Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) is a dainty, nourishing plant in the mint family. It can be found growing in lush forests and moist thickets in much of Eastern North America. This supportive friend subdues stress, anxiety, and tension by feeding and strengthening the nervous system. It quietly melts away worries –encouraging restful sleep at night and more smiles during the day.
- Take orally as a tincture, tea, capsule, tablet, or powdered.
- Use topically as a massage oil.
- Can be smoked.
- Can be taken on daily bases (tonically) or in acute situations.
- There is no danger of cumulative buildup (to receive the full benefits of skullcap, you should actually use it over an extended period of time).
- general anxiety
- anti-cancer effects (anti-tumor, anti- angiogenesis)
- antioxidant (may help protect against neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s & Parkinson’s disease)
- relaxes the over-anxious mind
- nervous stress
- panic attacks
- feelings of being overwhelmed
- fatigue from mental or physical exhaustion
- long term stress, insomnia, or chronic pain
- post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- nerve-related disorders (such as shock, dizziness, tinnitus, chronic fatigue)
- sensitive to sensory stimuli (crowds, loud music, overwhelming to-do list, stress at work or school)
- pain relief from nerve-related injury or disease, muscle tension, & nerve inflammation
- nerve pain (sciatica, neuralgia, shingles, fibromyalgia, toothaches)
- tension headache
- migraine headaches
- PMS- Premenstrual syndrome (menstrual tension, menstrual cramps, breast tenderness, over-sensitivity)
- insomnia (both difficulty falling asleep & restlessness through the night)
- relaxes & lessens overthinking (calming worried minds when circulating thoughts before bedtime lead to insomnia)
- general sleep-aid for children & adults
- to prevent scratching & scarring during the night (due to chicken pox, measles, & other skin eruptions/rashes)
- restlessness with nervous excitability
- sleep disorders, sleep difficulties, disturbed sleep, & poor sleep
- epilepsy & petit mal seizures
- chorea (abnormal involuntary movement disorder, one of a group of neurological disorders called dyskinesia)
- nervous tics, twitching, tremors, cramps, & muscle spasms
- lessens muscle spasms & tremors associated with multiple sclerosis, Tourette’s syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, & Parkinson’s disease (paralysis agitans)
- tardive dyskinesia (involuntary movements of the muscles & tongue)
- eye twitches
- autonomic nervous system disorders
- subsultus tendinum (twitching of the muscles during low fevers)
- ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- teeth grinding
- smooth & skeletal muscle relaxant
- general inability to relax
- stiff muscles
- muscular tension
- neck and back pain
- restless leg syndrome
- adaptogen (nervine or nerve tonic)
- to improve a lowered mood
- can lower blood pressure during childbirth
- postpartum depression
- helps with lactation (stress can keep your body from producing enough milk)
- neurasthenia (a mental disorder characterized by chronic fatigue & concomitant physiologic symptoms)
- anorexia nervosa
- withdrawal symptoms (muscle aches, delirium tremens, shakiness, twitches, digestive distress, agitation, poor quality sleep) from many addictions (tobacco, alcohol, drugs, caffeine, sugar, certain prescription drugs -like benzodiazepines, sleeping pills)
- helps calm irritability, whining, crankiness, & hyperactivity in children
- heartache, heartbreak, grief, or shock
- improves blood flow to the brain; bringing about focus (a wonderful remedy for exam & work stress, when the nerves need calming without being overly sedating)
- herpes outbreaks (cold sores, shingles, herpes simplex I or II, genital herpes, fever blisters)
- prevents gingivitis & periodontal disease (by increasing the production of collagen in the gums)
- hormonal stress & insomnia during menopause
