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Health Benefits of Skullcap

What Should I Know About It?

By

Updated July 13, 2013

What Is Skullcap?

Skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) is an herb commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine. Other names for skullcap (alternatively spelled as "scullcap") include huang qin and baikal skullcap.

Health Benefits of Skullcap:

To date, few clinical trials have explored the health effects of skullcap. However, preliminary research suggests the herb may be useful in treatment of these health conditions:

1) Memory Impairment

In a 2008 study on mice, scientists discovered that oroxylin A (an antioxidant found in the roots of skullcap) may help protect against memory impairment induced by amyloid beta (a substance that forms the brain plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease).

2) Prostate Cancer

Compounds found in skullcap may help slow the growth of prostate cancer tumors, suggests a 2005 study on mice. Skullcap was a constituent of the herbal formula PC-SPES, a dietary supplement that was taken off the market because some batches were found to contain prescription medications. Although a number of laboratory and animal studies showed that PC-SPES may thwart the growth of prostate cancer cells, it's not known if those anticancer effects were due to the action of the herbs or the prescription medications.

3) Parkinson's Disease

Published in 2008, a study on mice found that baicalein (another skullcap-derived antioxidant) may help protect nerve cells from damage associated with Parkinson's disease (a chronic condition that causes tremor, stiffness of the limbs and trunk, impaired balance and coordination, and slowing of movement).

Common Uses of Skullcap

In herbal medicine, skullcap is typically used to treat the following:

  • inflammation
  • insomnia
  • hepatitis
  • epilepsy
  • atherosclerosis
  • cancer
  • Is Skullcap Safe?

    Although skullcap is generally considered safe, a report published in 2001 warns that the herb may have a causal association with pneumonitis (inflammation of the lung tissue). Given the potential adverse effects of skullcap use, it's important to consult a doctor before taking this herb.

    Where to Find Skullcap:

    Skullcap is sold in many health food stores, often in supplement formulas containing other Chinese herbs.

    Sources:

    Bonham M, Posakony J, Coleman I, Montgomery B, Simon J, Nelson PS. "Characterization of chemical constituents in Scutellaria baicalensis with antiandrogenic and growth-inhibitory activities toward prostate carcinoma." Clin Cancer Res. 2005 15;11(10):3905-14.

    Cheng Y, He G, Mu X, Zhang T, Li X, Hu J, Xu B, Du G. "Neuroprotective effect of baicalein against MPTP neurotoxicity: behavioral, biochemical and immunohistochemical profile." Neurosci Lett. 2008 15;441(1):16-20.

    Kim DH, Kim S, Jeon SJ, Son KH, Lee S, Yoon BH, Cheong JH, Ko KH, Ryu JH. "The effects of acute and repeated oroxylin A treatments on Abeta(25-35)-induced memory impairment in mice." Neuropharmacology. 2008 55(5):639-47.

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