American Skullcap

Background

American skullcap, (also known as its botanical name – Scutellaria lateriflora), which is native to North America though it is now widely cultivated in Europe and other areas of the world, has been used as a medicinal herb for over 200 years to reduce anxiety, nervousness, and convulsions, etc.[1] It is also called with different other names like – scullcap, helmet flower, blue pimpernel, quaker bonnet, hooded willow flower, mad-dog weed, mad weed, etc. American Skullcap is also notoriously regarded as the Mad Dog herb, and was used widely in pre-industrialized America to help people fight rabies in both human and animals.[2]

American Skullcap plant flowering

Benefits

Modern herbal practitioners are using American skullcap in their treatments for its multifarious health benefits. American skullcap, with many traits of nootropics, has been used by many due to its having effective natural anxiety relief, and it offers powerful anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) effects, and improves positivity and mood.[3]
Many people regard American Skullcap as a natural substance to reduce anxiety and its ability to help relax nerves as an ideal herb for use in helping to promote better sleep patterns and induce sleep naturally without the negative effects of many prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids.[4]
It is also gaining some recognition as an alternative aid for attention deficit disorder (ADHD/ADD). The Skullcap is used as an herbal remedy for asthma and as a hiccup and hangover remedy as well. In addition to its reputation as an effective remedy against rabies, American skullcap was used by the Native Americans to promote menstruation and to help heal the reproductive system after childbirth. It’s also been used in “purification ceremonies if menstrual taboos are broken.[5]
The overall American skullcap benefits include –

  • Reduces stress and anxiety [8]
  • Improves positivity and mood [9]
  • Promotes natural sleep [10]
  • Heals asthma and hangover [11]
  • Helps heal the reproductive system after childbirth [12]
  • Reduces risk of heart disease [13]
  • Lowers blood sugar [14]

How it works

American skullcap or Scutellaria lateriflora contains substances like flavonoids, iridol, sesquiterpene, tannins, bitter substances, essential oil, resin, iron, silicon, calcium, magnesium, lignin and wogonin. Its extracts are used in herbal medicine intended to be a mild sedative and sleep promoter. American skullcap supplements or products have been analyzed, with some adulterated by Teucrium canadense or T. chamaedrys, also known as germander, which contains potentially hepatotoxic diterpenes.[6]
There have not been many studies conducted of the American skullcap or Scutellaria lateriflora but it is thought that the sedating and anxiolytic effects are from the plant’s flavanoid ingredients. These flavanoids may act as GABA agonists in the nervous system. Additionally, these ingredients of skullcap appear to bind to the 5-HT7 serotonin receptor. The possible agonist or antagonist action on these receptors may be involved in the sedative effects.[7]

Considerations

Despite having many health benefits, American skullcap may have some side effects when taken in large doses – such as dizziness, cognitive confusion, twitchiness, seizures and an irregular heartbeat. If any adverse effects are experienced, you are recommended to stop treatment immediately and seek advice from a medical professional and also not to take with any sedative drugs. Skullcap, of any variety, should not be taken by children and pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Recommendations

In case of taking dosages of American skullcap, you have to be cautious enough as it has different side effects. Skullcap can be taken as a tincture. 1/2–1 tsp (3–5 ml) should be added to a glass of warm water up to 3 times a day. While drinking American skullcap herbal tea for sleep, drinking a lot of liquid before bedtime isn’t a great idea. You are recommended to take five grams of skullcap infused in 8 ounces of water for 15 minutes. You can drink it an hour before your desired bed time but total dose should be 6-15 grams per day.

Sources