Skullcap, it’s not just for religious practice anymore… that said, the flower, a strikingly beautiful blue perennial does very much resemble the religious headgear whose name it shares. There are actually 300 types of flower that are called “skullcap” but the two most important to herbalists for their constituents are Common skullcap (scutellaria lateriflora) and Baikal or Chinese skullcap (scutellaria biakalensis) Baikal, or Huang Qin as it is referred to in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Both flowers are related and apat from some minor differences in their make-up and action the greatest difference is in their native locale. Baikal, is indigenous to Siberia and northern Asia and the lateriflora is native to North America.
Both varieties come from the Lamiaceae family which also includes herbs such as rosemary, thyme, sage, lemon balm, peppermint and basil. If you’ll notice, all of these plants have a slightly similar physical form differing primarily in smell, color and constituents. As with most of the lamiacea, it’s the pungent aerial portions (the parts visible above the ground) that are used generally.
Traditionally it’s been most commonly used as a general nervine tonic as well as to (ironically, considering) treat both infertility issues or to calm “overractive libido.” It can act as a mild to moderate anaphrodisiac though, so if this is an issue, might be best to have some muira puama, ashwagandha, velvet bean or other herbs on hand to balance out the situation.
A part of skullcap’s medicinal potency is owed in large part due to it’s rich mineral make up, it contains iron, silica, calcium, potassium and magnesium as well as b-vitamins, linoleic, oleic & palmitic acids. If you’re not fully familiar with exactly why minerals are so vital to keeping antsy nerves at bay, you’ve first got to realize that you’re basically walking around in an incredibly sophisticated meat machine that’s operated through various electrical transmissions and chemial reactions. consider the metaphor of electronic components and cables. If you’ve ever seen headphones or other audio or video connectors that boasted gold plating on their packaging, so you know it’s not just a marketing gimmick to jack up the price, in fact, gold is an excellent conductor. Owing to the importance of “hi-fi” transmission through our central and nervous system, the importance of quality bio-available minerals shouldn’t be discounted.
One of the things that protects our nerve transmissions is the fatty layer surroudning our nerves called the myelin sheath. Multiple Sclerosis attacks this layer and it’s this “fraying” of our interior electric cables that leads to the debilitating neurological condition. Nervines like scullcap can along with B-12 supplementation help rebuild myelin and can assist as adjunctive treatments for those suffering neuropathy, Skullcaps constituents also include a potent antioxidant that inhibits prostaglandin e2, the lipid compounds responsible for inflammatory response which is the cause for it’s action as an anti-inflammatory pain reliever.
Generally used in dosages of one to two grams of the dried herb. It is also prepared into a nervine tonic tea by pouring a cup of boiling water over a teaspoon of the root foliage and then allowing to steep for half an hour. Taken this way the generally recommended dosage is two to three cups a day.
Always consult with your physician before beginning any new diet, exercise, herbal or supplement regimen expecially if you are currently taking any medications or suffering from a pre-existing condition.
Stay tuned in the future for a story on the cousin of common scullcap, Baikal or Chinese scullcap.