The Benefits of 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 leaves of American skullcap plant have been used in traditional herbal medicine as a sedative and to treat conditions like anxiety and convulsions.
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.
May Improve Mood and Reduce 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.
Contains Powerful Anti-Inflammatory Compounds
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.
Has Antibacterial and Antiviral Effects
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.
May Help 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.
It should be noted that skullcap can interact with many 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 insufficient safety information.
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. However, this herb 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.