American skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) is one of my favorite herbs for stress.
Although it’s often overshadowed by stronger herbs like passionflower and hops, I believe American skullcap is just as good for chronic stress and burnout.
Skullcap is a stress neutralizer that can help calm and center people that deal with high stress on a daily basis. That’s most of us today!
American skullcap is versatile, growing well in a garden or harsher environment. The name skullcap comes from how its flowers look similar to helmets worn by European soldiers.
Skullcap is also called “mad dog weed” because it was once used to treat rabies caused by dog bites. While discredited for treating rabies, we now know much more about skullcap’s true benefits for health.
Skullcap flowers are a brilliant, blue-purple, providing a visual clue on its health properties. Like other herbs in the mint family, skullcap is a cooling herb.
While it’s a helpful stress reliever for most anyone, skullcap especially soothes and calms “fire” types.
Called the Pitta dosha in Ayurveda, it refers to those who become irritable, angry, or struggle to sleep or relax because of stress (Think of redheads, people with flushed complexions or fiery tempers that need to “cool down.”).
Skullcap both nourishes and mildly sedates the nervous system. Its benefits have been demonstrated in scientific studies.
A 2003 double blind study shows skullcap offers significant anti-anxiety benefits for healthy individuals.
The leaves are used therapeutically and contain ample amounts of calcium and the constituents, scutellarin and baicalin, which support the body’s natural production of GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid- a nervous system relaxant).
Like other herbs, skullcap has its own unique benefits. Skullcap was popular with Native Americans for nervous disorders, delayed menstruation, anxiety, headaches, and tremors.
IIt’s also a mild bitter that herbalists occasionally use to cleanse the liver and digestive tract.
Furthermore, skullcap is one of the most effective herbs available to ease pain and relax tense muscles or spasms anywhere in the body.
Skullcap is an excellent workaholic’s herb. As an anti-spasmodic, it soothes muscle tension caused by long days sitting at a desk. As a nervine, it supports nervous system health and can even decrease nerve pain.
Skullcap refreshes the mind and body from being both overstimulated and exhausted – an amazing benefit for burnout indeed!
Skullcap is a key herb to soothe the symptoms of drug and alcohol withdrawal.
Skullcap eases physical symptoms of withdrawal like muscle aches, shakiness, twitches, digestive distress, agitation, and poor quality sleep (all common signs of a hyper nervous system and muscle function in withdrawal).
Cooling skullcap calms the overactive stress response and relaxes the mind and body. As a mild sedative, it’s great for people quitting alcohol or benzodiazepines drugs (tranquilizers).
Once the crisis stage is over, skullcap can even decrease cravings for addictive substances.
It’s recently been shown to be a potent antioxidant and to support proper blood flow to the brain. It’s now gaining popularity to support healthy brain activity in ADHD, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s because of these properties.
Skullcap has a long history of safety and effectiveness, and can be taken regularly as needed to combat stress.
As an herbalist, I often combine skullcap with Jamaican dogwood or cramp bark to relieve back and neck spasms related to stress or overwork.
It’s also one of my favorite choices for insomnia. The magical skullcap can quiet racing thoughts and even reduce nightmares that make it hard to sleep.
* Important: Always use a reputable source for your herbs. Inferior skullcap brands have been found to be adulterated with germander which can be toxic.