girls into womanhood. The Iroquois used an infusion of the root to keep the throat clear, whilst other Native American tribes used closely related species as bitter tonics for the kidneys. The herb was used to induce visions and as a ceremonial plant that was smoked as tobacco by some Native Americans.
Followers of a 19th-century Anglo-American school of herbal medicine were called Physiomedicalists and were the first to discover Skullcap’s use as a nerve tonic. They recognized that it had a “deeper” action on the nervous system than any other herb and used it for hysteria, epilepsy convulsions, and such serious mental illnesses as schizophrenia, earning it the nickname “mad weed”.
Health Benefits of Skullcap
Mentioned below are the best health benefits
1. Fight Cancer Cells
The antioxidant flavone components of the herb prevent the spread of cancerous cells. It also slows down tumor growth, induces apoptosis (sudden cell death), in cancerous cells and is used for natural treatment of cancer. The extract of this herb is toxic to cancer cells, such as brain tumor cells, prostate cancer cells, and head and neck squamous cell carcinoma cell line.
2. Calms Anxiety as a Nerve Tonic
Calms Anxiety as a Nerve Tonic
Oxidative stress affects some brain-related diseases, such as anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and Parkinson’s disease. It may neutralize and even get rid off toxic free radicals from the body. When they are eliminated, oxidative stress is greatly reduced. Thus skullcap may provide significant antioxidant effects, which could make it a great option for reducing anxiety.
3. Reduces Inflammation
Skullcap or Scutellaria has some pretty effective anti-inflammatory properties. Many people who suffer from arthritis and inflammatory bowel diseases use skullcap as a home remedy. Studies have shown additional benefits from the use of skullcap to those who have Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease due to its anti-inflammatory effects.
4. Manages Diabetes
Insulin and glucose regulation is essential is controlled by the use of skullcap. It appears that skullcap is able to increase the production of insulin by the pancreas and helps to regulate the insulin levels in the body. Additionally, it has been linked to lower cholesterol levels, which is an exacerbating factor in diabetes.
5. Reduces Risk of Heart Disease
Skullcap is able to reduce the level of cholesterol in the heart and thus lower the chances of atherosclerosis, heart attacks, coronary heart diseases, and strokes that often accompany the build-up of plaque in the arteries.
6. Lowers Fever Caused by the Flu
Skullcap is also effective in reducing fever. Tests performed on subjects revealed its effects on lowering the body temperature.
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 promotes sound sleep without the unwanted side effects, leaving you feeling refreshed and revitalized in the morning.
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, it can even decrease cravings for addictive substances.
9. Treatment of Epilepsy and Reduction of Muscle Spasms
It soothes muscle spasms, muscle twitching and may aid in ailments that involve involuntary limb movements, such as Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.
10. Removes toxins
Skullcap tea helps to detoxify our body and boost our overall health. It has been associated with an increased antioxidant activity in the liver, which is one of the slowest-recovering organs, and this effect can significantly boost the efficiency of the liver. The extract of this herb helps to reduce toxin levels in the body and blood, thereby improving overall health and wellness.
11. Weight Loss
The reduction of triglycerides stimulated by the skullcap herb can help with rapid weight loss effectively.
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 makes it an extremely effective herb for menstrual cramps and its 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.
The herb can help minimize throat infections, headaches from stress, neuralgia, and after-effects of incessant coughing. American skullcap can also be useful when treating withdrawal symptoms from tranquilizers and barbiturates, and may even benefit people with anorexia nervosa, fibromyalgia, and mild Tourette’s syndrome. People with nervous disorders who experienced seizures or other spasmodic side effects that occurred from a problem in the nervous system may also utilize American skullcap.
Chinese skullcap is also a strong antiviral that can work against some viruses, and may exhibit mild antibacterial action against certain strains:
How to Grow Skullcap
American skullcap prefers partial shade to full sun and typically blooms from May to August. During this period, the plant’s flowers are replaced by a two-chamber seed pod with four seeds each.
