Scutellaria lateriflora

Baikal Skullcap  S. baicalensis


Skullcap is a lovely and magical herb that is one of nature's finest nervous system tonics. An indigenous American plant, it is also known as mad-dog-weed and said to be a cure for hydrophobia (rabies). Cherokee use skullcap to steady the nerves, treat dysmenorrhea, bring down afterbirth, relieve breast discomfort, eliminate diarrhea and tonify the kidneys.

Calcium-rich skullcap is a nourishing ally to anyone dealing with stress, anxiety, nervous exhaustion and insomnia. A cup of infusion, or up to 10 drops of tincture, taken once or twice daily, restores strength and vitality to the nervous system.

I tell folks having trouble getting to sleep at night that skullcap is an herb they might want to get to know. I’ve seen it help countless folks eliminate sleeping problems including deeply entrenched insomnia. A reliable and effective tension reliever, skullcap helps me sleep like a baby. A nice warm cup of infusion, or 3-10 drops of tincture taken half an hour before going to bed, and then a few additional drops again at bedtime, helps promote deep, refreshing sleep. I sometimes combine skullcap with roses, chamomile, milky oats, passionflower or lemon balm in a tea. We also use dried skullcap in dream pillows.

Too much skullcap may make one feel jittery. Start on the conservative side, say 3 drops, and gradually increase the number of drops until you reach an effective dose.

Skullcap is a supportive herbal ally for those overcoming addictions to drugs, sleeping pills, alcohol, nicotine or coffee. They may drink four to six cups of skullcap infusion daily, or take 10-15 drops of tincture every couple of hours, to assist with the process of withdrawal, and to help calm and steady their nerves.

Skullcap is an excellent pain reliever. When I have a headache, it’s the first herb I go to. Migraine sufferers can keep headaches at bay by taking 10 drops of fresh skullcap tincture and 20 drops fresh St. John's wort tincture every ten minutes for up to one hour, beginning as soon as a headache seems to be coming on. Skullcap's reliable antispasmodic properties make it excellent for easing digestive woes. Drinking a quarter cup of infusion after meals will help calm the stomach and assist the digestive process.

European grandmothers considered skullcap the herb of choice to prevent epileptic seizures - one cup of the infusion or 10 drops of tincture, daily. In European countries, skullcap is widely used as a tranquilizer and for treating premenstrual anxiety and irritability.

Two Japanese studies show skullcap increases levels of beneficial high-density lipoproteins or HDLs. As HDLs increase, the risk of heart attack decreases. This suggests that skullcap may be useful as a heart disease preventative.

Chinese and other Asian people use skullcap as a tranquilizer/sedative and as a treatment for convulsions. The root of a related species, S. baicalensis, is known as huang qin. It is used to clear heat from the respiratory and digestive systems, and to treat high blood pressure stemming from an overheated condition.

I use a cup of skullcap infusion, or 10 drops of tincture, to help lift the spirits. It combines well with St. John's wort, lemon balm, roses or goldenrod for this purpose. I take a few drops of skullcap tincture any time I desire a calm and peaceful state of mind, especially before meditating, doing healing or body work, or practicing yoga.

Skullcap contains a volatile oil, resin, flavonoids including scutellarin, tannin, fat, sugar, mucilage, cellulose, potassium, zinc and vitamin C.

Flower Essence Skullcap flower essence helps to integrate the spirit/soul with the physical body and acts as an ally to keep the spirit securely connected to the body during out-of-body journeying. Use when shock or trauma has you feeling “spaced out” and not quite settled on the physical plane.

Magical Lore Skullcap brings the virtues of love, fidelity and peace. Old wives carry skullcap to weddings and commitment ceremonies. Ancient lore tells us that a woman who carries skullcap in a magical bag protects her husband from falling prey to the charms of another. Skullcap is associated with feminine energy and the element water.

Culture Skullcap is a beautiful, compact perennial herb. It grows 12-24 inches tall, even taller in rich garden soil. Skullcap branches freely, with green opposite leaves on a squarish stem, and delicate, beautiful, somewhat orchid-like, tiny bluish-purple flowers. Skullcap grows just about anywhere you put it, but prefers rich, moist soil and a  shady spot.

My daughter Rosa and I have a longstanding ritual of walking through our woodlands in mid to late summer specifically to wildgather skullcap. We usually pass the first patch we see, knowing there will be more up ahead, especially around wet places such as the spring edges or stream bed.

I harvest the leaves, stalks and flowers when skullcap is still flowering but beginning to go to seed. I lay the plants out on screens to dry for infusions and tincture fresh skullcap immediately in alcohol. 

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