The Daily Dose: Skullcap

Scientific Name: (Scultellaria lateriflora, Mint Family)

Common Name:  Side-flowering Skullcap, Mad Dogwood, Blue Pimpernell, Hoodwort

Medicinal Part:  The Whole Plant

Description: Skullcap has a small, fibrous, yellow perennial root, with an erect and very branching stem, from one to three feet in height.  The leaves are on petioles ( the stalk that joins a leaf to a stem) of an inch long, opposite, thin subcordate (nearly heart-shaped) on the stem, ovate on branches, acuminate (tapering to a point), acute and coarsely serrate.  The flowers are small and of a pale blue color.  It is an indigenous herb, growing in damp places, meadows, ditches,  and by the side of ponds from Connecticut south to Florida and Texas, flowering in July and August.  The whole plant is medicinal and should be gathered while in flower, dried in the shade, and kept in well closed tin vessels.  Chemically it contains an essential oil, a yellowish-green fixed oil, chlorophyll, a volatile matter, albumen, an astringent principle, lignin, chloride of soda, salts of iron, silica, etc.

Properties and Uses: This is another of the botanicals once in rather common use which have been crowded from the medicinal picture in modern times.  Formerly seems to have been employed by some as a nervine or tonic.

Dose and Preparation: Fresh or dried preparation.  Herb deteriorates quite rapidly with age and should be used within six months of being collected.  This is an herb where fraudulent substitutions are prominent – verify herb origin and as possessing a typical bitter-sweet taste.  Place one teaspoonful of the granulated leaves into a cup of boiling water.  Drink one or two cupfuls during the day or use from half to one teaspoonful of the fluid extract three times a day.  Research supports long infusions as being more medicinally active.  Tincture 2-4 ml at 1:3 45%.  Avoid in pregnancy due to steroid precursors.

The Herbalist, Peter Holmes