Meanwhile, Chinese skullcap needs full sun and thrives on sunny and grassy slopes in high elevations. This plant is known to grow well in sandy, rocky and dry soils, and in cultivated planting beds. Blooming period is often during late spring, early, mid or late summer or early fall, depending on the climate of your area.
Generally, plants of this herb can be easy to grow when in a partly shaded position and even if you use ordinary garden soil. It’s best to sow the seed in early spring after the danger of frost has passed.
Skullcap seeds tend to germinate at a naturally high rate. These are better if stratified for a week or so. Begin by placing the seeds in a sealed plastic bag with moistened vermiculite, sand or a moist paper towel. Keep the bag inside the refrigerator for a week. If you’re using vermiculite, use three times the amount compared to the seeds and only slightly moisten, as excess moisture can result in moldy seeds.
After the week-long period, start lightly tamping seeds into soil in flats that are about one-fourth to three-eighth inches deep, or in a similar starting container. The seeds will germinate in around two weeks’ time. Once the first true leaves have developed, begin transplanting the plant outdoors, making sure to put a 12-inch gap in between the rows.
Water the plant moderately and ensure that the soil is well-drained. Apart from using seeds, you can also propagate skullcaps by dividing roots or cuttings. The grown plants will then spread and clump, and the plants that grow may eventually be resistant to major pests.
Harvest the plants once the flowers are in full bloom. Use a pair of scissors or shears to harvest aerial parts like flowers and leaves. Ensure that there are still plant parts at least 3 inches above the ground.
Extraction ratio: 1:3
alcohol vol. : 45%
2-4ml up to 3 times per day.
Or as recommended by a herbal practitioner.
1-2 teaspoon cut herb per 1 cup of boiling water up to 3 times a day.
Or as recommended by a herbal practitioner.
Phytochemicals include flavones, flavonoids, chrysin, iridoids, neo-clerodanes, scutapins, and isoscutellarein.
Side Effects of Skullcap
Before using American or Chinese skullcap, it’s important to consult a physician or trusted health expert first. It is reported to have various side effects and interactions with other herbs, supplements or medications. For example, both American and Chinese skullcap was revealed to increase the effects of these particular sedatives:
- Anticonvulsants like phenytoin (Dilantin) and valproic acid (Depakote)
- Insomnia-treating drugs like zolpidem (Ambien), zaleplon (Sonata), eszopiclone (Lunesta) and ramelteon (Rozerem)
- Tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline (Elavil)
- Benzodiazepines like alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium)
Pregnant and breastfeeding women must avoid skullcap as well due to the potential complications that can arise with skullcaps intake. Furthermore, some American skullcap varieties were known to be contaminated with germander (Teucrium), a group of plants that were said to cause liver problems. To prevent this from happening, make sure to get American skullcap from a reliable source. High doses of this plant’s tincture may also result in side effects like giddiness, stupor, mental confusion, twitching, irregular heartbeat and seizures.
Meanwhile, Chinese skullcap isn’t recommended for diabetics, especially if there’s no doctor supervision involved. The patient’s risk for hypoglycemia or low blood sugar levels may increase if the herb is ingested, plus it may also strengthen the effect of diabetes drugs.
Chinese skullcap is also ill-advised for those with stomach or spleen problems. It may also interact with cyclosporines that are often used to prevent organ transplant rejection. Prior to using this herb, make sure to consult your physician to avoid experiencing these side effects.
Excessive use of skullcap may cause stupor, confusion, irregular heartbeat, twitching, giddiness, nausea, and lightheadedness, as well as seizures in extreme cases. Pregnant women shouldn’t use this herb since it may cause a miscarriage.
Cultivation of Skullcap
Skullcap is native to the American wetlands and presently grows in Europe, Asia, Canada, and the United States. This herb is often found in partially shaded, wetland areas. It prefers light shade to full sun and wet to moist soil with an abundance of organic matter for its optimum cultivation.