American Skullcap Summary:

American skullcap is very similar to the more popular Chinese variety. Although they are both interchangeable for the same uses, the American variety is a much better nervine, but is not as strong in the anti-allergic or antinflammatory department. 

It was a popular herb used by the North American Indians to treat a range of different conditions. Nervous exhaustion. seizures, anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, cold/flu, and smallpox were just a few of the common uses the Native Americans used this plant for. 

You can find this herb in liquid extract, capsule, and dried herb forms. It makes a great tasting tea to promote calmness and tranquility. the liquid extract is generally preferred for more serious anxiety as it packs a heavier dose and is easily absorbed into the system. 


Botanical Name

Scutellaria lateriflora

Family

Lamiaceae

Part Used

Aerial parts

Herbal Actions:

  • Nervine
  • Antispasmodic
  • Hypotensive
  • Anxiolytic

Dosage

Tincture (1:5)

6-12 mL/day

Indications:

[2]

  • Nervous tension
  • Petit mal seizures
  • Anxiety
  • Depression (mild)
  • Epilepsy
  • Insomnia
  • Neuralgia
  • Withdrawal from barbiturates and tranquilizers

Common Names:

  • American skullcap
  • Blue Skullcap

Traditional Uses:

American skullcap has a very long history of use as a nervine. It has also been a popular treatment for nervous exhaustion, post-febrile nervous weakness, chorea, hysteria, agitation, epileptiform convulsions, insomnia, nightmares, restless sleep [2]. 

In North America, S. lateriflora was used by the native Americans to treat sore eyes, chills, fever, colds, coughs, heart problems, and as a laxative (leaves). The roots were used as an emmenagogue, abortifacient, antidiarrheal, nervine, as well as for treating kidney disorders, cold and flu, and to prevent smallpox [4]. 


    Botanical Description:

    Still compiling research. 


    Habitat Ecology, and Distribution:

    Still compiling research. 


    Harvesting Collection, and Preparation:

    There are 200-300 species in the genus scutellaria [1, 6]. Many are used medicinally, however, it is important to note the difference between American skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) and the other commonly used skullcap; "baical skullcap" (Scutellaria baicalensis). 

    • Scutellaria baicalensis is used to treat inflammatory disorders, viral and bacterial infections, allergies and as a sedative. [3]. It has significantly higher levels of baicalein and baicalin than Scutellaria lateriflora [5].  
    • Scutellaria lateriflora on the other hand is much preferred for its nervine actions and is less potent towards allergies, viral infection, and inflammation [3]. 

    Skullcap aerial parts should be harvested during flower, as this is when the flavonoids are in the highest concentration [7]. 


    Constituents:

    American skullcap contains flavonoids (baicalein, baicalin, scutellarein, and wogonin, dihydrobaicalin, lateriflorin, ikonnikoside I, scutellarin (scutellarein-7-O-glucuronide), and oroxylin A-7-O-glucuronide, and 2-methoxy-chrysin-7-O-glucuronide as well as the aglycones baicalein, baicalin, oroxylin A, wogonin, and lateriflorein), iridoids (catalpol), volatile oil, tannins, phenols (caffeic acid, cinnamic acid, p-coumaric acid, ferulic acid) [2, 8, 9, 10]. 


    Pharmacology and Medical Research:

    + Anxiolytic

    insert

    + Antispasmodic

    insert

     

    Toxicity

    None reported. 

     

    Cautions:

    • Skullcap can potentiate the effects of other sedatives if used in combination [2]. 

    Traditional Chinese Medicine:

    Still compiling research. 


    Synergy:

    Still compiling research.

     

    Author:

    Justin Cooke

    The Sunlight Experiment

    Updated: July 2017


    Recent Blog Posts:

    References:

    1. Wolfson P, & Hoffmann DL. (2003). An investigation into the efficacy of Scutellaria lateriflora in healthy volunteers. Alternative Therapies In Health And Medicine, 9(2), 74-8.
    2. Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
    3. The Sunlight Experiment. (2016). Skullcap — The Sunlight Experiment. Retrieved November 26, 2016, from https://thesunlightexperiment.com/skullcap
    4. Buhner, S. H. (2013). Herbal antivirals: Natural remedies for emerging resistant and epidemic viral infections. MA: Storey Publishing. (Pg. 125-143).
    5. Kim JK, Kim YS, Kim Y, Uddin MR, Kim YB, Kim HH, ... Park SU. (2014). Comparative analysis of flavonoids and polar metabolites from hairy roots of Scutellaria baicalensis and Scutellaria lateriflora. World Journal Of Microbiology & Biotechnology, 30(3), 887-92. doi:10.1007/s11274-013-1498-7
    6. Islam M.N., Downey F., & Ng C.K.Y. (2011). Comparative analysis of bioactive phytochemicals from Scutellaria baicalensis, Scutellaria lateriflora, Scutellaria racemosa, Scutellaria tomentosa and Scutellaria wrightii by LC-DAD-MS. Metabolomics, 7(3), 446-453. doi:10.1007/s11306-010-0269-9
    7. Upton R., & Dayu R.H. (2012). Skullcap Scutellaria lateriflora L.: An American nervine. Journal Of Herbal Medicine, 2(3), 76-96. doi:10.1016/j.hermed.2012.06.004
    8. S. Gafner, J. Reich, C. Bergeron, J. Smith, L.L. Batcha, C.K. Angerhofer
      (2000). Comparison of different extracts of Scutellaria lateriflora L. by HPLC
    9. C. Bergeron, S. Gafner, E. Clausen, D.J. Carrier Comparison of the chemical composition of extracts from Scutellaria lateriflora using accelerated solvent extraction and supercritical fluid extraction versus standard hot water or 70% ethanol extraction Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 53 (2005), pp. 3076–3080
    10. Lehmann R, Penman K, Leach D, Waterman P. 2000. Identification of the major flavonoid from Scutellaria lateriflora – Part 1. Warwick (AU): MediHerb 1 p.
    11. Awad, R., Arnason, J. T., Trudeau, V., Bergeron, C., Budzinski, J. W., Foster, B. C., & Merali, Z. (2003). Phytochemical and biological analysis of skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora L.): a medicinal plant with anxiolytic properties. Phytomedicine, 10(8), 640-649.