Chinese Skullcap or Skute belongs to the mint family and is considered one of the “Three yellows,” along with coptis and phellodendron. Energetically it is considered cold, slightly astringent and bitter, and it’s known for affecting the Heart, Small intestine, Liver, Gallbladder and Lungs. Various parts of the herb, including roots and leaves, possess medicinal benefits ranging from treating diarrhea to chronic pain.
With sedative properties, it can be used for relieving convulsions, anxiety, and relieving insomnia. It also possesses antioxidant activity that protects cells against oxidative stress, supports longevity, and can be a potential neuroprotective and anticonvulsant agent. Additionally, it possesses antibacterial and antifungal properties, assisting the immune system in restricting E. Coli, S, Anatum, S. Aureus, B. Cereus, and L. Monocytogenes and particular fungus including A. Fumigatus, C. Albicans, R. Rubra, and G. Candidum. Also, it enhances the efficacy of antibiotics such as Ciprofloxacin, penicillin G, etc. Staphylococcus aureus.
Studies have also reported the antiviral effect of Skullcap and showed that it restricts the growth of HIV-1 via acting as a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor. Also, it prevents the entry of HIV-1 into the host cell. Moreover, animal studies showed that it acts as an antifibrosis agent and can slow down the progression of hepatic fibrosis.
It also shows anticancer activity via cytotoxic action against cancerous cells by arresting the abnormal cell cycle, inducing apoptosis, and helping to prevent cancer metastasis.
Skullcap in formulation with Xiao Chai Hu Tang or Sho-Saiko-to (SST) can relieve fever and reduce inflammation and hepatic diseases. Moreover, it lessens the symptoms associated with liver yangs rising, such as irritability, hypertension, red eyes, headache, and bitter taste. As such it is classified as cooling.
Studies have reported that it clears damp heat in the gastrointestinal tract that helps prevent painful urination, improve diarrhea, and treat damp-heat jaundice. Also, the presence of Baicalin, an active constituent in roots of Scutellaria baicalensis, is widely used against infectious agents to prevent a rise in blood pressure, relieve allergies and inhibit the production of proinflammatory mediators.
It’s important to not confuse Skullcap or Scutellaria baicalensis with similarly-named “North American Skullcap” (Scutellaria lateriflora), which can cause rare cases of Gastrointestinal upset in cold, dry individuals. These are two different herbs and it lacks some of the properties of Chinese Skullcap.
It is advised not to take Skullcap during severe medical conditions, including cardiovascular dysfunction. Also, do not consume Skullcap if you have a known hypersensitivity or allergy. Also, don’t exceed the recommended dose as it may result in hepatic damage.
It should not be taken in combination with herbs like Rhizoma et Radix Veratri (li lu) and Cortex Moutan Radicis (mu dan pi). Also, do not use it concomitantly with medications used for blood thinning, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, sedative agents, lithium, or any other drugs that interfere with blood. Also, avoid its use in case of pregnancy or during breastfeeding. Consult a certified herbalist or physician before consuming Skullcap.
Gao, Jiayu et al. “The ethanol extract of Scutellaria baicalensis and the active compounds induce cell cycle arrest and apoptosis including upregulation of p53 and Bax in human lung cancer cells.” Toxicology and applied pharmacology vol. 254,3 (2011): 221-8. doi:10.1016/j.taap.2011.03.016
Gao, Z et al. “Free radical scavenging and antioxidant activities of flavonoids extracted from the radix of Scutellaria baicalensis Georgi.” Biochimica et biophysica acta vol. 1472,3 (1999): 643-50. doi:10.1016/s0304-4165(99)00152-x
Ohta, Y et al. “Comparative study of oral and parenteral administration of sho-saiko-to (xiao-chaihu-tang) extract on D-galactosamine-induced liver injury in rats.” The American journal of Chinese medicine vol. 25,3-4 (1997): 333-42. doi:10.1142/S0192415X97000378
Yanan Hu, Jing Sun, Yun Wang, Yanjiang Qiao, Property combination patterns of traditional Chinese medicines, Journal of Traditional Chinese Medical Sciences, Volume 3, Issue 2, 2016, Pages 110-115, ISSN 2095-7548, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtcms.2016.05.001.