What is Skullcap you ask? Well this plant has been used in various self care strategies as of late. But for centuries Eastern cultures have practiced and mastered natural, holistic healing methods. Although advanced modern medicine seems to take the spotlight in our Western societies, a niche with growing interest in plant based healing also exists. In this series, we talk about how we get by with a little help from our plant friends.
Starting with a plant native to North America, Skullcap or Scutellaria lateriflora, is an herbal remedy known to have profound effects on stress, anxiety and insomnia. A member of the mint family, its dried leaves and stems were historically used by Native Americans to treat nervousness, menstrual and digestive problems, the name was derived by the plant’s resemblance to the helmets of European soldiers. The above ground components of the plant have been widely used in herbalist practices to treat insomnia, anxiety, stroke and related paralysis, high cholesterol, rabies, epilepsy, nervous tension, allergies, skin infections, inflammation and muscle spasms.
Antioxidant properties of baicalin act as an anti-inflammatory protecting cells from the damage caused by free radicals. In a study by the National Institutes of Health, participants who received 1050mg of skullcap daily for 2 weeks reported a significant improvement in mood and relieved tension. This is thought to ease stress, sleep troubles and insomnia by stimulating the neurotransmitters responsible for calming the nervous system.
Commercially available products feature Skullcap or Scutellaria in the form of powder, liquid solutions, capsules and tinctures. Dried leaves and stems are commonly found in herbal teas, sometimes coupled with other soothing botanicals like valerian root or lemon balm. Appropriate dosage of skullcap depends on many factors such as age and existing health conditions. Concentration and ingredients should also be considered. Follow the recommended usage indicated on the chosen product’s label.
With limited scientific evidence on plant based medicine, it is difficult to confirm definitive results. What is known, however, is that there are over 200 different species of Skullcap each with unique chemical compositions that are not interchangeable. In fact, the active compounds, or flavonoids, believed to account for the plant’s effectiveness are scutellarin and baicalin. It is important to be aware of variations such as Western, Southern, Marsh Skullcap, or species found outside North America, which do not contain the chemical components necessary for effective treatment of the aforementioned conditions.
As with any supplement or medicine, use caution when purchasing and consuming as it may not be suitable for everyone and can cause serious side effects in certain situations. Some cases of liver damage have been reported but are not widely common and involve other contributing factors. Certain medications can also interact negatively so it is advisable to consult your doctor or pharmacist if this is a concern.
This is the first of many herbal remedies that we have been introduced to on our self care journey. If you have any favorites in your arsenal, please feel free to share in the comments!