Skullcap Benefits

Latin Name

Scutellaria lateriflora

Also Known As

Scullcap, Hoodwort, Quaker Bonnet, Helmet Flower, Blue Skullcap, Blue Pimpernel, Hooded Willow Herb, Mad Dog Weed and Mad Weed


North America

Parts Used

Aerial parts

Traditional Use and Health Benefits

Native to North America, Skullcap still grows in the wild in much of the US and Canada. It was used by Native Americans to treat rabies amongst other things – hence its nickname “mad dog”. The Cherokee used skullcap to stimulate menstruation, relieve breast pain, and to encourage the expulsion of the placenta after childbirth. It was also used in purification ceremonies when menstrual taboos were broken.

Skullcap Benefits


Before the advent of pharmaceutical tranquilisers, Skullcap was the go to herb for the relief of anxiety and nervous tension. As one excerpt from an old herbal encyclopaedia puts it, “Skullcap is one of the finest nervines and antispasmodics given to humanity. It should be on every physician’s shelf”.

Studies have since shown it exhibits “anxiolytic activity” in animals and humans – meaning it inhibits anxiety. Herbalist Richard Whelan has noticed in his own clinical use of Skullcap that in strong doses (especially with the tea), it has quite a strikingly calming effect on agitated individuals.

A 2003 double blind study shows Skullcap offers significant anti-anxiety benefits for healthy individuals.


One of the great benefits of Skullcap is for insomnia and sleep disorders. While many remedies, both traditional and herbal, can lull you to sleep like skullcap, most leave you groggy in the morning. Skullcap promotes sound sleep without the unwanted side effects, leaving you feeling refreshed and revitalised in the morning.


Skullcap is a key herb to soothe the symptoms of drug and alcohol withdrawal. It eases the 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).

With the ability to calm overactive stress responses and relax the mind and body, Skullcap acts as a mild sedative, making it an extremely useful herb for people quitting alcohol or benzodiazepine drugs (tranquilizers). Once the crisis stage is over, Skullcap can even decrease cravings for addictive substances.


An excellent women’s herb, Skullcap contains large amounts of flavonoids, including scutellarin and baicalin, which are believed to be the active components accounting for its sedative and antispasmodic activity. This antispasmodic activity make it an extremely effective herb for menstrual cramps and it calming action aids PMT symptoms. It has also been used traditionally for centuries to stimulate menstrual bleeding, however more research is needed to verify this claim. 

Typical Use

Skullcap Herbal Tincture-
Extraction ratio1:3
alcohol vol. 45%
2-4ml up to 3 times per day.
Or as recommended by a herbal practitioner.

Skullcap cut herb-
1-2 teaspoon cut herb per 1 cup of boiling water up tp 3 times a day.
Or as recommended by a herbal practitioner.

Folklore and History

Skullcap was well known among the Cherokee and other Native American tribes, as a strong emmenagogue and female medicinal herb. It was used in some tribes as a ceremonial plant to introduce young girls into womanhood. The Iroquois used an infusion of the root to keep the throat clear, whilst other Native American tribes used closely related species as bitter tonics for the kidneys. The herb was used to induce visions and as a ceremonial plant that was smoked as tobacco by some Native Americans.

Followers of a 19th century Anglo-American school of herbal medicine were called Physiomedicalists and were the first to discover Skullcap's use as a nerve tonic. They recognized that it had a "deeper" action on the nervous system than any other herb and used it for hysteria, epilepsy convulsions, and such serious mental illnesses as schizophrenia, earning it the nickname "mad weed". 



Other Skullcap phytochemicals include flavones, flavonoids, chrysin, iridoids, neo-clerodanes, scutapins, and isoscutellarein.


Do not take along side other tranquilisers or sedatives.