Skullcap by Student Contributor Chloe Morris

    Chloe Morris Spring 2015 Skullcap Monograph Common name: Skullcap, also according to Henriette’s Page Scullcap. Hoodwort. Madweed. Mad-dog or Sideflowering Scullcap. Blue Pimpernel. Hooded Willow-herb. Scutellaire Latin name: Scutellaria spp, there are many species but the official species is Scutellaria lateriflora Native analogs: Yes, there are many native varieties. Specifics include Scutellaria drummondii and Scutellaria […]

    Chloe Morris
    Spring 2015
    Skullcap Monograph
    Common name: Skullcap,
    according to Henriette’s Page Scullcap. Hoodwort. Madweed. Mad-dog or Sideflowering Scullcap. Blue
    Pimpernel. Hooded Willow-herb. Scutellaire
    Latin name: Scutellaria spp, there
    are many species but the official species is Scutellaria lateriflora
    Native analogs: Yes, there are many native
    varieties. Specifics include Scutellaria drummondii
    and Scutellaria suffrutescens
    (pink or cherry skullcap)
    Family: Lamiaceae (the Mint family)
    Etymology: Skullcap’s genus name, Scutellaria, comes from the Latin scutella, “a small dish  tray or platter”, which refers to the
    appearance of the sepals during the fruiting period. The official species name, lateriflora, means “flowering on the
    side,” which is how the flowers appear on the one-sided racemes.
    The common name is said to reference
    the helmet-like shape of the flowers (Kress).
    Growing: Indigenous, perennial said to
    prefer damp locations such as the banks of a stream.  For wild crafting 7song says he harvests it in
    seed taking the upper 2/3 of the plant.  He
    cautions to not pick the root, as skullcap has a delicate root system.
    Skullcap has a long and varied
    history, In the United States the root was used by the Cherokee and other
    indigenous tribes for “promoting menstruation…treating diarrhea,
    kidney problems and breast pains, and to help expel the afterbirth.” Also the
    Iroquois “used an infusion of the powdered roots to prevent smallpox and to keep
    the throat clean” It was also purportedly used ceremonially in the transition
    of young girls to womanhood (Kress). 
    In the 1700s it
    became a popular treatment for rabies, hence its common name “mad-dog weed” A prominent
    doctor, Dr. Vandesveer, claimed to have prevented 4,000 people and 1,000 cattle from being
    infected after having been bitten by rabid dogs, by treating with
    skullcap.  He was said to have used
    skullcap both as a cure and a prophylactic against the hydrophobia symptomatic
    of rabies infection. It seems that his claim was questioned heavily and by 1852
    Eclectic doctors John King and Robert Newton had dismissed skullcap as a
    treatment for rabies, though a number of eclectics and physicians were have
    said to have found success in its use.  
    Despite that
    dismissal the eclectic doctors seemed to find much use for skullcap as during
    the late 19th and early 20th century they prescribed
    skullcap for “nervousness caused by illness, teething, and mental or physical
    exhaustion; nervousness with muscular spasms; heart disorders of the nervous
    type with intermittent pulse; hysteria accompanied by uncontrollable muscular
    action; tremors; and subsultus tendinum (twitching of the tendons, notably the
    wrist, during low fevers)” (Kress).
    King’s American Dispensatory also recommended skullcap for convulsions, delirium tremens,
    intermittent fever, neuralgia, tremors, and chorea (involuntary, rapid, jerky,
    forceful movements) and The American Materia Medica, Therapeutics and Pharmacognosy includes the following
    additional uses for skullcap: twitching, nervous tics, epilepsy, paralysis
    agitans (a progressive, degenerative neurologic disease), and irritability and
    restlessness with nervous excitability and sleeplessness (Kress).
    Taste: Bitter
    Matthew Wood, Kiva Rose, and many
    others all recognize this herb to be bitter. 
    It is classified as a bitter mint.
    Energetics: Cool Dry
    Cool and Dry  (Kiva Rose)
    We also learned in class that the
    native analogs might be a little more warming than the official species.
    Tissue states:
    Matthew Wood indicated Skullcap for
    excitation, constriction, and atrophy. (Wood)
    According to David Hoffman skullcap
    has “flavanoid glucoside, including scutellarin and scutellarein; trace of
    volatile oil, bitter”
    Actions: Nerve tonic, sedative,
    antispasmodic, restorative, digestive bitter
    David Hoffman classifies Skullcap as
    a Nervine tonic, sedative and antispasmodic.
