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Scullcap the not-so-Mad Dog of Herbs


Scutellaria lateriflora L. Family; Lamiaceae: American skullcap, mad dog, scullcap, hoodwort, quaker bonnet, helmet flower, blue pimpernel, hooded willow herb and mad weed.


Skullcap is a wetland plant that is best grown in moist to wet soils in full sun. It tolerates some light afternoon shade. It spreads by rhizomes and runners. It is native to wetland areas from Quebec and Newfoundland west to British Columbia and south to California, Louisiana, and Florida. Tiny, tubular, two-lipped, snapdragon-like, blue flowers (to 1/3”) bloom solitary or in one-sided racemes, mostly from the leaf axils but occasionally terminal from July to early October. Square stems are clad with thin, opposite, mostly glabrous, ovate to lanceolate leaves which feature toothed margins, subordate or rounded bases and pinnate veins. Leaves are dark green above but light green beneath. It can be propagated from seeds but will take up to two weeks to germinate.


Growing skullcap has been used for over 200 years– listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia from 1863 to 1916 and in the national formulary from 1916 to 1947. Despite these prestigious listings, skullcap has also been listed as having no medicinal properties in either publication. It was used for centuries by Native Americans to treat menstrual disorders, nervousness, digestive and kidney problems. The name skullcap refers to the flower’s resemblance to helmets worn by European soldiers. Due to its gentle relaxing effects, skullcap became a popular treatment in the 1700s for hydrophobia or rabies, resulting in one of its common names, mad-dog weed.


It has been used for more than 200 years as a mild relaxant and as a therapy for anxiety, nervous tension, and convulsions. Some 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. One source reported a small single dose study was performed in 2003 on 19 healthy subjects. While they reported little effect on cognition or overall energy, participants did report a noticeable decrease in anxiety. Studies have shown that the aerial parts of the plant contain large amounts of flavonoids, including scutellarin and baicalin, which are believed to be the active components accounting for its sedative and antispasmodic activity. It is considered a nervine, sedative, antispasmodic, aids in treating anxiety, depression, and tension. It is often paired with Valerian Root for its sleep-inducing benefits, but cautions use if you have any preexisting liver conditions. Consult with your physician prior to consumption if you have any type of liver disease or conditions.


Some beliefs held that Skullcap protected against infidelity and promoted inner peace. Calmness and tranquility. Others believe it has binding qualities, induced visions, and brings love.


There continues to be studies done on this adorable little plant. We continue to learn more about it, and we find that regardless of what is believed to be, she is a plant of peace. Mental balance. Our mother earth telling us that everything will be ok. Our earth is taking care of us if we just let her. Peace to you all!


Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine by Andrew Chevallier, FNIMH; page 135

The Lost Book of Herbal Remedies; The Healing Power of Plant Medicine by Dr. Nicole Apelian, Ph.D & Claude Davis; Pages 132-133.

Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs by Scott Cunningham; Pages 22

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