Skullcap is a minty perennial herb which has tiny purple flowers and offers many health benefits. The Skullcap herb has shown powerful antioxidant effects, helps calm nerves, treats fever, and has a synergistic effect that helps other herbs and supplements be better absorbed. The benefits of Skullcap are many, and the list of Skullcap side effects is small. Learning more about this potent herb may benefit you greatly in your battle to restore natural balance.
Overall this curious little perennial packs quite a punch for such a beautiful unassuming figure. Skullcap is typically taken either as an herbal extraction tincture or in capsule form. There are two types of Skullcap often confused for one another; Scutellaria baicalensis—or Chinese Skullcap, and Scutellaria lateriflora—which is 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.
Besides being just an herb used in the treatment and management of several health conditions throughout human history, a deeper story can be told by understanding what natural compounds can be found in Skullcap. American Skullcap is the form most commonly used among herbalists and those seeking the health benefits of Skullcap, though the Chinese Skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) has unique properties capable of affecting the power of many compounds. One study found that Chinese skullcap, in 50% reduction, contained approximately 1mg/g of gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is known to exhibit many health benefits such as stimulating growth hormone, helping concentration, and in lowering anxiety .
[The] synergistic ability of Skullcap to enhance the effects of other compounds makes it an ideal companion for many Nootropics and herbal remedies
Research has shown that Chinese Skullcap is also rich in a compound called Baicalein, which has been shown to inhibit a protein involved in strengthening the blood-brain barrier . This protein, named P-glycoprotein (P-gp) helps control the overall integrity of cellular membranes which, when inhibited, can allow compounds to pass the blood-brain barrier much more efficiently. Basically what this means is that Skullcap can be taken in conjunction with other compounds and make them be much more effective by helping them to cross the blood-brain barrier. This synergistic ability of Skullcap to enhance the effects of other compounds makes it an ideal companion for many Nootropics and herbal remedies. While many herbal compounds are renowned for offering health benefits, paying close attention to the deeper details of their makeup can afford a great advantage if you are seeking to address specific concerns.
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 .
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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 . 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 . Many people regard Skullcap’s ability to help calm nerves as an ideal herb for use in helping to promote better sleep patterns.
Herbal compounds are generally regarded as safe, and often exhibit mild side effects in only a rare number of cases. These compounds are presented in similar forms to how they are found naturally and are often accompanied by their man co-enzyme factors which help absorption and effectiveness. 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. Another caution that is recommended would be to keep in mind that Baicalein may affect the potency of other supplements or medications that you are taking, and you should consult a licensed health care provider to help better understand the best decision for you.
Skullcap is commonly found as a synergistic ingredient in many herbal teas. It is most commonly found in ‘sleepy time’ teas, and blends meant to help promote calming and relaxation. The best skullcap supplements on the market, in our experience, have been those offered in tincture form. This is a liquid suspension of a concentrated dose of the most active bio-alkaloids in Skullcap. These tinctures exist in one of two forms—alcohol based or vegetable glycerine based. We’re fans of the alcohol-based versions but many seeking to avoid alcohol altogether prefer the glycerin suspensions. Our favorite brands are Herb Pharm and Gaia Herbs, which both offer very high-quality herbal tinctures in our experience.
Skullcap is a powerful natural herb that has been used as a powerhouse remedy to heal all sorts of ailments. It’s been used throughout Traditional Chinese Medicine practices for centuries and has a history in America as far back as the days of the Wild West. It’s been used to treat a variety of health conditions—as benign as headaches and as severe as rabies. Skullcap offers a unique ability to help the blood-brain barrier become more-easily crossed, therefore acting as a synergistic companion to many other compounds. It’s most active alkaloid, Baicalin, can be found in high concentration in herbal tinctures offered by brands such as Herb Pharm and Gaia Herbs. This powerful compound is considered as a Nootropic by many when used to amplify the effects of other such compounds though it’s ultimately considered a broad-use compound.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.