The medicinal power of American skullcap

American skullcap is native to eastern North America. It often grows on swampy soil, for example in swamps or forests where a lot of water flows. It is a perennial plant that grows up to 75 centimeters high. It blooms with small purple, white, blue or pink flowers that grow in a cluster. American skullcap has medicinal properties. It is mainly used as a sedative and for menstrual problems. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.


  • Naming American skullcap
  • Active ingredients
  • Skullcap, good for the nervous system
  • Skullcap dilates cerebral blood vessels
  • Skullcap against cramps
  • Skullcap good for the liver
  • American skullcap against cancer
  • Consult a herbal therapist


Naming American skullcap

The botanical name for this plant is Scutellaria Lateriflora . Scutelaria means ‘saucer-shaped’ which refers to the shape of the fruit. Lateriflora means ‘side-placed flowers’. The botanical name literally translates as ‘Dish with flowers on the side’. In China, the Scutellaria baicalensis grows , which has approximately the same medicinal effects.

Active ingredients

The entire above-ground plant of American skullcap is used when it is at the end of its flowering period. This plant contains the following flavonoids: scutellarin, scutellarein, baicalin, baicalein, wagonin, apigenin, hispidulin and luteolin. It also contains iridoids such as catalpol. It contains the essential oils limonene, terpineol, betahumulene and caryaphyllene. It also contains tannins and resin.

Skullcap, good for the nervous system

American skullcap is used in phytotherapy; that is scientifically proven herbal medicine. An important effect of this plant is its nerve-strengthening effect. In addition, flavonoids repair damaged nerve tissue. Due to these medicinal properties, American skullcap can be prescribed by herbalists for:

  • Nervousness, restlessness, nervous exhaustion or neurasthenia,
  • Depression, insomnia, restless sleep, anxiety, agitation,
  • nerve pain,
  • Neurovegetative complaints such as nervous headaches, PreMenstrual Syndrome or PMS,
  • Palpitations, high blood pressure,
  • Withdrawal from tranquilizers,
  • Adjuvant for petit mal epilepsy, convulsions, cholea and delerium tremens.


Skullcap dilates cerebral blood vessels

People with a CVA, a Cerebrovascular Accident, or a stroke suffer from reduced blood circulation in the brain. American skullcap dilates the blood vessels in the brain, reducing the risk of a stroke recurrence. Herbalists use this medicinal plant for the following indications related to cerebral circulation:

  • Cerebral atherosclerosis,
  • Prevention of CVA,
  • Cerebral thrombosis,
  • Cerebral embolism.


Skullcap against cramps

American skullcap has an antispasmodic effect, a medical term for despasmodic. This cramp-relieving effect applies to the stomach and intestines as well as to the uterus. In connection with the latter fact, it works as a menstrual stimulant. Herbalists can prescribe skullcap for its antispasmodic effect for:

  • Gastrointestinal cramps,
  • Irritable bowel syndrome,
  • Menstrual pains.


Skullcap good for the liver

Skullcap is a bittering agent. Most bittering agents stimulate the functioning of the liver; more digestive juices are produced. This stimulates the entire digestive system. Because of these medicinal properties it can be used as a natural medicine for:

  • Anorexia,
  • Weakened liver,
  • Poor digestion.


American skullcap against cancer

American skullcap is an herb that is anticarcinogenic. Anticarcinogenic means ‘anticancer’. In vitro studies show that the flavonoids baicalin, baicalein and wagonine initiate apoptosis or sudden cell death of cancer cells. Anticarcinogenic herbs are never used alone; they are used in a herbal mix. American skullcap is not a main ingredient in a mixture; it is an herb that supports the anticarcinogenic effect of other herbal products. It is therefore called an adjuvant in cancer therapy. In addition to being an adjuvant against cancer, it is an adjuvant against inflammation, infections and allergies.

Consult a herbal therapist

American skullcap should only be taken on prescription by a doctor. If you use other medications that have an effect on the central nervous system, such as sedative medications, you should seek advice from a doctor or herbal therapist. When drinking skullcap tea, it is important not to use more than one or two teaspoons per cup and to drink a maximum of three cups per day. If the maximum dose is not exceeded, it is a safe herb. However, it is always good to consult an expert who knows exactly which herbs are suitable for you and who is aware of a patient’s medical history. All information in this article comes from the Large Handbook of Medicinal Plants by Geert Verhelst, a standard work in phytotherapy.