Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)

Skullcap is a small herbaceous perennial native to Eastern North America in the Lamiaceae family known for is calming properties. It can be recognized by its oppositely arranged tear-drop shaped leaves with serrated margins and lavender colored bilabiate summer blooming flowers, and is found commonly near mountainous streams in North America. It has a fibrous, yellow rootstock that produces a branching, square stem. It is easily started from seed, and can grow up to 2 feet, doing best in full to partial sun in well drained, fertile soil with ample moisture. It typically does not live longer that three years, and the leaves are best harvested and dried midsummer.

Medicinal Uses
As a nerve tonic, sedative, and anti-spasmodic, it’s helpful when dealing with stress, neuralgia, rheumatic joint pain, headaches, pms related tension, restlessness, and insomnia. It’s also useful for dealing with epilepsy, hysterical states, seizures, and depression in an exhausted condition. It’s most effective when taken as a tincture or an infusion over prolonged periods of time, as buildup isn’t a worry with this plant. An infusion of the leaves is a earthy, slightly bitter, grassy barley flavored tea. Skullcap also functions as a diuretic. A varietal of Skullcap, Scutellaria baicalensis, is known in China as Huang Qin root, usefully in treating “heat” illnesses such as digestive problems and fevers for for lowering blood pressure. Another varietal, Scutellaria barbata, is annual plant, taken as a cooling herb for detoxification, to treat fevers, liver disease, boils, and to inhibit some cancerous cells.

Folk Uses
Traditionally used by Native Americans to promote menstruation and was thought to be an effective preventative against rabies, hence one of it’s common names, ‘mad-dog-weed’. In western magic, it was used to calm the aura of tensions and stress, and was burned for relief of disharmony and disruptive situations. It was thought that placing a pinch in a lover’s shoes would keep then from being affected by the charms of others. In Aryuvedic healing, skullcap is thought to help reduce fiery emotions such as anger, hatred, and jealousy while calming the heart and dispelling excessive desire. It is also thought to have sattvic qualities, promoting awareness, clarity, and detachment while restoring control over deranged motor and sensory functions. It’s also thought to be a useful herb to use while breaking addictions and ease withdrawal symptoms.

An 10-15 minute infusion of 1-2 teaspoons dried herb per cup of water, taken three daily or as needed. As a tincture, 2-4ml should be taken three times daily. It combines well with valerian root for stress, nervous anxiety, and tension. Combined with gotu kola, it can increase awareness and perception, and with ashwaganda to reduce nervousness.

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