Scutellaria laterifolia-Skullcap

Family: Lamiaceae or Labiatae

Other names: Skullcap, Scullcap, Hoodwort, Quaker Bonnet, Helmet Flower, European Skullcap, Greater Skullcap, American Skullcap, Blue Skullcap, Blue Pimpernel, Hoodwart, Hooded Willow Herb, Side-Flowering Skullcap, Mad Dogweed, Mad Weed, Madweed, Helmet Flower, Hoodwort, Virginian Skullcap, Cassida lateriflora (L.) Moench

Habitat: N. America – Newfoundland to British Columbia, south to Florida and Ontario. Alluvial thickets, meadows and swampy woods.

hazardsmallTincture overdose causes giddiness, stupor, confusion and seizures. Possible liver toxicity. may interfere with the immune response. Avoid during pregnancy.

A commonly used herbal medicine, Virginian skullcap is a very effective nervine that has traditionally been used in the treatment of a wide range of nervous conditions. Its tonic and restorative properties help to support and nourish the nervous system, calming and relieving stress and anxiety. Very little research has been carried out on this species, despite its long use in American and British herbal medicine. Research is sorely needed, and may reveal more uses for this valuable herb. The leaves are antispasmodic, slightly astringent, diuretic, nervine, sedative and strongly tonic. They are harvested in early summer and dried for later use. It is used in the treatment of various problems of the nervous system including epilepsy, insomnia, anxiety, delirium tremens, withdrawal from barbiturates and tranquillisers, and neuralgia. An infusion of the plant has been used to promote suppressed menstruation, relieve breast pain and encourage expulsion of the placenta, it should not be given to pregnant women since it can induce a miscarriage. This plant should be used with some caution since in excess it causes giddiness, stupor, confusion and twitching. 

By Rolf Engstrand (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Description of Skullcap:

Scutellaria lateriflora; Skullcap is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 0.4 m (1ft 4in). 
It is hardy to zone 7 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jun to August, and the seeds ripen from Jul to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies.

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. Needs full sun. It prefers moist soil.

Cultivation of Skullcap:

Succeeds in a sunny position in any ordinary garden soil that does not dry out during the growing season. Plants are not so long-lived when grown in rich soils. Many of the plants grown under this name in gardens are in fact S. altissima. It is important to ensure you have the correct plant if using it medicinally.

Propagation of Skullcap:

Seed – sow in situ outdoors in late spring. If there is only a small quantity of seed it is better to sow it in a pot in a cold frame in early spring. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the spring. Division in spring just before new growth begins. Very easy, larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer. Basal cuttings in early summer in a frame. Very easy. Harvest the shoots with plenty of underground stem when they are about 8 – 10cm above the ground. Pot them up into individual pots and keep them in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the summer.

Culinary uses of Skullcap:

 None known but if you know any information about recipes for this plant please let us know.

Scutellaria-lateriflora,SkullcapMedicinal uses of Skullcap:

Actions: Nervine tonic, anti-spasmodic, hypotensive.

Part Used: Aerial parts.

Indications: Skullcap is perhaps the most widely relevant nervine available to us in the materia medica. It relaxes states of nervous tension whilst at the same time renewing and revivifying the central nervous system. It has a specific use in the treatment of seizure and hysterical states as well as epilepsy. It may be used in all exhausted or depressed conditions. It can be used with complete safety in the easing of pre-menstrual tension.

Priest & Priest tell us that it is a ” diffusive, stimulating & relaxing nervine – cerebral vasodilator and tropho restorative. Indicated for nervous irritation of the cerebrospinal nervous system” They give the following specific indications: functional nervous exhaustion, post febrile nervous weakness. Choreahysteriaagitation and epileptiform convulsionsinsomnianightmaresrestless sleep.

Ellingwood considered it specific for ” two distinct lines of specific phenomena. Firstly irritability of the nervous system with restlessness and nervous excitability; inability to sleep without pain; general irritability with insomnia from local causes. The second is where there is nervous disorder, characterized by irregular muscular action, twitching, tremors and restlessness, with or without incoordination. Its soothing influence continues for a protracted period, after the agent is discontinued.” In addition here commends it for the following patholgies: delirium tremensnervous excitability.

Preparations & Dosage:

Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day or when needed.

Tincture: take 2-4 ml of the tincture three times a day.

Other uses of Skullcap:

None known but if you use this plant for nay purpose please let us know.

my skullcap fairyEsoteric uses of Skullcap:

Worn by women to keep their husbands faithful. Used in sleep pillows for relaxation & peace. Used to bind oaths and consecrate vows & commitments (handfasting, initiations, etc.). Used in bath magick to calm the aura of tensions and stress. Burned for relief of disharmony and disruptive situations. Place a pinch in a lover’s shoes to keep then from being affected by charms of others.

The Chemistry:


  • Scutellarin, a flavonoid glycoside and many other flavones.
  • Iridoids; catalpol is present
  • Volatile oil and waxes, mainly C3l, C33 and C35 hydrocarbons
  • Tannins