    Kiva Rose and 7song make note of a restorative
    action, classifying it as a relaxant nerve trophorestorative. “it rebuilds the
    nerves from the inside out while relaxing any impediment to the release of
    tension. It opens up the internal flow of energy and stress, helping to move it
    and let it cycle out. This is different from just sedating the nerves because
    it’s a nourishing, native process for the body.” (Rose, 2008)
    Older texts go into depth on the
    specific mechanisms of the actions, The Eclectic Materia Media (1922) states “By controlling nervous
    irritability and muscular incoordination it gives rest and permits sleep. It
    may be exhibited to advantage during acute and chronic illness to maintain
    nervous balance, control muscular twitching and tremors.” (Kress)
    Likewise Dr. Coe wrote in1858, that Skullcap “soothes and quiets the
    irritability of the  nervous system,
    giving tone and regularity of action, lessens cerebral excitement,abates
    delirium, diminishes febrile excitement, excites diaphoresis and diuresis, and
    accomplishes its work without any subsequent unpleasant reactions.”(Wood 323)
    Skullcap’s bitter taste also could
    classify it as a digestive bitter.
    Medicinal Uses:
    Skullcap is considered by many prominent
    herbalists to be an incredibly useful herb. William LeSassier calls Skullcap
    the “the perfect nervine” It doesn’t drag on the rest of the system, good for
    all formulas. Sedates fire in the small intestine that would otherwise burn off
    energy too quickly…Holds energy in the body. Good for overthinkers” (Wood).
    Likewise Michael Moore has said that Skullcap
    “is a sure treatment for almost any nervous system malfunction of a mild or
    chronic nature, from insomnia to fear to nervous or sick headaches, and as a
    palliative-restorative when pasturing out from stress” (Wood).
    Matthew Wood lists a number of
    indications for the use of Skullcap. He suggests that it is generally indicated
    for someone who is oversensitive and lacks resistance to stimulation. He indicates
    its use for nervous, anxious states, restlessness, and irritability in the
    mind. Though Wood and others stress the calmative effect on the nervous system
    effect in calming the mind, the effects of this herb are not limited to the
    nervous system. Wood also indicates it in GI pains, menstrual spasm and
    irritation, and for muscle tension and twitch (where nervousness is a root
    cause). Wood also writes about its use in fever, acutely treating the delirium
    but also afterwards to restore nervous and circulatory function once it has
    Much attention is paid to its restorative
    effect. Hoffman writes, “It relaxes states of nervous tension whilst at the
    same time renewing and revivifying the central nervous system.”  He also indicates it in the treatment of epilepsy,
    seizure, hysterical states, premenstrual tension, and any exhausted or depressed
    Kiva Rose considers
    Skullcap to be CNS restorative calling it “an extremely effective nerve tonic,
    and seems to truly rebuild and restore a damaged or exhausted nervous system.”
    She add on that “in addition to strengthening the nervous system, it also helps
    retrain the body to deal with stress in more productive ways, encouraging it
    move along rather than stagnating or sticking in one tired, manic part of your
    brain or body.”
    She notes that constitutionally
    it is will “clear heat, infection and toxins, making
    an extra useful nerve tonic for the Pitta/Adrenal stress person.” As for specific conditions she lists “muscle
    cramps, insomnia, irritability, and general nervous hypersensitivity” and
    mentions using it successfully for shingles and sciatica. As for its bitter
    qualities they “have a relaxing effect on the liver and a stimulating effect on
    digestion” She notes the effect of its use on herself “Taking a few drops under
    my tongue, I was able to tangibly feel my muscles relax, the floodgates open
    and the life energy flow through my body, allowing me to finally relax into the
    bed and blankets and welcome embrace of sleep.”
    Susun Weed and 7song both
    praise it for is pain relieving abilities. Weed insists that “Skullcap tincture relieves almost any pain,
    especially when the nerves are involved. Try skullcap when bothered by sciatica
    pain, neuralgia, toothache, eye twitches, or ringing in the ears.” She also
    uses it for headaches and for people getting over addiction (Weed 2008) 7song
    notes that while it is not necessarily the strongest pain reliever, it can help
    focus and amplify the efficiency of other remedies” (7song) He also goes on to
    talk about how it is less likely to cause lethargy than other pain relieving
    herbs, noting that because of
    this “people can take it while performing tasks that they need to be cognizant
    Local Herbalists I asked
    had similar observations. Ivy Zwicker hasn’t used it much in practice but
    mentioned using it to help with her husband’s headaches. Herbalist Carolyn
    Galloway told me she made a tincture that she uses in a pain elixir, and she
    also uses it in a stress buster tea blend. Personally she has used it for a
    chronic issue telling me “I took it at night for an extended period of
    time to help me relax and help with the chronic pain.”
    boil 1-2 tsp dried herb and leave to
    infuse 10-15 minutes (Hoffman).
