Skullcap refers to any of the several species of Scutellaria plants, that belong to the mint family of Labiatae. The genus Scutellaria includes about 12 species of skullcaps. The skullcap plant can be distinguished by its ridged leaves, the helmet-shaped calyx, and the small blue or pink-colored flowers. The plant usually grows up to a height of 45 to 60 centimeters.
The species that is more commonly used for medicinal purposes is Scutellaria lateriflora, which is a perennial plant native to the regions of North America. Another related species is Chinese skullcap or Scutellaria baicalensis, which has been widely used in Chinese traditional medicine.
The skullcap plant is also known by the names of scullcap, American Skullcap, Western skullcap, hoodwort, blue pimpernel, hooded willow herb, and mad-dog weed. The plant got the name 'mad-dog weed' because of its wide-scale use to treat rabies in the eighteenth century. The tea prepared from this herb is still used to alleviate a host of ailments in traditional medicine.
How to Prepare the Tea
Pour about a cup of boiling water over 2 teaspoon of dried leaves of the herb. Then cover the liquid and let it steep for about 10 minutes. Steeping is the process which allows the infusion or tea to absorb the medicinal properties of the herb. This herbal tea can be consumed once or twice daily.
This herb has been renowned for a number of medicinal properties. The herb contains powerful antioxidants and antihistamine compounds. It also possesses antibacterial, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, sedative, and febrifuge properties. All these make this herb and the tea prepared from its leaves an effective remedy for a number of health conditions.
Skullcap tea can be used to lower fever, and relieve fatigue and exhaustion. Today, this herb is known mainly as a sedative. The Chinese variety or Scutellaria baicalensis has been used in traditional medicine for curing diarrhea, dysentery, urinary tract infections, abdominal pain, jaundice, and gout. The common skullcap on the other hand, is regarded as a tonic for the nervous system, and therefore, it is widely used to treat tension, anxiety, insomnia, epilepsy, and seizures.
Apart from these, this herbal tea may help lower blood pressure, and relieve stress, headaches, premenstrual syndrome, muscle spasms, convulsions, nosebleeds, menstrual cramps, asthma, and allergies. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, this herb and its extract may provide some relief in arthritis and gout. Another important benefit is that it can help treat the withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol and drugs.
This herb can produce a few side effects, if it is consumed in excess. If not taken with adequate care, the tea prepared from its leaves can cause giddiness and confusion. Some other possible side effects associated with the intake of skullcap in high dosage are, liver damage, stupor, and in extreme cases, seizures.
Apart from these, some individuals can be allergic to this herb, and so, can develop an allergic reaction after taking it internally. An allergic reaction to this herb can produce a number of symptoms, like itching, skin rash or hives, and swelling of the mouth, lips, and the throat. In severe cases, one may also experience shortness of breath. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should avoid this herb or its herbal extract.
This herbal tea can prove immensely helpful for invigorating and soothing the nervous system. It can relieve anxiety, tension, and several other nervous disorders. It can prove equally helpful for digestive ailments as well. However, an excessive use of this herb can give rise to a number of health problems, for which it needs to be taken with caution. Therefore, it is advisable to take its herbal extract and tea only under the supervision of a trained medical practitioner.
Disclaimer: This HolisticZine article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.