Skullcap: A Synergistic Powerhouse with Historical Acclaim

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Skullcap is a minty perennial herb with tiny purple flowers and really big health benefits. The Skullcap herb is a powerful antioxidant that helps, calm nerves,  lower fevers, and helps amplify the efficacy of other compounds by helping to usher them across the blood brain barrier. It’s a total powerhouse and it’s all-natural!

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Revered Herbal Remedy

Skullcap is a little perennial that packs quite a punch. Don’t let it’s beautiful and unassuming figure fool you, this herb ranks right alongside such notables as Milk Thistle and Dandelion in our books. Skullcap is typically taken either as an herbal tincture or in capsule form. Two types of Skullcap often confused for one another; Scutellaria baicalensis—or Chinese Skullcap, and Scutellaria lateriflora—American Skullcap. American Skullcap is somewhat infamously regarded as the “Mad Dog” herb and was used extensively in pre-industrialized America to treat rabies in both human and animals. It’s been regarded as an all-around home remedy in the United States for centuries.

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Benefits Of Skullcap

Both Chinese and American Skullcap varieties have been known for centuries to offer health benefits when taken in proper doses. Skullcap has been administered typically throughout Traditional Chinese Medicine practices and by other herbal practitioners as a tea, tincture, and whole-plant type herb—in capsule form more recently. One of the most notable benefits that Skullcap has been found to offer is the potential to treat cancer. Scutellaria Lateriflora, the American Skullcap, was investigated as a potential herbal treatment of a particularly nasty type of cancer, Fibrosarcoma.  Researchers found that Skullcap was able to ‘significantly‘ suppress the tumor cells and that further investigation on Skullcaps ability to be used an effective natural cancer treatment was much needed [3].

One study found that overall group positivity and mood was improved in response to doses of American Skullcap

Skullcap is also an effective natural anxiety treatment for many and offers powerful anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects. One study found that overall group positivity and mood was improved in response to doses of American Skullcap [4]. This study did note that there may be some statistical variance for individual results but overall felt confident in the assessment that American Skullcap has the potential to positively affect mood and lower anxiety. Another broad assessment of all available studies on herbal medicines for the treatment of anxiety and depression also found that American Skullcap is effective as a natural anti-anxiety treatment [5]. Many people regard Skullcap’s ability to help calm nerves as an ideal herb for use in helping to promote better sleep patterns.

Loaded with GABA & Baicalein

American Skullcap is the form of Skullcap most commonly used among herbalists, though Chinese Skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) has properties worth mention as well. One study found that Chinese skullcap, in 50% reduction, contained approximately 1mg/g of gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA). This compound is known to exhibit many health benefits such as stimulating growth hormone, helping concentration, and in lowering anxiety [1]. GABA has many useful applications though is quite lovely when taken during a cold to help lift one’s spirits. Perhaps, much of the ‘general nature’ use of Skullcap throughout the ages caught on for the large amount of GABA present in the herb (just a guess!)

Helps control the overall integrity of cellular membranes which, when inhibited, allow compounds to pass the blood-brain barrier much more efficiently

Research has shown that Chinese Skullcap is also rich in a compound called Baicalein. This compound has been shown to inhibit a protein, name  named P-glycoprotein (P-gp),  involved in strengthening the blood-brain barrier [1][2]. PGP helps control the overall integrity of cellular membranes which, when inhibited, allow compounds to pass the blood-brain barrier much more efficiently. In other words, Skullcap can help amplify the effects of other compounds! Many nootropics enthusiasts report using Skullcap as a means to get a more pronounced effect at lower doses. For this reason, we’ve included this compound among our list of best nootropics compounds, even though it’s not one in the strictest sense of the term.

Skullcap Side Effects

Typical side effects of Skullcap are confusion, muscle twitching, and irregular heartbeat. As an added caution, Chinese skullcap is generally regarded as being ill-advised for those with stomach and spleen issues, as well as women that are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Increased Efficacy

It’s also important to keep in mind that the high concentrations of Baicalein found in Skullcap may affect the potency of other compounds. This should be regarded as a similar action to that of MAO-Inhibitors and you should consult a licensed health care provider to help better understand how skullcap might impact your current medications.

Contamination

One must also take into account the source of herbal products since they are often cultivated or processed using harmful chemicals. Buying from a trusted source is essential when buying any supplements, but especially so when buying herbal ones. We’ve got a detailed list of trustworthy supplement manufacturers to help find a quality product.

Final Considerations

Skullcap is one of the most renowned natural remedies that has ever been used. It’s been revered by American settlers and Chinese herbalists for centuries (many more centuries in China!) It’s used as an all-around health booster and commonly used as a natural treatment for rabies (at least back in the day.) Skullcap’s ability to amplify the effects of other compounds makes it a unique addition to anyone’s medicine cabinet. Take it alongside your favorite nootropics for an extra brain boost or take it with an adaptogen such as ashwagandha to really handle your business. However you choose to use it, just make sure you buy from a trusted source!

References

  1. Awad, R, et al. “Phytochemical and Biological Analysis of Skullcap (Scutellaria Lateriflora L.): a Medicinal Plant with Anxiolytic Properties.” Phytomedicine : International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2003, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14692724.
  2. Miao, Q, et al. “In Vitro Potential Modulation of Baicalin and Baicalein on P-Glycoprotein Activity and Expression in Caco-2 Cells and Rat Gut Sacs.” Pharmaceutical Biology., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Sept. 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26810690.
  3. Shi, X, et al. “Scutellarein Inhibits Cancer Cell Metastasis in Vitro and Attenuates the Development of Fibrosarcoma in Vivo.” International Journal of Molecular Medicine., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25394920.
  4. Brock, C, et al. “American Skullcap (Scutellaria Lateriflora): a Randomised, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Crossover Study of Its Effects on Mood in Healthy Volunteers.” Phytotherapy Research : PTR., U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23878109.
  5. Sarris, J, et al. “Herbal Medicine for Depression, Anxiety and Insomnia: a Review of Psychopharmacology and Clinical Evidence.” European Neuropsychopharmacology : the Journal of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21601431.

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