Science Stuff: Cancer cells can take many years to develop. Skullcap, which has been studied and shown to increase the body’s defense against various types of cancer, has been recommended as a preventative measure. The nontoxic, natural compound baicalein, found in skullcap, works directly with the body, not against it, to stop cancer cells from proliferating. This nutrient works selectively on cancer cells to help them know when to induce cell suicide (our body’s most potent weapon against cancer). Baicalein also has shown in studies to have cardiovascular effects. One study showed that baicalin significantly reduced damage associated with heart attacks. It is believed to interfere with hormonal reactions and release of histamines and bile in the body, stimulating gall bladder activity, inhibiting inflammation and suppressing the replication of viruses, bacteria and leukemia-derived T-cells. Oxidative stress, which results from an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants, is linked to cancer and heart disease. Baicalin, a flavonoid antioxidant in skullcap, has demonstrated powerful anticancer effects and may help combat oxidative stress. It has been shown that baicalin plays a significant role in lipid metabolism through lipogenic and lipolytic pathways of adipose cells. Scutellarin is another proven anticancer compound found in skullcap (it also increases the production of collagen in the gums, helping to prevent gingivitis and prevent periodontal disease). Skullcap contains 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. Studies reveal that wogonin, a flavonoid compound in skullcap, is particularly effective in treating inflammatory allergic conditions like rhinitis. Skullcap contains many other anti-inflammatory compounds (in fact, over 50 flavonoids have been isolated so far). The significant antioxidant effects and neuroprotective properties may help protect against neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, anxiety, and depression. Evidence suggests that skullcap: inhibits food allergic response, helps in normalizing the overgrowth candida and preventing thrush, and inhibits the influenza virus.
Skullcap is regarded as one of the most effective herbal sedatives. Its calming effects are said to be mild, but reliable. One of the primary active constituents in skullcap is scutellarin, a flavonoid compound that possess sedative and antispasmodic qualities. The flavonoid compounds in skullcap bind to the receptor of the neurotransmitter, GABA, and its receptor, GABA-A, in the brain responsible for modulating anxiety. Skullcap also contains the amino acid glutamine, which provides both sedative and anxiety-fighting qualities. Skullcap is a nerve tonic that is thought to have a “deeper” action on the nervous system than almost any other herb. It is one of the most versatile of the nervines and is indicated for all nervous system disorders. A study found that those who received skullcap daily for two weeks reported significant enhancements in mood compared to a placebo group. The baicalin compound, found in skullcap, is used to treat insomnia in traditional medicine practices. While skullcap is noted for its sedative, relaxing effects, it also brings about focus. Studies have found that one of its constituents, scutellarin, improves blood flow to the brain, making it an excellent remedy for exam and work stress, when the nerves need calming, without being overly sedating. The large amounts of flavonoids in skullcap, including scutellarin and baicalin, are the active components accounting for its sedative, anticonvulsant, and antispasmodic activity. This antispasmodic action makes it an extremely effective herb for premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and relieving taut and tensed muscles that so often accompany anxiety and worry. Skullcap is included in many over-the-counter herbal remedies for anxiety and sleep problems. It is a key herb to soothe the symptoms of drug and alcohol withdrawal; and for people trying to quit smoking or benzodiazepine drugs (tranquilizers). It eases the physical symptoms of withdrawal, like muscle aches, shakiness, twitches, digestive distress, agitation, and poor quality sleep. Skullcap can even decrease cravings for addictive substances.
Precautions and Contraindications:
Skullcap has a high degree of safety in use and there is no danger of cumulative buildup. It is safe for children, the elderly, and during breastfeeding. Many sources suggest it is safe during pregnancy, but you should consult with your healthcare provider. Despite its use as a sedative, it doesn’t promote daytime sleepiness for most people.
Skullcap can increase the effect of medications that have a sedating effect, including: anticonvulsants (such as phenytoin-Dilantin and valproic acid-Depakote), barbiturates, benzodiazepines (such as alprazolam-Xanax and diazepam-Valium), medications to treat insomnia (such as zolpidem-Ambien, zaleplon-Sonata, eszopiclone-Lunesta, and ramelteon-Rozerem), and tricyclic antidepressants (such as amitriptyline-Elavil).
Skullcap may slow down the central nervous system. Healthcare providers have concerns that anesthesia and other medications during and after surgery might increase this effect. Stop taking skullcap at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.