Chinese Skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis)

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Chinese Skullcap

Chinese skullcap is very similar to the popular nervine herb, American skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), however, there are some major differences in their use.

Chinese skullcap is far better for treating immune conditions, including the allergic response, inflammation, and infections. American skullcap, ont he other hand, is much better for conditions involving the neurological system.

 

Indications:

  • Adjuvant treatment for cancer
  • Allergic Rhinitis
  • Allergies
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Chronic inflammatory conditions
  • Depression
  • Epilepsy
  • Exhaustion
  • Hepatitis
  • Hydrophobia
  • Hypertention
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hysteria
  • Insomnia
  • Jet lag
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Nervous headaches
  • Neuralgia
  • Petite mal seizures
  • Premenstrual tension
  • Rickets
  • Severe hiccough
  • St Vitus' dance

Contraindications:

  • None noted.

Herbal Actions:

  • Antiviral (root)
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antiallergic
  • Antibacterial
  • Nervine
  • Antispasmodic
  • Hypotensive
  • Anxyiolytic
  • Astringent (Mild)
  • Antitumor
 

What Is Chinese Skullcap Used For?

Chinese skullcap is mainly used for inflammatory, or allergic conditions. It is useful for nasal congestion, upper respiratory tract infections, seasonal allergies and hayfever, arthritis, and migraine headaches.

 

Traditional Uses

+ Traditional Chinese Medicine

Pinyin

Huáng Qín

Taste

Bitter [18, 19]

Energy

Cold [18, 19]

Channels

Lung, Gallbladder, Stomach large intestine [19]

Actions

Dispels (clears) heat, expels (drains) damp heat, drains fire, detoxificant, stops bleeding, calms the fetus [1, 18, 19].

Indications

The roots are generally the preferred part of the plant in Chinese medicine, used for fevers, cough with thick sputum, pneumonia, nausea, vomiting, hemoptysis, jaundice, viral hepatitis, diarrhoea, dysentry-like diseases, painful urination, hypertension, restless foetus, carbuncles, allergic conditions, hyperlipidemia, vexing heat,internal accumulation of heat toxin, bleeding due to heat exuberance, internal accumulation of damp-heat, and dermoatitis [1, 17, 18].

Cautions

Do not use with cold syndromes of deficiency type [19].

In traditional Chinese medicine, skullcap is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs, and as such is one of the most commonly used herbs in this medical system [2].

+ Tibet

In Tibet, S. barbata is the most common species, where it is juiced (both root and leaves) and used for wounds, fevers, indigestion, and gastric disturbances [2].

+ Western Herbal Medicine

In North America, the main species used traditionally was S. lateriflora. The native Americans here used the leaves to treat sore eyes, chills, fever, colds, coughs, heart problems, and as a laxative. The roots were used as an emmenagogue, and abortifacient, antidiarrheal, nervine, treat kidney disorders, cold and flu, and to prevent smallpox [2].

The leaves were often used in the form of a tea, or steamed and eaten as a vegetable [2].

Priest and priest suggested skullcap fas a diffusive, and a stimulating and relaxing vasodilator and trophorestorative. They suggested it useful for treating nervous irritation of the cerebro-spinal nervous system, nervous exhaustion, post-febrile nervous weakness, chorea, hysteria, agitation, epileptiform convulsions, insomnia, and restless sleep. [4].

In western botanical practice, skullcaps of all varieties are used mainly as a nervine, but also for conditions such as chorea, convulsions, hysteria, nervous tension, intermittent fever, neuralgia, insomnia, and restlessness. [2, 17].

 

Part Used

Whole plant

Family Name

Lamiaceae

Distribution

Native to China, Russia, Mongolia, Japan, Korea, and Siberia.

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Constituents of Interest

  • Baicalein
  • Scutellarin
  • Catalpol
  • Melatonin

Common Names

  • Chinese Skullcap
  • Baical Skullcap
  • Mad Dog Skullcap
  • Toque (French)
  • Huang Qin (Chinese)
  • Helmet Flower
  • Hoodwort
 

Botanical Information

Chinese skullcap is a member of the Lamiaceae family (mint family). This family is large, containing as much as 236 genera and 7500 species. This family is characterised by square stems, and arromatic nature.

 

Habitat Ecology, and Distribution

Skullcap generally grows in moist, sandy areas, but can be found in all sorts of environments the world over. It has even been found growing up to about 6000 feet in altitude [2].

It is native to China, Mongolia, Japan, Korea, Siberia, Russia [2].

 

Pharmacology & Medical Research

+ Antiallergic

The flavonol and flavone content of skullcap (especially baicalein and wogonin) were shown to inhibit histamine release from the mast cells [1, 20]. It was found to moderate mast cell release of histamine by restoring IL-8 and TNF-alpha expression, as well as inhibiting MAP kinase expression [21].

Luteolin and baicalein were shown to inhibit IgE mediated allergic reactions in mice [22].

