By Land of Verse Clinical Herbalist Interns, Christine Mineart and Lia Aspen
1) What is Skullcap?
Skullcap, or Scutellaria lateriflora, is a prized plant in the herb community that focuses specifically on the nervous system. In the Lamiaceae, or Mint, family, Skullcap bears a square stem, opposite leaves, and a gorgeous cluster of small purple-blue flowers with qualities that help to calm an overstimulated system. Skullcap was even once labeled “Mad Dog Weed” referring to its historical use for rabies. In fact, this popularized the application for such condition around the 19th century in Westchester, New York. This plant is a profound remedy for nervous system dysregulation, capturing and soothing the hearts of many who work with it.
2) How is it used by herbalists to reduce anxiety?
Skullcap has a long lineage of traditional use and science is just catching up. Indigenous people, such as the Cherokee, and later Eclectic physicians, employed Skullcap as a nervine (herbalist term for an herb that supports the nervous system). This plant is used in modern times for the same purpose. Skullcap excels at pacifying an overactive mind, seemingly “putting a cap” on thoughts that just won’t stop coming. Think of it as a specific to an overthinker. In conjunction with calming the nerves, Skullcap acts as a trophorestorative, gently repairing the system overtime.
Additionally, skullcap acts as a smooth muscle relaxant, explaining some of its early use for menstrual cramping, and current usage for tension. This plant can be employed when injury has occurred and there is both physical pain associated as well as secondary trauma to the nervous system. Some use also suggests support in withdrawal from nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol, and may be combined with herbs like Milky Oat Tops, Rose, and Holy Basil for this purpose.
One of the most captivating things about Skullcap is that, to our understanding, it stimulates gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is a neurotransmitter that calms the nerves. When someone is not making enough GABA, or their body is having an issue receiving the neurotransmitter, Skullcap may help fill the gap.
Skullcap is made most commonly into a tea, tincture (alcohol extract), and glycerite (glycerin extract); it is taken by itself or combined with other plants.
3) Current research – only 2 clinical studies done!
There are only two clinical studies published on Skullcap, and both aimed to observe the anxiety-reducing effects of freeze-dried Skullcap capsules. While both studies did observe some decreases in anxiety in study participants, due to challenges in study design no significant results could be reported [1,2]. It’s been a decade since these studies were published, and Skullcap continues to be used by clinical herbalists as one of the top remedies for anxiety. In practice, clinical herbalists tend towards alcohol tinctures, teas, and glycerites when suggesting Skullcap to clients for anxiety support, and there are no standardized studies on these medicinal preparations to date. Conducting large-scale clinical studies is resource intensive, and studies often investigate preparations of herbal medicine that deviate from real-world applied herbalism protocols. This has led to a large gap in the body of published research, with many integrative health practitioners interested in utilizing potent herbal medicines, but seeking rigorous evidence to support their practice.
4) Verse is now collaborating with People Science to conduct the first study to look at HerbPharm Skullcap glycerite used as an anxiolytic.
For the very first time, Verse is embarking on a groundbreaking research project in collaboration with People Science that will revolutionize the way we study herbal medicine. Our collaboration is centered around conducting the first-ever standardized approach of an herbal product. This approach ensures testing, accurate data collection, and credible results. As we dive into uncharted territories, we aim to set a new precedent for the future of herbal research. Together, we are set to conduct a standardized study, and the spotlight is on Skullcap glycerite from Land of Verse’s partners, HerbPharm. This partnership beautifully merges the centuries-old wisdom of herbal medicine with cutting-edge technology and research methodologies. We believe that by combining ancient knowledge with modern tools, we have the potential to unveil new dimensions of healing.
With our combined dedication to knowledge, discovery, and holistic well-being, we look forward to reshaping the landscape of herbal medicine research. Stay tuned for updates, insights, and a glimpse into the extraordinary partnership that is setting a new standard in the field. Here’s to the union of tradition and innovation – a partnership that’s poised to make history in the realm of herbal medicine.
- Brock C, Whitehouse J, Tewfik I, Towell T. American Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora): a randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled crossover study of its effects on mood in healthy volunteers. Phytother Res. 2014 May;28(5):692-8. doi: 10.1002/ptr.5044. Epub 2013 Jul 22. PMID: 23878109
- Wolfson P, Hoffmann DL. An investigation into the efficacy of Scutellaria lateriflora in healthy volunteers. Altern Ther Health Med. 2003 Mar-Apr;9(2):74-8. PMID: 12652886