SCULLCAP (Skullcap / Scutellaria laterifolia)

Latin: Scutellaria laterifolia

WHAT IT DOES: Scullcap is bitter in taste and cooling in action.  It soothes and calms the nerves.

RATING: Silver, as not everyone needs to be calmed

SAFETY ISSUES: None known with actual plant. Misidentification with another plant, germander, has been an issue.

• Tincture: 20-40 drops, two to six times per day
Note: use only in tincture form

Scullcap tincture is an excellent and extremely reliable nervine.  It relaxes and strengthens the nervous system in a manner that can be felt within thirty minutes.  It is reliable and safe for treating premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms as they occur.  The highly respected English herbalist David Hoffman tells the story of how he found scullcap the best remedy for PMS when he lived on a commune as the only male with dozens of women.  It is strong enough that it will calm anxiety in fairly serious situations, such as alcohol or drug withdrawal and hysteria.  In these cases it needs to be taken every two to three hours, increasing the dosage until you see results.  Based upon a recommendation from herbalist David Winston, I gave scullcap tincture to a patient with Parkinson’s disease, and she experienced a moderate reduction of tremors, improving her quality of life. In higher doses it can help with sleep, especially if the lack of sleep is caused by irritated nerves.

According to King’s American Dispensatory, Scullcap “is tonic, nervine and anti-spasmodic,” and “it has proved especially useful in chorea, convulsions, tremors, intermittent fever, neuralgia, and many nervous affections.  In all cases of nervous excitability, restlessness, or wakefulness, attending or following acute or chronic disease, from physical or mental overwork, or from other causes, it may be drunk freely with every expectation of beneficial results.  When its soothing effects have ceased, it does not leave an excitable, irritable condition of the system, as is the case with some other nervines” (Felter and Lloyd, 1898).

It must be given in a tincture, as much of dried scullcap, commonly found in over-the-counter herbal preparations, is basically inert, and therefore useless.  The related Chinese herb scute root is more anti-inflammatory and less calming in action.