SCUTE ROOT (Scutellaria baicalensis )

Latin: Scutellaria baicalensis                Photo
Chinese: Huang qin
English: Baical Skullcap, Chinese Skullcap

WHAT IT DOES: Scute root is bitter in taste and cold in action.  It drains heat and inflammation from the liver, lungs, blood and intestines.  It also reduces allergy symptoms.

RATING: yellow, due to limitations in usage

SAFETY ISSUES: Not to be used as a general tonic.  Use for the indications listed below.

• Dried powder: three to 10 grams per day
• Concentrated dried decoction extract: one to four grams per day

Scute root is a broad-spectrum, anti-microbial, anti-pyretic and anti-inflammatory herb that is especially useful for treating lung infections.  It is used for treating high fever, flu, pneumonia, and the accompanying irritability, thirst, cough and mucous.  It also acts on the digestive system, easing diarrhea and dysentery-like disorders.  TCM doctors use it in formulas for treating chronic allergy and inflammation.  In mild doses, about 10% of a formula, it can be used safely over a long period of time.

Scute root contains a yellow flavone called baicalein.  Its structure is very similar to quercetin, a bioflavonoid frequently used by naturopathic physicians to treat allergy.  Scute root is very reliable, and we use it more frequently in our office than perhaps any other anti-inflammatory.  I find it an especially effective treatment for asthma and digestive system inflammation.

Research Highlights

• According to numerous in vitro and animal studies, the flavonoids in scute root possess arteriosclerosis and chemoprotective actions (Gao et al., 1999; Shao et al., 1999; Lim et al., 1999; Kim et al., 1999; Yabu et al., 1998; Park et al., 1998; Amosova, 1998; Kimura et al., 1997; Lin et al., 1980).

• Several animal studies have demonstrated a hypotensive (blood vessel relaxing) effect (reported in Bone, 1996)

• Scute root dry extracts and flavonoids can restore normal blood cell production depressed by sleep deprivation or other psychoemotional stress (Dygai et al., 1998).

• Research in animals shows that Scute may improve the outflow from the trabecular meshwork and therefore be useful in lowering  eye pressure in glaucoma

• Researchers in Russia administered scute root preparations to lung cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.  The herb helped restore depressed T-lymphocytes and other immunoglobulins (Smol’ianinov, 1997).

• Baicalein partially but significantly ameliorated kidney damage in rats receiving intravenous injections of a toxic serum (Wu et al., 1985).

• Research indicates that scute root offers neural benefits as well.  Oxygen deprivation leads to rapid mitochondrial-related energy loss and cell destruction.  In rat studies, scute root has been shown to prevent energy loss in the brain mitochonria and preserve mitochondrial membranes (Saifutdinov and Khazanov, 1998).

• Glial cells help to protect and maintain nerve cell integrity.  When tested on rat glioma cells, two major flavonoids found in scute root (baicalin and baicalein) were shown to protect against histamine-related damage by inhibiting inflammatory phospholipase (Kyo et al., 1998).

• It has also shown some success in China as a treatment for chronic hepatitis, as indicated by the results of one study that reported a 70% success rate (reported in Bone, 1996).