    7song recommends .4 oz boiled in 1qt
    water as a good tea.
    Tincture: Fresh 1:2, Dried 1:5 45-60% alcohol
    *Susun Weed insists fresh is better “Drying skullcap or wolf mint evaporates most of the
    delicate components that make these plants so gently effective. So I use only
    the very freshest plant material.
    Glycerite: fresh 1:2, dry 1:5 60&
     Infusion: 3 times a day as needed (Hoffman).
      *Rose notes
    that this method may have a more sedating effect than tincture.
    Tincture: 1.5-2 dropperfuls 2-5 times daily for
    tonic dose, for more acute ½- tsp (7song).
    *Weed specifies “I find a small dose (3-5 drops of
    fresh skullcap tincture) takes the edge off a simple tension headache in a few
    minutes. A larger dose (10-15 drops), taken three or four times at the
    beginning of a major headache, can often stop it from coming on or moderate its
    pain and length. A really large dose (a dropperful or 15-25 drops) will make
    you very sleepy.”
    She also notes that for help in getting to sleep “as
    little as ten drops in a cup of warm milk (or hot chocolate)” is quite
    Herbal Pairings
    Valerian (Hoffman)
    Blue Sage- general tonic (Rose).
    California Poppy or Wild Peony- for more muscle
    related tension (Rose).
    Milky Oats and or Vervain tincture for rebuilding
    and restoring nervous system (Rose).
    Evening Primrose – as a general
    tonic, or for tension related GI distress with anxiety or depression (Rose).
    St. John’s Wort – ease
    migraines, relax stiff muscles, and relieve pain throughout the body (Weed).
    Crampbark- menstrual pain (7song)
    Pedicularis: back pain (7song)
    Contraindications: none other than caution in
    pregnancy. There are some warnings out there of liver toxicity but in those
    cases there is no way of tracing it back to skullcap, also in these cases it is
    thought that another herb is being passed off as skullcap. Using skullcap is
    safe as long as you have it properly identified. If you are going to purchase
    it, make sure it is from a reputable source.
    Personal Experience
    I made an
    infusion a few times using the dried plant material I purchased from mountain
    rose, I took it before I went to sleep and it seemed to aid in making me fall
    asleep or at least get in the mood to sleep. I like the taste even though it is
    bitter it is not unpleasant.
    I was also
    given Skullcap in a blend of other herbs by Nicole as a tea to help with my
    migraines.  For this I feel like she is
    using the skullcap both for pain and for the restorative effect, and since it
    is both in a blend and working long term it is hard for me to pinpoint its
    exact effects.
    I made a tincture of dried Skullcap
    from Mountain Rose. I also helped make a fresh tincture with our class using
    the simplers method when we were wildcrafting at Alma de Mujer.  I noticed that for both instances the plant
    matter is super absorbant and you end up using more alcohol in order to get it
    covered, as well as having to press or really squeeze the material to get the
    liquid out when decanting.  I also
    noticed that for the fresh tincture the color was very green when we decanted
    I look forward to using skullcap in the
    future, before this class I had never even heard of it and certainly had no
    idea it was such a useful little herb!
    Skullcap (Kress)
    Scutellaria lateriflora (7song)
    Scutellaria spp.
    Works Cited
    Henriette Kress. “Skullcap.” Web. May
    Hoffman, David. “Skullcap.” Holistic
    Herbal: A Safe and Practical Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies
    London: Thorsons, 2002. 233. Print.
    Rose, Kiva. “Blisswort as Energy Modulator and
    Nerve Restorative.” The Medicine Womans Roots. N.p., 17 Dec. 2007.
    Web. May 2015.
    Rose, Kiva. “Blisswort in Bloom: Subtleties
    & Specifics.” The Medicine Womans Roots. N.p., 20 May 2008.
    Web. May 2015.
    Rose, Kiva. “Tree Medicine and the Magic of
    Blisswort.” The Medicine Womans Roots. N.p., 23 June 2007. Web. May
    Weed, Susun S. “Skullcap Herbal Adventures
    with Susun S. Weed.” Skullcap by Susun Weed. Herbal E-zine, Aug.
    2008. Web. May 2015. <>.
    Wood, Matthew. “Scutellaria Lateriflora, S.
    Galericulata. Skullcap.” The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to New
    World Medicinal Plants
    . Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic, 2009. 323-26. Print.
    7song. “The Skullcaps-A Scutellaria Monograph
    « Blog – Northeast School of Botanical Medicine.” Blog Northeast School
    of Botanical Medicine
    . Northeast School of Botanical Medicine, 12 Feb.
    2012. Web. June 2015.
    Herbalists Contacted via email
    Carolyn Galloway
    Ivy Zwicker