What is Skullcap?
American skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), is a perennial herb native to North America, that has been used in traditional Native American forms of medicine for centuries to treat a variety of ailments. The name Scutellaria is derived from the Latin word scutella, which means “little dish,” as the small flowers of these plants have a dish or helmet-like shape. The name skullcap actually refers to the flower’s resemblance to helmets worn by European soldiers.
Due to the diverse healing properties of this unique herb, especially its neuroprotective and inti-inflammatory properties, we included it in our Brain Flow cognitive enhancement formula.
The genus Scutellaria, is a genus of flowering plants in the mint family, and there are several different varieties of this herb, that all seem to share similar properties. American skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) is a perennial herb native to North America, and traditionally, the leaves of the plant have been used for its sedative properties. Chinese skullcap herb (Scutellaria baicalensis) is native to several Asian countries, as well as Russia. Instead of the leaves, it is the dried roots of this plant that has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to treat diarrhea, insomnia, dysentery, high blood pressure, hemorrhaging, respiratory infections, and inflammation.
Today, this plant is widely available and is most often used for its nervine properties. Nervines are herbs that support the health of the nervous system, and skullcap is one of the most famous herbs used for this purpose.
What is the herb skullcap used for?
The leaves of American skullcap plant have been used in traditional herbal medicine as a sedative and to treat conditions like anxiety and convulsions. Skullcap has had a variety of other traditional uses, including: trouble sleeping (insomnia), anxiety, stroke, and paralysis caused by stroke. It is also used for fever, high cholesterol, “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis), rabies, epilepsy, nervous tension, allergies, skin infections, inflammation, and spasms.
What are the health benefits of skullcap?
Skullcap has been used by Americans and Europeans as a nerve tonic for more than 200 years. It is commonly used as a mild relaxant and as a therapy for anxiety, nervous tension, and convulsions. Studies show American skullcap has significant antioxidant effects, and may help protect against neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, anxiety, and depression.
Skullcap is used for improving Mood & Reducing Anxiety
One of the most common uses of skullcap is its ability to reduce anxiety and improve one’s mood. 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 this herb 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, one of the skullcap benefits comes from Baicalin, a compound found in both American and Chinese varieties of skullcap, is used to treat insomnia in traditional medicine practices.
Skullcap is used for reducing inflammation
Both American and Chinese skullcap contain a variety of beneficial plant compounds, including antioxidants, which have anti-inflammatory effects and protect your cells from damage caused by molecules called free radicals. In fact, over 50 flavonoids have been isolated from the Chinese species alone. 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. For example, 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.
Skullcap is used for its antibacterial and antiviral effects
Skullcap has been shown in many clinical studies to have amazing antibacterial and antiviral benefits. One test-tube study sampled over 30 Chinese herbs and found that only skullcap extract demonstrated 100% antibacterial activity against Acinetobacter baumannii (XDRAB), a bacterium that is a leading cause of pneumonia in hospitalized patients. Furthermore, this extract showed better antibacterial effects than colistin, a common antibiotic. The same study demonstrated that skullcap was also effective in reducing XDRAB bacterial load in the lungs of mice, compared to a control group.
Skullcap is used for helping in neurodegenerative diseases
Neurodegenerative disease is an umbrella term for a range of conditions which primarily affect the neurons in the human brain. Neurons are the building blocks of the nervous system which includes the brain and spinal cord. Neurodegenerative diseases occur when nerve cells in the brain or peripheral nervous system lose function over time and ultimately die. Some test-tube studies suggest that American skullcap may have neuroprotective properties, potentially safeguarding against diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
What are the active compounds in Skullcap?
Scientific studies have reported that extracts and isolated compounds from Skullcap have various pharmacological properties, such as antitumor, hepatoprotective, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, anti-hyperlipidemic, antidiabetic, antimutagenesis, anticonvulsant, and antioxidant. So far, more than 50 flavonoid components have been isolated and identified from S. baicalensis. Among them, three flavonoids have been identified as the major active components of skullcap: baicalein, baicalin, and wogonin.
Baicalein is an active flavonoid that has been found to have positive health benefits. Used in traditional Chinese medicine for hundreds of years, it has recently been found to have anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-allergic properties.
Baicalin, another major flavonoid in skullcap, also shows promising benefits for nervous system health. According to a research study published in the NIH’s National Library of Medicine “skullcap effectively prevents neurodegenerative diseases through various pharmacological mechanisms, including anti-oxidative stress, anti-excitotoxicity, anti-apoptotic, anti-inflammatory, stimulating neurogenesis, promoting the expression of neuronal protective factors."
Wogonin, the third major compound found in skullcap, also shows an impressive range of health benefits. It has been approved to be effective as an anti-inflammatory and antiviral inhibitor in cardiovascular diseases, and also showed potent and promising antitumor effects both in vitro and in vivo studies. It has been proved that wogonin has the ability to inhibit the growth of tumor cells, induce apoptosis, and suppress angiogenesis. Skullcap is also a potent remedy for various inflammatory conditions, and shows promising neuroprotective properties as well.
Is skullcap herb safe?
Skullcap is generally a safe and effective herb with a variety of uses. It should be noted, however, that skullcap can interact with some common medications, such as blood thinners, cholesterol-lowering medications, cytochrome P450 substrate drugs, and pain killers. Additionally, no type of skullcap is recommended for children or pregnant or breastfeeding women due to lack of research around its safety for these groups. As with any herbal supplement, it is recommended to speak to your health care provider before consuming.
Is skullcap bad for your liver?
In researching skullcap, one may discover information that states skullcap could potentially have a negative impact on the liver. In all cases that have made such claims, multiple herbal medications were being taken and the role of skullcap in the hepatic damage was unclear. Furthermore, in some instances phytochemical analysis has identified significant adulterants (germander) or mislabeling in cases of suspected skullcap hepatotoxicity.
Skullcap has been used traditionally for many years, and has never been traditionally associated with having any negative effect on the liver. In reported cases that included a combination of other herbs, the onset of symptoms and jaundice (yellowing of the skin) occurred within 1 to 12 weeks of starting the herbal supplements, and the symptoms were relieved after the herbs were discontinued.
Certain herbal companies unfortunately try to sell other herbs than those that are marketed, and this has occurred with skullcap as well. If consuming any skullcap product, be sure that what you are consuming is actually the herb that is advertised, and seek to purchase herbal supplements from companies that you can trust, and that have integrity in their sourcing and formulation of herbal products.
Skullcap is a flowering plant long used in traditional Chinese, Native American, and Western Folk medicine for treating a variety of health conditions. Supplementing with skullcap may provide several health benefits, such as improving mood, reducing anxiety, supporting nervous system health, reducing inflammation, and even providing anticancer effects.
Many of skullcap’s health benefits are attributed to its impressive range of active compounds. Of these active compounds, three major compounds stand out: baicalein, baicalin, and wogonin. These compounds have each been well-researched and independently studied for their uses and health benefits.
Skullcap is not recommended for those that use certain medications, such as blood thinners, cholesterol-lowering medications, cytochrome P450 substrate drugs, and pain killers, and it is also not advised for children, or pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Skullcap is a great medicinal herb with a particular affinity for the nervous system. It is one of the key nootropic ingredients featured in our Brain Flow cognitive enhancement supplement, and it is an impressive herb with a wide range of uses. Also take a look at our Brain Function Collection for other awesome brain boosting nutritional supplements.