If you ever find blue or violet-colored flowers with a distinctive hooded shape while spending time outdoors, you’ve probably come across skullcap. Not only are these flowers beautiful, but they also have some amazing health benefits.
How come this name?
The name “skullcap” describes any plant in the Scutellaria family. There are many varieties—over 350 worldwide—but American and Chinese species are most commonly used in herbal medicine. “Scutellaria” comes from the Latin word “scutella,” or “little dish.”
To relieve stress and anxiety: One study with 43 healthy adults showed that taking 350 mg of American skullcap extract three times per day can significantly improve overall mood. Unlike many other remedies for anxiety, American skullcap does not cause drowsiness. In the study, the participants didn’t report any reduction in their usual energy levels.
As an antibiotic treatment: Barbat skullcap, a species native to China, can kill a species of bacteria known to cause pneumonia. Skullcap is also a key ingredient in a herbal remedy called Candibactin, which is an effective treatment for bacterial overgrowth in the digestive system.
As an antioxidant: Skullcap contains antioxidant compounds that could limit cell damage and lower your risk of inflammatory diseases. Lab studies have shown it can protect brain cells from oxidative stress, making it a potential candidate for drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions.
To induce an alpha brainwave state: When you feel relaxed, your brain emits more alpha brainwaves. This has benefits for both your mind and body: during an alpha state, you feel less anxious yet mentally alert, and the levels of stress hormones in your body drop. For maximum benefit, skullcap can be used alongside other compounds that induce alpha states, such as L-theanine.
To relieve osteoarthritis: When taken alongside Acacia catechu extract, American skullcap has been shown to reduce symptoms of knee osteoarthritis.
To treat fever: When combined with other plants, including gypsum and rhubarb, Chinese skullcap is used to treat high fevers in traditional Chinese medicine.
To reduce muscle twitches and spasms: Skullcap is a nervine and an antispasmodic. Herbalists sometimes recommend it for the treatment of muscle cramps.
Skullcap has also been used to treat cancer in traditional Chinese medicine. Although more research is needed to fully evaluate its effectiveness, it’s possible that the roots of the skullcap plant contain 18 compounds with anticancer properties. This means skullcap could potentially hold the key to new cancer treatments.
How to use Skullcap
Skullcap is available as a powder, tea, capsule, and liquid extract. It is widely available in health food stores and online.
Safety and dosage
If you have a medical condition that affects your liver, you should avoid skullcap. Skullcap can interact with some medications, including pain killers, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and blood thinners. Because it can induce miscarriage, it should never be given to pregnant women.
When choosing a supplement, pick a product from a reputable manufacturer and always follow dosage instructions carefully. Ask your doctor or pharmacist before trying skullcap, particularly if you have any medical problems or take other medications.