, , ,

Skullcap: A Bitter Nervine

The nervous system strongly influences the liver. Controlling arterial circulation that feeds into the liver. When there is problems switching to parasympathetic due to a stressful lifestyle this can lead to all kinds of symptom patterns associated with the liver and gall bladder. Bitter nervines like skullcap can be helpful in a digestive system or liver formula because it helps cool and drain excess, calms tension and stimulates bile secretions. Skullcap is especially helpful in cases where physical stagnation manifests as mental stagnation. Like heaviness, sluggish energy, and clouded thinking. Continue reading to learn more about the many uses of skullcap.

Skullcap scientific name: Scutellaria lateriflora, Scutellaria baicalensis

Energetics: Cooling

Taste: Bitter, mildly sweet

Planet: Saturn, Pluto

Element: Water

Magical Uses: Binds oaths, consecrates commitments, for rituals, will power, inner authority, and leadership, over coming obstacles, helps you re-adapt, grounds you into the present moment, used for stillness, meditation, yin, darkness, rebuilding, reflection, and rebirth.


Tincture: Ratio-Dry 1:5 -Fresh 1:2***Tincture is best method

Tea: Best in a cold infusion do not pour boiling water over it.

Tea has more of a hypnotic effect and the tincture is more effective as a nervous system restorative.

Skullcap Growing Conditions and Origins

Skullcap is a perennial in the Lamiaceae family, growing in temperate regions, which are subtropical and polar circles. Especially in areas that are tropical mountains near rivers. This includes terrain in the US, Mexico, Europe, and Asia.(Schumacher) There are varieties that grow native here in Colorado in rich wooded areas, meadows, and marshes. Historically it has been used in medical systems in China, India, Korea, Europe, and in North America. (Joshee)

The plant can grow 3 feet tall and blooms at the peak of summer, July and August. It can have flowers in a variety of colors including blue, pink, purple, red. (Schumacher)

The name Skullcap describes the shape of the calex because it resembles medieval helmets. Other common names include hoodwort, quaker bonnet, helmet flower, blue pimpernel, hooded willow herb, mad dog weed. Skullcap got its nickname mad dog because it was brought over to America by Dr. Lawrence Van Derveer  in 1773 to use to treat dogs with rabies. (Schumacher)

Historical Information:

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the root has been used for over 2000 years to treat cancer, respiratory infections, colds, bacterial pneumonia, liver imbalances, hypertension, insomnia, inflammation and diarrhea.

Later it was found that it did not treat rabies, and rather it was only calming muscle spasms caused by rabies. When Skullcap was discovered to be antispasmodic it was used as  a tonic, tranquilizer, and was used in patent medicines for “women’s weakness”. (Schumacher)

A common herbal concoction that they historically used was skullcap, valerian, and hops as a sedative and as an anxiolytic. Skullcap by itself was also commonly used for epilepsy, headache, insomnia, hypertension, fever, rheumatism, and stress. (Schumacher)

Apparently a common misconception with Skullcap is that it contains hepatotoxic diterpenes. But that is only the case if the Skullcap product was adulterated with germander, Teucrium canadense or T. chamaedrys. (Lin)

Native American tribes have historically had various uses for it. The root is used for monthly periods and diarrhea. It can be used as an abortifacient and as an emetic to expel afterbirth. It was also used in ceremonies to induct young women into womanhood. The Cherokee women used it regularly to promote a healthy menstrual cycle. (Joshee)

Various additional uses include kidney tonic. As well as smallpox prevention. A decoction can be made for colds to help clear out the throat. The plant tops can be used to stimulate the stomach or as a laxative and for heart trouble. (BRIT) The herb was also traditionally smoked by many tribes to induce visions and was regarded as a ceremonial plant. (Joshee)

Medicinal Properties:

Western Actions:

Anti-inflammatory, abortifacient, antispasmodic, astringent, emmenagogue, febrifuge, nervine, sedative, strong tonic, Antiviral, Antifungal, Anti-inflammatory, Anticancer, Relaxant, Decongestant, Febrifuge, Anti-tumor, Anti-angiogenesis, Neuroprotective, Analgesic, Anxiolytic, Bronchodilator, Antioxidant, Anticonvulsant, Antimicrobial.

