Skullcap, botanically known as scutellaria lateriflora, is a flowering, perennial herb native to North America. The plant, also known as blue skullcap, American skullcap, and mad-dog skullcap, belongs to the mint family. It originated from North America and unlike other mint species, thrives in marshes and damp areas. The plant’s English name is derived from the resemblance of its flowers to helmets donned by European soldiers.
[Note: The Right Flowers is not a medical site. Knowledge of and information about the therapeutic benefits and applications of flowers, while known through the ages, does not constitute medical advice. If you are having health issues, you should consult with a physician.]
Between July and September, skullcap produces beautiful, double-colored flowers that are blue and pale purple. The blossoms occur in axils of upper leaves and not at the top of the main stem compared to most flowers.
The medicinal qualities of skullcap’s flowers and leaves were discovered and first exploited by Native Americans who introduced the plant to European settlers. The natives realized that the aerial parts of skullcap had the ability to help people struggling with insomnia and anxiety.
Much later, medical science confirmed that skullcap’s flowers and leaves when harvested as soon as the plant came into bloom contained high levels of flavonoids such as baicalin and scutellarin.
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Basically, baicalin and scutellarin are the two active compounds thought to be responsible for skullcap’s antispasmodic and sedative properties. The compounds have a sedative effect by acting as GABA agonists just like benzodiazepines.
Ancient people did not fully comprehend the concept of the active compounds that made skullcap highly effective as a tranquilizer. But they knew that it was great for treating nervous problems including nervousness, hysteria, sleeping problems, chorea, neurasthenia, and epilepsy. They also used it to treat digestive problems, menstrual disorders, and kidney problems.
Apart from treating mental problems, skullcap is also used to treat arthritis, convulsions, insect stings, fever, and jerking muscles. Initially, skullcap was used to treat rabies, which explains why the plant was fondly referred to as mad dog skullcap.
Today skullcap is predominantly prescribed for problems affecting the nervous system. Studies show that the herb can be used in combination with other tranquilizing drugs or individually.
Currently, a general consensus exists between physicians and scientists stipulating that there is a need for an in-depth study into skullcap to find out the full benefits of the plant.