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Stress

Scullcap

General Information

Skullcap is a plant native to the United States. The active ingredient is found in the aerialaerialplant parts appearing above ground parts of the plant (the parts that grow above the ground).

Common Name(s)

scullcap, skullcap, American skullcap, helmet flower, hoodwort, mad weed, mad-dog skullcap

Scientific Name(s)

Scutellaria lateriflora L. (Lamiaceae)

How is this product usually used?

Skullcap can be taken by mouth and is available in dry leaf, decoctiondecoctionthe process of boiling plant parts in water and straining the liquid for medicine, infusioninfusionthe process of steeping or soaking plant material in hot or cold water to isolate its active ingredient, extractextractto get, separate, or isolate a desired active ingredient, and powder forms. The usual amount taken each day can be anywhere from 0.25 g to 12 g of the dry leaf.

Your health care provider may have recommended using this product in other ways. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.

What is this product used for?

Skullcap was traditionally used for a variety of conditions.

People have traditionally used skullcap in herbal medicine to:

  • help relieve nervousness (e.g., help anxious people to feel calmer)
  • help people sleep better
  • help relieve menstrual cramps

People have traditionally used skullcap for other conditions, such as:

  • fever
  • hyperlipidemia (high levels of cholesterol in the blood)
  • atherosclerosis (plaque build up in the arteries)
  • epilepsy
  • allergies
  • stroke
  • muscle spasm
  • inflammation

The effectiveness of skullcap for these conditions has not been proven.

More research is needed on the long-term use of skullcap extractextractto get, separate, or isolate a desired active ingredient for anxiety disorders. There is some evidence that suggests a single dose may have a relaxing effect that can last for about 2 hours.

Your health care provider may have recommended this product for other conditions. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.

What else should I be aware of?

The safety of skullcap has not been proven.

People have reported liver damage possibly caused by using products that contain skullcap, although the actual cause was not confirmed. Germander, a herb known to damage the liver, is often found in skullcap-containing products. It is possible that germander was in the products reported.

Side effects include drowsiness. Large amounts can lead to cognitivecognitiverelating to the ability to think, reason, remember, and discern impairment, giddiness, confusion, twitching, seizures, irregular heartbeat, and epileptic-like symptoms. Avoid operating heavy machinery, driving, or taking part in activities that require mental alertness while taking skullcap.

Avoid using skullcap if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Do not use skullcap with other medications or natural health products that have sedativesedativean agent that induces sleep, relaxes, and reduces tension effects. For example:

    • alcohol
    • barbituates
    • benzodiazepines (e.g., diazepam)
    • drugs that treat insomnia (e.g., zopiclone)
    • drugs that treat seizures (e.g., phenytoin)
    • kava
    • narcotic analgesics (e.g., codeine, oxycodone)
    • tricyclic antidepressants (e.g., amitryptiline)
    • valerian
    • yerba

Consult your health care provider if your symptoms continue or worsen.

If you are using skullcap for insomnia, talk to your physician or health care provider if sleeplessness persists for 3 or more weeks.

Before taking any new medications, including natural health products, speak to your physician, pharmacist, or other health care provider. Tell your health care provider about any natural health products you may be taking.

Source(s)

  1. Health Canada. Natural Health Products Ingredients Database. Monograph: Scullcap. [updated 2008 January 18; cited 2011 August 31]. Available from: http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=159
  2. Natural Database. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Scullcap (Skullcap). [Accessed online 19 March 2014].
  3. Natural Standard. Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph: Scullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora). http://www.naturalstandard.com/index-abstract.asp?create-abstract=scullcap.asp&title=Scullcap
  4. University of Maryland Medical Center. Skullcap. Available at: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/skullcap. Accessed 19 March 2014.

All material © 1996- MediResource Inc. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.