Scullcap is a member of the mint family. Scutellaria lateriflora grows in eastern North America and is most commonly used in United States and European herbal products containing scullcap. The above-ground (aerial) part of the plant is used in herbal preparations. It is not interchangeable with Chinese scullcap.
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3 StarsReliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 StarsContradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 StarFor an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:
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American scullcap is one of a group of “nerve tonic” (nervine) herbs used in traditional herbal medicine for people with anxiety, with few reports of toxicity.
American scullcap is commonly recommended by doctors as a mild sedative for those suffering from insomnia or nervous exhaustion.
Combining valerian root with other mildly sedating herbs is common both in Europe and the United States. Chamomile, hops, passion flower, lemon balm, American scullcap, and catnip are commonly recommended by doctors.3 These herbs can also be used alone as mild sedatives for those suffering from insomnia or nervous exhaustion. Chamomile is a particularly good choice for younger children whose insomnia may be related to gastrointestinal upset. Hops and lemon balm are approved by the German government for relieving sleep disturbances.4
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American skullcap has been historically used to relieve pain.
Other herbs that have been historically used to relieve pain (although there are no modern scientific studies yet available) include valerian, passion flower, American scullcap, Piscidia erythrina, and crampbark (Viburnum opulus).
Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)
As is the case in modern herbal medicine, scullcap was used historically as a sedative for people with nervous tension and insomnia. It was, and continues to be, commonly combined with valerian for insomnia.1 It was also used by herbalists as a remedy for epilepsy and nerve pain.
How It Works
How It Works
Few studies have been completed on the constituents of American scullcap. One of its constituents, scutellarian, has been reportedly shown to have mild sedative and antispasmodic actions in animal studies.5 Human trials have not yet been conducted to confirm the use of scullcap for anxiety or insomnia.
How to Use It
Scullcap tea can be made by pouring 1 cup (250 ml) of boiling water over 1–2 teaspoons (5–10 grams) of the dried herb and steeping for 10 to 15 minutes. This tea may be drunk three times per day.6 Alternatively, tincture made from fresh scullcap, 1/3–3/4 teaspoon (2–4 ml) three times per day, may be taken.
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
At the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.
Interactions with Medicines
As of the last update, we found no reported interactions between this supplement and medicines. It is possible that unknown interactions exist. If you take medication, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a new supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
Use of scullcap in recommended amounts is generally safe. However, scullcap use during pregnancy and breast-feeding should be avoided due to limited information about its safety. Cases of liver damage have been reported in association with the intake of scullcap. However, on closer examination, it appears these scullcap products actually contained germander (Teucrium chamaedrys), an herb known to cause liver damage.7
One case report exists of a 28-year-old man who died of liver failure after taking unspecified amounts of scullcap, pau d’arco and zinc.8 It appears likely that this, too, may have been a case of adulteration of scullcap with germander.9
1. Hoffman D. The Herbal Handbook: A User's Guide to Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1988, 77.
2. Murray MT. The Healing Power of Herbs. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1995.
3. Brown DJ. Herbal Prescriptions for Better Health. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1996, 279.
4. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 147, 160-1.
5. Foster S. Herbs for Your Health. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, 1996, 86-7.
6. Hoffmann D. The New Holistic Herbal. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1990, 233.
7. McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A. American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, 105.
8. Hullar TE, Sapers BL, Ridker PM, et al. Herbal toxicity and fatal hepatic failure [letter]. Am J Med 1999;106:267-8.
9. Brown D. A case of fatal liver failure associated with herbal products. Healthnotes Rev Complement Integrative Med 1999;6:176-7.
The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2015.
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