+ Cancer

Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) flavonoids such as oroxylin A has been the subject of a great deal of study. It has been found to possess inhibitory actions against such inflammatory factors as NF-kB [13], and was found to induce apoptosis in cancer cell lines via inducing a translocation of p53 to mitochondria [14].

+ Inflammation

Scutellaria baicalensis flavonoids (especially oroxylin A) has been found to have anti-inflammatory (and subsequent anti-cancer) actions [11, 12]. It has been found to possess inhibitory actions against such inflammatory cytokines as TNF-alpha, and IL-6 [10]. Wogonin, and baicalein were both found to be direct COX-2 inhibitors [20].

+ Anxiolytic

Flavonoids from Scutellaria baicalensis were suggested to produce anxiolytic actions via the GABA receptors [4]. More research is needed.

+ Antiviral

Scutellaria baicalensis (Chinese skullcap) is the preferred antiviral species by herbalist Stephen Buhner. He reports the roots act as a broad antiviral. The mechanism of actions are through inhibiting hem-agglutinin and neuraminidase, inhibiting viral replication, inhibiting viral fusion with cells, cytoprotective against viral-initiates cytokines, reduces the expression of the viral matrix protein gene, inhibiting viral release from infected cells, inhibiting viral cytokine cascades, and increases apoptosis of virus infected cells, and finally via direct virucidal actions [2 (Pg. 133)].

Some of these actions can be due to the flavonoids mosloflavone, oroxylin A, and norwogonin, contained within Scutellaria baicalensis. All of these flavonoids purified from Skullcap were found to significantly inhibit Coxsackievirus B3 induced cell death. Oroxylin A especially has proven to possess positive effects against viral infection. This chemical was found in particular to reduce viral titers in the pancreas, and decrease inflammatory cytokine levels including IL-6, and TNF-alpha [10] which are both well known to contribute greatly to the cytokine storm associated with the damage viral infection causes [2].

Scutellaria baicalensis was also shown to have broad spectrum antiviral actions in other studies agains viruses such as influenza virus through an inhibitory action agains neuraminidase enzyme activity in the virus [15]. It has also been shown effective against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) [16],

Scutellaria baicalensis extracts have been found effective against:

  1. Various influenza viruses [2,15, 23]
  2. Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV-1) [2,24]
  3. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) [2,16]
  4. Epstein Barr Virus [20]
  5. Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) [20]

+ Hepatic

Liver fibrosis is characterized by an excessive deposition of extracellular matrix in the liver parenchyma. It is associated with the inflammatory and reparative phase of hepatic fibrosis, conducted by activated hepatic stellate cells. [5, 6]. The flavonoids contained in Scutellaria baicalensis was suggested to inhibit TGF-β fibrosis pathway in a Chinese herbal combination (San Huang Shel Shin Tang) which contains Rheum officinale, Scutellaria baicalensis, and Coptis chinensis, all of which contain similar flavonoid components such as baicalein [6].

Sckullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) alone has been found in past studies to provide a protective action against acute liver toxicity [7-9].

 

Phytochemistry

+ Summary

Scutellaria baicalensis reportedly contains more than 295 different compounds:

Volatile oils

  • Limonene
  • Terpineol
  • d-Cadinene
  • Caryophyllene
  • trans-beta-farnesene
  • beta-humulene

Flavonoids

  • Baicalein
  • Baicalin
  • Scutellarein
  • Wogonin
  • Oroxylin-A-7-O-glucoronide
  • Moslofavone
  • Norwogonin
  • Apigenin
  • Hispidulin
  • Luteolin
  • Scutellarin (bitter glycoside)

Irridoids

  • Catalpol

Others

  • Melatonin
  • Serotonin
  • Naringenin
  • Tannin
  • Fat
  • Sugar
  • Cellulose
 

Clinical Applications Of Chinese Skullcap:

Chinese skullcap is reliable as a way to reduce the allergic response in allergic conditions, as well as inflammation. The root is a promising treatment option for a range of different viral infections, including influenza and HIV.

 

Cautions:

None reported.

 

Synergy

Herbalist Stephen Buhner suggests skullcap as a synergist herbal for its potentiating effects on other herbs. He considers it especially synergistic with the pharmaceutical antivirals and antibacterials ribavarin, albendazole, ciprofloxacin, and amphotericin B. He reports that skullcap is synergistic with antibiotics by it's ability to inhibit the Nor A efflux pump of resistent bacteria [2]. He also reports that skullcap has the ability to dose dependently inhibit (the effects increase as dose increases) the CYP3A4 enzymes in the liver which are responsible for drug metabolism [2]. This allows the drugs to persist longer, and may potentiate the effectiveness of these drugs.

Suggested to be synergistic as an antiviral with liquorice [2].

 

Author

Justin Cooke, BHSc

The Sunlight Experiment

(Updated November 2018)

 

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References:

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