Skullcap is the name of a flowering herb, and it can refer to either American skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) or Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis). It is a flowering plant that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. While within the field of alternative and natural medicine, there are American skullcap benefits and Chinese skullcap benefits, the two flowers are not the same. The Chinese skullcap plant looks similar to the American skullcap plant, but though it has blue and purple flowers, like its American relative, it has only a single stem.
The parts of American skullcap that are used medically are the leaves and the flowers. The American skullcap flower is a “slender, heavily branched plant” with blue and purple flowers that grow in meadows or forests. They are “thought to be GABAergic, binding to the benzodiazepine site of the γ-aminobutyric (GABA) receptor, and thereby have a sedating and anxiolytic effect.” American skullcap also contains the flavonoids scutellarin, methoxyflavone, and catalpol. Some of the flavonoids contained in American skullcap bind to the brain’s serotonin receptor. This is at least part of the reason that American skullcap has “sedative and relaxing effects.”
American Skullcap and Anxiety
The potential sedative and relaxing effects of American skullcap were observed in a human study of 43 participants, which found that American skullcap “reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression in some individuals, without causing an observable reduction in energy or cognition. An overall enhancement of mood was also noted.”
The American skullcap benefits of potentially improving mood and decreasing anxiety have been observed for over 200 years, as it has been historically used as a “mild relaxant and as a therapy for anxiety, nervous tension, and convulsions.”
Chinese Skullcap Benefits
While there are many potential benefits of American skullcap. In addition to those listed above, studies also show “American skullcap has significant antioxidant effects, and may help protect against neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, anxiety, and depression”.
Chinese Skullcap in Traditional Chinese Medicine
Chinese skullcap has a long history in traditional Chinese medicine, or TCM. In TCM, Chinese skullcap is used to to support respiratory health during changes in the season, to maintain blood pressure already within the normal range, and to support a healthy immune system. It has been used in TCM to help address respiratory challenges, temporary relief from occasional pain, and healthy cellular development.
Chinese and American Skullcap Interactions
While American skullcap is considered safe for use, it does have a history of being contaminated by germander, a different type of plant that can cause liver problems. Users can avoid this by ensuring that their American skullcap is from a reputable source.
One potential Chinese skullcap benefit is that it may reduce symptoms of hypertension and diabetes (this has been observed in animal studies, but not yet with human subjects). However, it is strongly recommended that people with diabetes do NOT take Chinese skullcap without doctor supervision, as it may lower blood sugar levels.
Because of the potential sleep-promoting properties of both American and Chinese skullcap, it is also advised that it not be taken along with other sedatives, including anticonvulsants, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, sleeping pills, tricyclic antidepressants, and alcohol.
If you want to access the potential skullcap benefits (either American or Chinese) from a reputable brand, the Natural Healthy Concepts store only stocks professional quality brands who use Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP) and are reputable within the industry. Try Oregon’s Wild Harvest organic skullcap supplement or Herb Pharm’s Skullcap Extract.
What are the most important skullcap benefits you’ve observed?