Thursday, December 26, 2013


Skullcap-Scutellaria Lateriflora, Scutellaria Galericulata, Scutellaria Biacelensis

Also known as:  Madweed, Quaker's Bonnet, Hood Wort, Helmet Flower, Blue Pimpernel, Side Flower

Parts used:  root, leaves, flowers

Meridians/Organs affected:  heart, lungs, liver, large intestine, gallbladder, nerves, structural

Properties:  laxative, antipyretic, hemostatic, astringent, diuretic, nervine, sedative, antispasmodic, analgesic, tonic, antibacterial, anti-allergenic

Skullcap is a member of the mint family.  It has blue to lavender colored flowers that are tubular and two-lobed.  It has lance shaped leaves that are coarsely toothed and opposite (just like all mints) and square stems.  It grows in damp areas that provide an equal amount of sun and shade, often found growing beneath poplars, willows and other trees or shrubs generally below 4000 feet, although it has been found above the 5000 foot level.  Skullcap is a native of North America and is found throughout Canada and the United States and in temperate climates throughout the world.  Blooming from June to September, it is best gathered between 9 a.m. and noon.

The Latin term 'scutella' means 'a small dish' referring to the shape of the flower which looks like a kind of cap or a helmet.  It was so named because it resembled the leather helmets often worn by Roman soldiers.  The French refer to this plant as 'Toque.'  The Chinese refer to it as 'Baikal' and descriptions of it have been found in the Ming ti Ben Lu (AD 500) and on wooden tablets that date back to the second century AD. 

Skullcap has a lengthy history as a medicinal herb.  It was originally a Native American remedy for women's issues.  It has also been referred to as 'mad-dog skullcap' for its purported use as an antidote to hydrophobia (rabies).  This dates back to the late 18th century when a Dr. Vandesveer used it to prevent 1000 cattle and 400 persons from becoming hydrophobic after being bitten by rabid dogs (apparently to great success).  However, there is some debate over its use for this in modern times.  In the early 19th century it again was used not only for rabies but also for schizophrenia and epilepsy, convulsions, headaches, hysteria, delirium tremens (usually associated with withdrawal from alcohol), multiple sclerosis, insomnia, nervous exhaustion, poisonous snake and insect bites, St. Vitus' dance (a disorder characterized by rapid, uncoordinated jerking movements affecting primarily the hands, feet and face), etc.

While many of these things are considered by modern allopathic medicine to be unproven-what has been proven is that skullcap has an amazing ability to calm and heal the nervous system.  It has been found to be a tonic for the nerves and to possess some antibacterial components.  It has also been used to treat cholera, tetanus, tremors, neuralgia, hyperesthesia (an abnormal increase in sensitivity to touch), anuresis (the inability to urinate), and paralysis agitans (also known as Parkinson's).    It has been used for hundreds of years by Native Americans as a nervine.  It is excellent for anxiety and skeletal muscle spasms, has been found to lower the blood pressure and strengthen the heart muscle and has been used for irritable bowel, intestinal and gallbladder issues.  The Chinese use it as a cooling herb for PMS, headaches and drug detoxification from Valium, Barbiturates, and Meprobamate (used for tension, anxiety, nervousness, etc.).  Mixed with American Ginseng, it has been used to treat alcoholism.  It is also used to suppress excessive sexual desire.  The Chinese also use skullcap root to remove congestion of heat from the lungs, heart and liver, also for jaundice, sores, pneumonia, carbuncles, etc.

This her is one which works better when given over a period of time in small amounts.  Too much skullcap can lead to dizziness, confusion, numbness in the fingers, toes and lips, excitability, giddiness and twitching.  Pregnant women should not take this herb.

As is customary with my posts I am including some links on skullcap below.  Use them wisely.  Keep healthy and strong!

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