Eastern Actions:

Clears Heat, Drains Fire, Dries Dampness, Stops Bleeding, Relieves Spasms. S. lateriflora – Moves Qi (Energy), Calms Shen (Spirit), Clears Heat, Resolves Fevers, Restores Stomach Function, Promotes Urination, Antidote for Poisons. S. barbatae – Clears Heat, Relieves Toxicity, Invigorates Blood, Reduces Swelling


Flavonoids, Baicalrin, Apigenin, Oroxylin A, Skutellarin, Steroidal saponins, Glycosides, Volatile oils, Tannins, Zinc.

Traditional Use of Skullcap

Skullcap is a trophorestorative for the nervous system. Nourishing and healing damaged nerves caused by a stressful lifestyle. Elevating the mood, neutralizing nervous tension, and scattered thoughts. Can help those with insomnia calm their nerves before bed.

Traditionally it has been used most for the antispasmodic properties that come from the compound scutellarian. This effective for back spasms, facial ticks, tremors, restless leg syndrome, seizures, epilepsy, intestinal and menstrual cramping.

Used for headaches due to stimulation, sensory sensitivity, nervousness/fear/anticipation, restlessness/insomnia, colic/gastrointestinal pain, menstrual cycle conditions of all kinds, colds,  and delirium. (Wood, 325)

Medicinal Properties of Skullcap

The medicinal properties of Skullcap is also useful for withdrawals from drugs, alcohol, nicotine, anti-depressant medication, barbiturates and tranquilizers. (Schumacher). Helping us break our addictions, habits, stuck patterns so we can come back into our body and find a new way of being.

Dr. Grover Coe explains that Skullcap works to soothe and tone the nervous system, and helps to quiet delirium, cerebral and febrile excitement, but then it stimulates sweat and urine production in some cases. He also notes of its action as a febrifuge. (Wood, 323)

Convulsions relate to the nervous system,  like chorea and hysteria,  are commonly treated with Skullcap. (Schumacher)

Skullcap is slightly bitter and relieves digestion problems associated with the nervous system. Try taking the tincture on a empty stomach to increase bile secretions before eating. William LeSassier comments that it lessens the fire in the small intestine so that energy can be maintained more regularly. which helps people who are skinny stay energized and also calms the mind from overthinking. (Wood, 324)

Growing & Harvesting Skullcap

Sprinkle the seeds in the garden in the fall or refrigerate for 3 weeks before starting indoors in the spring. They require cold stratification to germinate. Once established in the garden they will re-seed. Harvest the arial parts in the summer time around July/August. The fresh leaf is best in tincture because of its volatile oils. When dried it loses a lot of its medicinal effects.

Products In The Farmacy with Skullcap

Wild Dreamer Farmacy Wood Element Tea


Do not use with chronic acid indigestion. Giddiness, stupor and mental confusion have been reported with excessively high doses of the tincture. Do not use during pregnancy or lactation due to lack of studies. Skullcap products on the marketplace have a history of being adulterated.  Purchase from a reputable source.

Work Cited

Brit. (n.d.). Skullcap. Retrieved May 6, 2021, from http://naeb.brit.org/uses/search/?string=skullcap

Joshee, N., & Mentreddy, R. (2014, January). Skullcap: Potential Medicinal Crop [Scholarly project]. In Research Gate. Retrieved May 6, 2021, from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Nirmal-Joshee/publication/237471099_Skullcap_Potential_Medicinal_Crop/links/0046352de63a4c7b41000000/Skullcap-Potential-Medicinal-Crop.pdf

Lin, L., Harnley, J., & Upton, R. (2009, April 29). Comparison of the phenolic component profiles of skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) and germander (Teucrium canadense and T. chamaedrys), a potentially hepatotoxic adulterant[Scholarly project]. In Analytical Science Journals. Retrieved May 7, 2021, from https://analyticalsciencejournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/pca.1127

Schumacher, J., & Cupp, M. (2000). Toxicology and Clinical Pharmacology of Herbal Products: Skullcap [Scholarly project]. In Springer Link. Retrieved May 7, 2021, from https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-59259-020-9_20

Wood, M. (2009). The EARTHWISE herbal: A complete guide to new World medicinal plants. In The earthwise herbal: A complete guide to New World medicinal plants (pp. 323-325). Berkeley, Calif: North Atlantic Books.