Medically reviewed on June 7, 2018
What is Scullcap?
Scullcap (S. laterifolia), a member of the mint family, is native to the US where it grows in moist woods. Although it is widely distributed throughout large regions of North America, there are related species found as far away as China. Scullcap is an erect perennial with bluish flower. Official compendia (eg, NF VI) recognized only the dried overground portion of the plant as useful; however, some herbal texts listed all parts as medicinal. A number of species have been used medicinally, and the most common European variety has been S. baicalensis, a native of East Asia.
Scullcap also is known as skullcap, helmetflower, hoodwort, and mad-dog weed.
What is it used for?
Scullcap appears to have been introduced into traditional American medicine toward the end of the 1700s, when it was promoted as an effective treatment for the management of hydrophobia (hence the derivation of one of its common names). It later was used as a tonic, particularly in proprietary remedies for "female weakness." The plant had been reputed to be an herbal tranquilizer, particularly in combination with Valerian, but has fallen into disuse. Scullcap has traditionally been used to treat nervousness, irritability, and neuralgia, as well as for its sedative properties.
One clinical study indicates some anti-anxiety properties of scullcap. Recent studies also suggest that it might have anti-inflammatory activity. The depressant and antihypertensive effects of scullcap also have been looked at in a few small animal studies with no conclusive results. Teas prepared from Scutellaria species have demonstrable antibacterial and antifungal activity.
What is the recommended dosage?
Limit the doses of American skullcap to no more than the package recommendation. Typical doses (see individual product information): Dried herb– 1 to 2 g 3 times/day; tea– 240 mL 3 times/day (pour 250 mL of boiling water over 5 to 10 mL of the dried herb and steep for 10 to 15 min); tincture– 2 to 4 mL 3 times/day.
Contraindications have not yet been identified.
Documented adverse effects in pregnancy. Avoid use. May inhibit pituitary and chorionic gonadotropins, as well as prolactin.
None well documented, although it may exaggerate the effects of other drugs that cause drowsiness.
If taken according to the manufacturer's directions, scullcap does not seem to exhibit any adverse effects.
An overdose of the tincture causes giddiness, stupor, confusion, twitching of the limbs, intermission of the pulse, and other symptoms of epilepsy.
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