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Skullcap: A Herb for Overthinkers

A mind of racing thoughts can be slowed down with the help of skullcap. Skullcap is a relaxant herb, especially apt to soothing nervous exhaustion that manifests as the physical and mental agitation so characteristic of contemporary lifestyles: sleeplessness and upper body tension.

LATIN NAMEScutellaria lateriflora

AFFINITY WHEN SMOKED: nervous system

KEY ACTIONS: nervine, sedative, antispasmodic, cerebral vasodilator, relaxing diaphoretic, mild carminative, hypotensive

NOTABLE CONSTITUENTS: alkanes, humulene, lignin, catalpol, flavones (apigenin, baicalin, scutelaterins, scutellar[e]in), tannins

BOTANY & HARVESTING: Skullcap is a perennial growing up to 2 ft (60cm) with pairs of pink to blue flowers. The aerial parts (flowers, leaves, and stem) are harvested in summer when the plant is three to four years old. Native to North America, skullcap still grows wild in many parts of the United States and Canada, especially in damp conditions like riverbanks. 

APPLICATIONS: Native American women traditionally worked with skullcap to relieve breast pain and premenstrual tension. Today, the plant is mainly worked with as a nerve tonic for its restorative properties: soothing nervous tension while renewing and nourishing the nervous system, relieving anxiety, stress, and feelings of agitation. Skullcap is particularly effective at quieting nighttime restlessness of racing, circular thoughts that can lead to insomnia. These type of thoughts can also manifest physically as stress-induced muscle tension: headaches, tight jaw muscles, jaw clenching, teeth-grinding, TMJ, hunched shoulders, and neck strain. Skullcap has a particular affinity for relaxing these tensions, as well as the pain and anxiety that can result from spending long hours driving, at a computer, or on a phone.

PREPARATIONS: Skullcap is especially effective when combined with passionflower (Passiflora incarnata). This combo is often referred to by herbalists as "S & P" because they so naturally go together like salt and pepper. These plants have an almost immediate influence when smoked, making them great allies to have on hand for stressful day smoke breaks and nightcap sessions. "Pulse dosing" is recommended for sleep formulas: take a puff an hour before bed, a puff twenty minutes later, another puff twenty minutes later, and another puff before getting into bed.

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References:

Hoffmann, D. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. 2003.

Chevallier, A. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. 1996. 

CommonWealth Center for Holistic Herbalism - Materia Medica course

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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