Skull Cap
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Botanical:  Scutellaria lateriflora
Family:  Labiatae-Lamiaceae (mint)
Other common names:  Scullcap, American Scullcap, Scutellaria, Blue Pimpernel, Blue Skullcap,

Hood Wort, Mad Dog Weed, Mad Dog Skullcap, Helmet Flower, Side Flower, Madweed, Virginia Skullcap, Quaker Bonnet, Mad Weed

Too much anxiety and stress in your life? Try Skull Cap as a natural way to ease frayed nerves, relax and get a restful sleep. It is an old remedy that helps to relieve "women's complaints," such as premenstrual syndrome and monthly cramps. Skull Cap is also considered very useful for alleviating the difficulties of barbiturate and drug withdrawal.

The information presented herein by Herbal Extracts Plus is intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Skull Cap (also spelled Scullcap) is a small, herbaceous perennial, indigenous to North America, with an erect and branching square stem and flowers that may grow to a height of three feet.  The plant is easy to identify while in flower because of its small paired flowers that are mostly blue-purple and rarely white.  It is abundant throughout the land and thrives in damp places, meadows, ditches and waste places from Canada to Florida.  Different varieties/species of this herb grow throughout the world in temperate regions (most notably in China and Russia) with some similar medicinal applications as the "American Scullcap," but most are not generally used interchangeably.  The name, Skull Cap, is derived from the helmet-shaped flower that resembles a helmet with the visor raised, and a "Skullcap" was the word for a type of military helmet that was familiar to early Colonists.  Native Americans wisely used this herb as a sedative, diuretic and to promote menstruation.  Skull Cap was believed to treat rabies in the 1700s, a use that was later discredited, but several of the herb's common names (Mad Dog Weed and Madweed) remained to describe it.  Skull Cap has mainly been known for its use as a mild sedative (anxiolytic) and herbal sleep aid in the form of herbal teas, tablets, capsules, dried leaf for smoking and oral liquid preparations, often in combination with other medicinal herbs.  In the nineteenth century, Skull Cap was a popular medicinal treatment for nervous disorders and was used to subdue undue sexual desires without damage, as well as prevent epileptic seizures. The above-ground (aerial) part of the plant is used in herbal preparations.  Some of the constituents included in Skull Cap include essential oil, albumen, tannins, a bitter principle (scutellaine), flavonoids (scutellarein, isoscutellarein, wogonin, chyrisin glucuronide), acids, lignin, tannins, chloride of soda, salts of iron, silica, calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc, beta-carotene, B-vitamins and vitamin C.

Beneficial Uses:
The time-honored use of Skull Cap has been as a nervine and tonic to renew and revive the central nervous system and treat nervous disorders of all kinds. The herb calms the nerves, quiets and strengthens the system, and is a valuable remedy for controlling nervous irritation, excitability, restlessness, hysteria, anxiety, hyperactivity, fatigue, night terrors and nervous headaches. The flavonoid, scutellarein, has been proven to be the active ingredient that acts as a natural sedative and also stimulates the brain to produce more endorphins, promoting a feeling of calm. Use of the herb has helped to aid sleep and treat insomnia.

As an antispasmodic, Skull Cap has been useful in relieving menstrual cramps, premenstrual syndrome, muscle spasms, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and cramps due to stress.  The herb is used to help treat St. Vitus dance, convulsions and shaking palsy, and some modern herbalists use it to control epileptic seizures (should always be conducted with doctor's care). Skull Cap may be used in cases of lupus and is said to relieve spasms and fight infections without stimulating the components of the immune system that aggravate the condition.

Skull Cap has been given to alcoholics who are suffering from withdrawal symptoms and delirium tremens (DTs).  It is believed to be helpful in treating barbiturate, tranquilizer and drug withdrawal symptoms.

A flavonoid glycoside in Skull Cap is believed to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that can remedy pain by reducing inflammation, as opposed to opiates, which affect the brain.

American Skull Cap (Scutellaria lateriflora) is thought to be a powerful antioxidant that appears to protect red blood cells from free radical damage more effectively than vitamin E, and it also shows some promise in preventing the oxidation of blood fats.  Working on that same objective, scientists at the University of Chicago researched these properties when they studied the Chinese herb, Scutellaria baicalensis (another species of Skull Cap) and confirmed that similar extracts contain powerful antioxidants that can significantly reduce cellular damage due to free radicals, the highly reactive compounds that are generated during metabolism and which contribute to the normal wear and tear of the cell. However, American Skull Cap is preferable, not only because of its variety of benefits, but also because of other safety concerns with the Chinese plant and its side effects, particularly relating to blood glucose.

Skull Cap is said to strengthen the heart muscle, improve circulation and may be helpful for treating cardiovascular disease.

Skull Cap has been used by herbalists to treat snakebites and the bites of poisonous insects.

Pregnant and nursing women should not use Skull Cap Herbal Supplement  Large doses (many times the recommended amount) may cause giddiness, confusion, twitching, convulsions or stupor, but the herb is said to work well when taken consistently over a period of time (several weeks) at recommended dosage.  Skull Cap should not be given to children.  Those with liver problems should avoid Skull Cap. Taking Skull Cap and blood thinners together may further decrease blood clotting, possibly leading to easy bruising and bleeding.  Because of Skull Cap's sedative qualities, taking it with medicines used for sleep or anxiety may cause extreme drowsiness affecting your ability to operate heavy equipment or drive a car safely.  Skull Cap may interact with barbiturates, sedatives and anti-convulsants and should not be taken at the same time.

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