Scutellaria lateriflora L. (Lamiaceae), commonly called skullcap, mad dog, mad weed, and hooded willow herb.
A perennial plant with purple flowers, it blooms in the U.S. from July to September. It is usually found growing by ditches and river banks, wherever there is a damp environment. Closely related varieties grow in Europe and Asia (S. Baicalensis Georrgi). Remedies are made from the roots of the plant.
During the 1700s, physicians used the herb to help support rabies, which is why it is sometimes known as "mad dog." Skullcap was also used to help support tetanus and seizures. Its common name, skullcap, comes from the fact that it was often given to inmates of mental asylums who were required to wear skullcaps. Traditional Chinese herbalists have used skullcap to help support neonatal jaundice and to speed convalescence.
Traditional Support Uses
Nervine, sedative, and antispasmodic.
Commission E Recommendations
Skullcap is not on the Commission's approved list. In fact, it is not mentioned at all.
Until fairly recently, most researchers considered this herb to be devoid of health value. Studies utilizing more sensitive techniques now suggest a number of possible benefits.
There is, for example, some laboratory evidence that an as yet uncharacterized component blocks the effects of some of the stress hormones (adrenalin). Skullcap contains a number of different flavonoids, and some of them possess anti-inflammatory properties, at least in the laboratory.
One kind of flavonoid, trihydroxyflavone, is a very effective free radical scavenger. These same flavonoids also show promise as an approach to help avoid the closure of coronary arteries that have been opened with balloon angioplasty (restenososis).
Studies of patients being addressed for lung health have shown that adding skullcap extract to the product regime partially fights the immune depression that accompanies medical treatments.
Adding skullcap may also decrease the amount of necrosis factor (a hormone that causes cell death, and that is believed to be one of the chief causes of wasting seen in patients) circulating in the bloodstream. However, claims that skullcap calms the stomach, lowers blood pressure, and acts as a tranquilizer have never been evaluated in clinical trials.
Gabrielska J, Oszmianski J, Zylka R, Komorowska M. Antioxidant activity of flavones from Scutellaria baicalensis in lecithin liposomes. Z Naturforsch [C] 1997;52(11-12):817-23.
Kimura Y, Yokoi K, Matsushita N, Okuda H. Effects of flavonoids isolated from scutellariae radix on the production of tissue-type plasminogen activator and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 induced by thrombin and thrombin receptor agonist peptide in cultured human umbilical vein endothelial cells. J Pharm Pharmacol 199 7;49(8):8 16-22.
Kimura Y, Matsushita N, Okuda H. Effects of baicalein isolated from Scutellaria baicalensis on interleukin 1 beta- and necrosis factor alpha-induced adhesion molecule expression in cultured human umbilical vein endothelial cells. J Ethnophrmcol 199 7;5 7(1): 63-7.
Lin CC, Shieh DE, Yen MH. Hepatoprotective effect of the fractions of Ban-zhi-lian on experimental liver injuries in rats. J Ethnophrmcol 1997;56(3):i93-200.
Smol'ianinov ES, Gol'dberg VE, Matiash MG, Ryzhakov VM, Boldyshev DA, Litvinenko VI, et al. [Effect of Scutellaria baicalensis extract on the immunologic status of patients with lung health receiving antineoplastic medical treatments]. Eksp Kim Farmakol 1997; 60(6) :49-51.
Standard infusion or 3-9 grams; of the liquid extract, 10-30 drops.
Traditional herbalists recommend an infusion made with one teaspoon of dried herbs steeped in one cup of boiling water for 20-30 minutes, two to three times a day.
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Hot tea brewing method: Bring freshly drawn cold water to a rolling boil. Place 1 tea bag for each cup into the teapot. Pour the boiling water into the pot, cover and let steep for 2-4 minutes. Pour into your cup; add milk and sugar to taste.
Iced tea brewing method: (to make 1 liter/quart): Place 5 tea bags into a teapot or heat resistant pitcher. Pour 1 1/4 cups of freshly boiled water over the tea itself. Steep for 5 minutes. Quarter fill a serving pitcher with cold water. Pour the tea into the serving pitcher straining the tea bags. Add ice and top-up with cold water. Garnish and sweeten to taste.
Keep out of reach of children.
Ten years ago, there were reports suggesting that skullcap caused liver damage. The results of later studies suggested that the toxicity probably occurred because herb wholesalers had been substituting germander root for skullcap. The explanation is probably correct, because the latest research studies show that skullcap extract protects the livers of experimental animals exposed to a range of liver toxins.
Provided that skullcap, and not germander, is in the extract, there would seem to be little cause for concern. Consumers must carefully read the label, and buy only from producers with trusted brand names.
None of the components in skullcap should crossreact or interfere with any of the standard workplace urine drug screening tests.
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* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Products are intended to support general well being and are not intended to treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent, or cure any condition or disease. If conditions persist, please seek advice from your medical doctor. Information provided at ZooScape.com relies partly on Traditional Uses. The essence of the current American rule on Traditional Uses is, as stated by FTC, "Claims based on historical or traditional use should be substantiated by confirming scientific evidence, or should be presented in such a way that consumers understand that the sole basis for the claim is a history of use of the product for a particular purpose."