Photo Copyright Karen Bergeron
Skullcap is a Native N. American perennial
herb, found from New York to West Virginia and southward to South Carolina,
Alabama and Missouri. Growing in rich woods, thickets, bluffs and along
roadsides in wet ditches.
the skullcap that is most used in herbal
medicine, prefers a moist shady environment. Other species of skullcap
can be found in habitats ranging from deep woods to as sunny meadows.
The root is a creeping short rhizome,
which sends up hairy, square stems, 6 to 18 inches high, branched, or,
in small specimens, nearly simple, with opposite leaves, heart-shaped at
the base, 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches long, scalloped or toothed edges. The blue
to lavender flowers are in racemes and grow from the leaf axils of the
upper plant. They are hooded, tube shaped, and two lipped the upper lip
being the hood and the lower lip having two shallow lobes.
Scutellaria lateriflora is a weak
stemmed plant that often lops over and forms new roots where it touches
the ground. Other Skullcaps are more upright. Flowers bloom from
May to August, gather above ground parts, in the summer as flowers
bloom, dry and store for later herb use.
Skullcap is easy in a sunny position and any
ordinary garden soil. Sow seed in early spring after danger of frost is past.
Skullcap Herbal Use and Medicinal
Skullcap is a powerful
medicinal herb, it is used in alternative medicine as an anti-inflammatory,
antispasmodic, slightly astringent, emmenagogue, febrifuge, nervine, sedative
and strongly tonic. Some valuable constituents found in the plant are Scutellarin, Catalpol, other Volatile oils, bitter iridoids and Tannins.
Scientific studies are proving this to be a valuable plant in many areas for
mental disorders. Skullcap is used in the treatment of a wide range of nervous
conditions including epilepsy, insomnia, hysteria, anxiety, delerium tremens,
withdrawal from barbiturates and tranquilisers. A medicinal infusion of the
plant is used to promote menstruation, it should not be given to pregnant women
since it can induce a miscarriage, the infusion is also used in the treatment of
throat infections. The infusion is given for nervous headaches, neuralgia and in
headache arising from incessant coughing, pain, and inducing sleep when
necessary, without any unpleasant symptoms following. Skullcap is currently
being used as an alternative medicine to treat ADD and a number of nerve disorders.
Cautions - Should be used with
some caution since in overdose it causes giddiness, stupor, confusion and
twitching. Skullcap has been linked to liver damage, though it is suspected that
the source of damage was actually from Germander being substituted for
Skullcap. Use in moderation and avoid if you have liver problems.
Well known among the Cherokee and
other Native American tribes, as a strong emmenagogue and female medicinal herb.
Used in some tribes as a ceremonial plant to introduce young girls into
womanhood. Once believed of use in the treatment of rabies and schizophrenia.
Also used to induce visions.
"Medicinal" tea: To 1 oz. of the powdered
herb add a pint of boiling water, steep 10 min. give in 1/2 teacup doses,
every few hours.
Laterifolia is the
species most often used by herbalists, Its flowers are small and leaves
triangular. However, you can use any species of skullcap for herbal
teas and tinctures.
All Skullcaps have
this unique seed pod and distinctive hooded flowers. Skullcap leaf size
and shapes vary widely amongst the species. Color of flowers range from
red-violet to blue-violet often with white markings.