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Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) has been used for over two hundred years as a mild relaxant that affects the nervous and musculoskeletal systems. It has long been hailed as an effective therapy for anxiety, nervous tension, hysteria, and convulsions and is currently also used for treating symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS), stress-related headaches, and insomnia. Once considered an herbal remedy for rabies, thus earning the name "mad dog weed," skullcap is no longer recognized as a treatment for this disease.
Scutellaria lateriflora is the North American species of skullcap, now also widely cultivated in Europe, that is used in herbal preparations. The plant derives its name from the caplike appearance of the calyx, the outer whorl of small blue flowers. Skullcap is a slender, heavily branched plant that grows to a height of two to four feet and blooms each July.
The herb from a three- to four-year-old skullcap plant harvested in June is used for medicinal purposes.
Skullcap is used to treat the following conditions and symptoms.
Skullcap is available as a powder or liquid extract.
How to Take It
The following are recommended doses for skullcap.
There is mixed opinion as to the safety of skullcap because it has in the past been adulterated with Teucrium species, a group of plants known to cause liver problems. You should consult your health care provider before using it, and make sure you obtain it from a reliable source. Overdosage of skullcap tincture produces symptoms of giddiness, stupor, mental confusion, seizure, twitching, irregular heartbeat, and epileptic-related symptoms. Skullcap should not be used during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Other experts caution against using skullcap under any circumstances because of the possibility of adulteration.
There are no known reports of harmful drug interactions with this herb. However, caution is advised when taking skullcap with medications that have sedative effects because skullcap may increase the effects of these substances. Examples of medications with sedative properties include most antihistamines and therapies for anxiety and insomnia.
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