Common Names: Skullcap, California Skullcap, Hooded Skullcap, Hooded Willow Herb, Mad Dog Skullcap
Part/s Used: Flowering herb
Taste: Bitter, mildly sweet
Actions: Nervine, sedative, trophorestorative, hypnotic, antispasmodic
Constituents: Flavonoid glycocide including scuellarin and scutellarein, small amounts of volatile oil, bitter, fat, tannins.
Tincture (ratio & % alcohol): Fresh:1:2 -1:3 Dry:1:5 60% (recently dried)
Glycerite: Fresh:1:5-1:6 Glycerin: 50% Water: 50%
Tea: Hot infusion
Habitat and Botanical Description:
Skullcap is an herbaceous perennial herb in the mint family (lamiaceae). There are several kinds of skullcap, but they all have similar properties and medicinal actions. Skullcap is native to North America and grows in rich woods, forests and thickets to meadows and marshes. The green leaves are opposite and arranged with blue purple hooded flowers. The California skullcap (scutellaria californica) is endemic to California and has small white to yellow hooded flowers and can be locally abundant in lower forests. The flowers have a sweet aroma that smell like apples. Skullcap is grown by creeping roots and may form large stands.
Skullcap is a nervous system trophorestorative herb. It calms the central nervous system from adrenergic stress while nourishing and healing the nerves. It is an anxiolytic herb that decreases agitation and nervous excitement. Useful with premenstrual irritability. Skullcap has a mood elevating substance useful for people with mild forms of depression. In fact, it may be used in all exhausted or depressed conditions. Scutellaria is useful for individuals with insomnia (use low doses throughout the day, higher doses in the evening). The wild species have stronger sedative effects.
The flavonoid scutellarian is responsible for its antispasmodic properties. Great for back spasms, facial ticks, controlling tremors (Parkinson’s) and restless leg syndrome for example. Skullcap has been used along with other nervines in the treatment of seizures and epilepsy. Skullcaps antispasmodic properties help with intestinal and menstrual cramping as well.
Skullcap aids during withdrawal for people who have addictions to drugs, alcohol, nicotine and antidepressant medications. Skullcap helps with breaking addictions, those stuck in patterns. Skullcap can help to bring one back into their body, calm and create a new neural path.
Skullcap is a mild bitter. It increases the appetite and can relieve nerve related digestive problems. Take on an empty stomach to increase digestive secretions about ½ hour prior to eating. It aids in indigestion as well but use the milder lateriflora and take with food as the wild skullcap has been known to drop the blood sugar on an empty stomach.
Harvest the aerial parts of the flowering herb in Summer. The fresh plant preferred in medicine making as it contains the most volatile oils. Skullcap loses much of its strength when dried. If you are going to make a dry plant tincture with skullcap, be sure to use the very recently dried herb.
Do not use with chronic acid indigestions. Giddiness, stupor and mental confusion have been reported with excessively high doses of the tincture. Do not use during pregnancy or lactation due to lack of studies. Skullcap products in the marketplace have a history of being adulterated. Purchase from a reputable source.
- Moore, M. Medicinal Plants of the Pacific Northwest. Santa Fe, NM: Museum of New Mexico Press;1993
- Sinadinos, C. Northwest School for Botanical Studies. Lecture Notes; 2014
- Grieve, M. (1971). A Modern Herbal. New York, NY: Dover Publications. (Original work published 1931)
- Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press; 2003
Disclosure: This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before using herbal products, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, or on any medications.