Skullcap can refer to 2 herbs: American skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) and Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis). Both forms of skullcap are used to treat different conditions and are not interchangeable.
American skullcap is native to North America, but it is now widely cultivated in Europe and other areas of the world. It has been used for more than 200 years as a mild relaxant and as a therapy for anxiety, nervous tension, and convulsions. However, more research is needed to support that claim. Studies 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. There's even some evidence to suggest that American skullcap may inhibit food allergic response. Today, other herbs (such as valerian) are more commonly used, although American skullcap may be combined with other calming herbs in some preparations.
Most of the studies done on skullcap have examined Chinese skullcap. Native to China and parts of Russia, Chinese skullcap has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat allergies, infections, inflammation, cancer, and headaches. It may also have antifungal and antiviral effects. Animal studies suggest that Chinese skullcap may help reduce symptoms of diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure), but scientists don't know if Chinese scullcap has the same effect in humans. In test tubes and animal studies, Chinese skullcap appears to have some cancer-fighting properties. More research is needed to determine any benefit.
Awad R, Arnason JT, Trudeau V, Bergeron C, Budzinski JW, Foster BC, Merali Z. Phytochemical and biological analysis of skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora L.): a medicinal plant with anxiolytic properties. Phytomedicine. 2003;10:640-9.
Cauffield JS, Forbes HJ. Dietary supplements used in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders. Lippincotts Prim Care Pract. 1999;3:290-304.
Darzynkiewicz Z, Traganos F, Wu JM, Chen S. Chinese herbal mixture PC-SPES in treatment of prostate cancer (Review). Int J Oncol. 2000;17:729-736.
Enomoto R, Suzuki C, Koshiba C, Nishino T, Nakayama M, Hirano H, Yokoi T, Lee E. Wogonin prevents immunosuppressive action but not anti-inflammatory effect induced by glucocorticoid. Ann NY Acad Sci. 2007;1095:412-7.
Fisher C. Nettles - an aid to the treatment of allergic rhinitis. European Journal of Herbal Medicine. 1997;3:34-35.
Foster S, Tyler VE. Tyler's Honest Herbal. New York, NY: The Haworth Herbal Press; 1999:349-351.
Gao Z, Huang K, Xu H. Protective effects of flavonoids in the roots of Scutellaria baicalensis Georgi against hydrogen peroxide-induced oxidative stress in HS-SY5Y cells. Pharmacol Res. 2001;43:173-178.
Huang RL, Chen CC, Huang HL, Chang CG, Chen CF, Chang C, Hsieh MT. Anti-hepatitis B virus effects of wogonin isolated from Scutellaria baicalensis. Planta Med. 2000;66:694-698.
Ikemoto S, Sugimura K, Yoshida N, et al. Antitumor effects of Scutellariae radix and its components baicalein, baicalin, and wogonin on bladder cancer cell lines. Urology. 2000;55:951-955.
Kumagai T, Muller CI, Desmond JC, Imai Y, Heber D, Koeffler HP. Scutellaria baicalensis, a herbal medicine: anti-proliferative and apoptotic activity against acute lymphocytic leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma cell lines. Leuk Res. 2007;31:523-30.
Larrey D, Vial T, Pauwels A,et al. Hepatitis after germander (Teucrium chamaedrys) administration: another instance of herbal medicine toxicity. Ann Coll Physicians. 1992;117:129-132.
Lee E, Enomoto R, Suzuki C, Ohno M, Ohashi T, Miyauchi A, et al. Wogonin, a plant flavone, potentiates etoposide-induced apoptosis in cancer cells. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2007;1095:521-6.
Linnebur SA, Rapacchietta OC, Vejar M. Hepatotoxicity associated with Chinese skullcap contained in Move Free Advanced dietary supplement: two case reports and review of the literature. Pharmacotherapy. 2010;30:750, 258e-262e.
Lohani M, Ahuja M, Buabeid MA, et al. Anti-oxidative and DNA protecting effects of flavonoids-rich Scutellaria lateriflora. Nat Prod Commun. 2013; 8:1415-8.
Miller LG, Murray WJ, eds. Herbal Medicinals: A Clinician's Guide. New York, NY: Pharmaceutical Products Press;1998.
Newall C, Anderson L, Phillipson J. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-care Professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press;1996:239-240.
Peredary O, Persinger MA. Herbal treatment following post-seizure induction in rat by lithium pilocarpine: Scutellaria lateriflora (Skullcap), Gelsemium sempervirens (Gelsemium) and Datura stramonium (Jimson Weed) may prevent development of spontaneous seizures. Phytother Res. 2004;18:700-5.
Rakel: Integrative Medicine, 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012.
Shao ZH, Vanden Hoek TL, Qin Y, et al. Baicalein attenuates oxidant stress in cardiomyocytes. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2002;282:H999-H1006.
Shin HS, Bae MJ, Jung SY, Shon DH. Inhibitory effect of skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) extract on ovalbumin permeation in vitro and in vivo. Food Chem. 2013;140:22-30.
Watanabe S, Kitade Y, Maski T, Nishioba M, Satoh K, Nishino H. Effects of lycopene and Sho-saiko-to on hepatocarcinogenesis in a rat model of sponstaneous liver cancer. Nutr Cancer. 2001;39:96-101
White L, Mavor S. Kids, Herbs, Health. Loveland, Colo: Interweave Press; 1998;22:40-41.
Wolfson P, Hoffmann DL. An investigation into the efficacy of Scutellaria lateriflora in healthy volunteers. Altern Ther Health Med. 2003;9:74-8.
Zhang Z, Lian XY, Li S, Stringer JL. Characterization of chemical ingredients and anticonvulsant activity of American skullcap. Phytomedicine. 2009;16:485-93.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2013 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.