Sunday, February 2, 2020

Common name: Skullcap. Aka – scullcap, blue skullcap, mad-dog skullcap, madweed, hoodwort, helmet flower, blue pimpernel, hooded willow herb, Virginian skullcap.
Botanical name: Scutellaria lateriflora
Family name: Lamiaceae (mint family)

Overview: Native American herb. Harvest the aerial parts when flowers are blooming, mid to late summer. Skullcap became well known in the 19th century as a treatment for rabies, hence the folk name “mad dog”. There are around 100 species of Scutellaria.

Historically, the Cherokee used skullcap to stimulate menstruation, relieve breast pain and encourage expulsion of the placenta.

Today it’s mainly appreciated as a nerve tonic and for its restorative properties.

Primary therapeutic constituents: flavonoids (including baicalein, baicalin, scutellarin, wogonin), volatile oil, tannin, bitter glycoside, fat bitter principles, sugar and resin.

Medicinal actions: sedative, nervine, antispasmodic, anodyne, hypotensive.

Common uses: Anxiety, headache, stress, tonic for almost all disorders of the nervous system, insomnia, hysteria, convulsions, hydrophobia, epilepsy, neuralgia, relaxes uterine tissue, reliable calming action on an agitated mind, inability to pay attention, alcohol and drug withdrawal, epilepsy and chorea.

Skullcap has an affinity for the peripheral nervous system. Especially, “When one is experiencing colors as too bright, lights are too intense, and things are felt too intensely in general and they feel nervous inside; muscles are often twitchy; twitching during sleep; wants to crawl out of their skin”. ~ Matthew Wood1

“Skullcap is perhaps the most relevant nervine available to us in the Western materia medica. It effectively soothes nervous tension while renewing and revivifying the central nervous system” ~ David Hoffman2

Other specific indications: Lack of resistance to stimulation, headaches after stimulating meetings and events (can take preemptively). Nervous fear.

Technique: Extract, tea, freeze-dried leaves, smoking, massage oil, capsules.

A typical mild sedative is a combination of equal parts skullcap, hops and valerian root tea or extract taken 3 times a day, especially a half hour before retiring. Dosage information from The Way of Herbs by Michael Tierra.

Skullcap seems to work best as a tonic when extracted fresh. Dried skullcap has a more sedative action.

Cautions and Contraindications: Considered safe even at high doses BUT, be sure to obtain from reputable sources – some reports of liver damage from cross-contamination. Can potentiate sedative medications. Avoid during pregnancy.

Taste: Bitter (mild), earthy, slightly sweet

Energy: Cooling, warming, drying, grounding, relaxing, restorative. Persons with a hot constitution feel the relaxing effects quicker – almost as a sedative. Cool constitutions enjoy effects as a tonic; restorative remedy.  

Educational Video by 7Song (a personal favorite - don’t miss it!). It covers botanical identification, useful species, wild crafting, medicine making and parts of the plant used. It covers uses of the plant as a nervine, sedative, skeletal muscle relaxant and how it combines well with other medicinal plants.


The Way of Herbs by Michael Tierra, L.Ac., O.M.D. p. 194

Herbal Academy, n.d. Skullcap monograph. Retrieved from

The Earthwise Herbal vol II – A Complete Guide to New World Medicinal Plants by Matthew Wood1. p. 323-326

The Modern Herbal Dispensatory – A Medicine Making Guide by Thomas Easley | Steven Horne. p. 301

Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine by Andrew Chevallier, FNIMH. p.135

Medical Herbalism – The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine by David Hoffmann2, FNIMH, AHG. p.