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Veterinarian Reviewed on June 5, 2012 by Paulina Nelega, RH
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Skullcap (Scutellaria Baicalensis)


This native perennial herb can be found growing naturally in China, Mongolia and other Eastern Asian countries. It has long been used for natural treatments and has found its way into official and traditional medicine. Historically it has been used mainly in Japan, China, Russia, Korea, and Mongolia where skullcap can be found growing naturally. In the wild areas it flourishes with minimal interaction from outside influencers via seeds and takes ten years to flower. Chinese skullcap resembles its American cousin with a cap like appearance of the outer whorl of profuse blue or purple flowers.

American and Chinese skullcaps have entirely different uses and cannot be interchanged for treatment of ailments. It is important to note the scientific or Latin name of the skullcap being used due to there being over 200 varieties of skullcap. Each one is used for various ailments and each has a different degree of effectiveness. The North American skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) can be mistaken for Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria Baicalensis). This mistake could result in accidently ingesting lateriflora that could be accidentally processed with other plants thereby contaminating it with high enough toxicity levels to cause a health concern.

Active Compounds

The main active compounds found in Chinese skullcap are harvested from the roots and small rhizomes. Alcohol tinctures made from skullcap roots have antimicrobial, sedative and hypotensive properties. So potent are the effects of such tinctures, that they have been recorded in the pharmacopeias of Japanese, Chinese and the former USSR medical practices. Clinical testing over the last decade has discovered and proven the anti-allergy, antioxidant, antitumor and antistatic properties of plant extracts.

The vast extents of physiological effects on the body, from skullcap root extracts, are from the existence of almost seventy flavonoids. These include chalkones, flavanones, flavones, flavonols and anthocyanidines. The wild grown skullcap root contains flavonoid levels of ten to sixteen percent of the dry root weight, with glycosides being the most prevalent. When harvested, the average dry weight of a Skullcap Root is between ten and fifteen grams per plant.

As skullcap is so extremely valuable and that it is so hard to obtain unpolluted, ecologically grown raw material, there have been numerous attempts to grown skullcap in the lab. Many researchers have found that by doing this they can control the amount of external environmental containments that can make that particular skullcap root unusable. This controlled method of growing and harvesting skullcap is a much more viable option for a plant that takes ten years to naturally mature.

Uses for Skullcap

When used in herbal treatments skullcap can be used for a multitude of ailments. Current research in United States medical institutes is showing that Chinese skullcap has the potential for anti-aging and healthy inflammation molecules from the baicalin, wogonin and baicalein complex strains contained therein.

Most uses for skullcap are:

• Allergy control

• Infections

• Inflammation

• Cancer treatment

• Headaches

• Antifungal

• Antiviral

• Diabetes: Animal tests show a reduction in diabetes and high blood pressure but human tests are still awaiting approval.

Side Effects of Skullcap

There are a few precautions about using skullcap and should be noted:

• As skullcap may lower blood sugar levels it may raise your risk of hypoglycemia.

• If you have spleen or digestive problems, avoid taking skullcap.

• Skullcap should be avoided if nursing or pregnant

• If using sedatives, it will increase the effects of the sedative. Use caution if on prescription sleep aids, alcohol, or any other type of sedative

Read also: Raynaud’s Disease (RP)

Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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