Common name: Scullcap
Botanical name: Scutellaria lateriflora
© Steven Foster
Scullcap is a member of the mint family. Scutellaria lateriflora grows in eastern North America and is most commonly used in United States and European herbal products containing scullcap. The above-ground (aerial) part of the plant is used in herbal preparations. It is not interchangeable with Chinese scullcap.
Scullcap has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information):
|Science Ratings||Health Concerns|
and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.
As is the case in modern herbal medicine, scullcap was used historically as a sedative for people with nervous tension and insomnia. It was, and continues to be, commonly combined with valerian for insomnia.1 It was also used by herbalists as a remedy for epilepsy and nerve pain.
Few studies have been completed on the constituents of American scullcap. One of its constituents, scutellarian, has been reportedly shown to have mild sedative and antispasmodic actions in animal studies.2 Human trials have not yet been conducted to confirm the use of scullcap for anxiety or insomnia.
Scullcap tea can be made by pouring 1 cup (250 ml) of boiling water over 1–2 teaspoons (5–10 grams) of the dried herb and steeping for 10 to 15 minutes. This tea may be drunk three times per day.3 Alternatively, tincture made from fresh scullcap, 1/3–3/4 teaspoon (2–4 ml) three times per day, may be taken.
Use of scullcap in the amounts listed above is generally safe. However, scullcap use during pregnancy and breast-feeding should be avoided due to limited information about its safety. Cases of liver damage have been reported in association with the intake of scullcap. However, on closer examination, it appears these scullcap products actually contained germander (Teucrium chamaedrys), an herb known to cause liver damage.4
One case report exists of a 28-year-old man who died of liver failure after taking unspecified amounts of scullcap, pau d’arco and zinc.5 It appears likely that this, too, may have been a case of adulteration of scullcap with germander.6
At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions with American scullcap.
1. Hoffman D. The Herbal Handbook: A User’s Guide to Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1988, 77.
2. Foster S. Herbs for Your Health. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, 1996, 86–7.
3. Hoffmann D. The New Holistic Herbal. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1990, 233.
4. McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A. American Herbal Product Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, 105.
5. Hullar TE, Sapers BL, Ridker PM, et al. Herbal toxicity and fatal hepatic failure [letter]. Am J Med 1999;106:267–8.
6. Brown D. A case of fatal liver failure associated with herbal products. Healthnotes Rev Complement Integrative Med 1999;6:176–7.
Copyright © 2007 Healthnotes, Inc. All rights reserved. www.healthnotes.com
Learn more about Healthnotes, the company.
Learn more about the authors of Healthnotes.
The information presented in Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires September 2008.