Skullcap Nerve Tonic

American Skullcap

American Skullcap, Scutellaria lateriflora

In the words of herbalist David Hoffman, “Skullcap is perhaps the most widely relevant nervine available to us in the materia medica.” This beautiful member of the mint family is native to North America and has a long history of use in this area. Herbalists today favor it as a powerful nervine, sedative, painkiller, and antispasmodic. As temperatures start to rise here in Maryland, cooling, soothing Skullcap is a good herb to know.

Skullcap is a tonic for the nerves. It renews and heals the nervous system while alleviating anxiety and relaxing nervous tension. It has even shown some ability to rebuild damaged myelin sheath in MS patients. Its energetics are cooling and bitter, making it a preferred nervine for high-pitta folks, especially when excessive heat manifests in headaches, over-excitability, jealousy, and anger.

Skullcap has a long history of use as an antispasmodic for painful muscle spasms, tension, epilepsy, and seizures. It calms hysteria and works especially well for obsessive-compulsive anxieties and chronic insomnia. It quiets the heart and clarifies the mind, helping to boost concentration and memory, and it is often found in formulas for ADHD. It is also wonderful for dispersing tension-related headaches and pacifying difficult pre-menstrual emotions.

One of skullcap’s most valuable applications is in addiction therapy. It provides a calming influence during withdrawal from alcohol, cigarettes, and certain prescription drugs, most notably opioids and sleeping pills. It helps to soothe, balance, and redirect the energetic patterns that seek to express themselves through addictive behaviors.

Skullcap’s cooling energetics can aggravate vata if taken in large doses. However, it combines beautifully with a wide range of other herbs, many of which can offset any potential for vata-aggravation. Valerian and ashwagandha are both excellent for this purpose. Ayurvedic practitioners recommend a combination of skullcap and ashwagandha for toning and building healthy nerves.

Here are two skullcap tea recipes to enjoy this summer:

Summer Nervine Tea

1 tablespoon Skullcap
1 teaspoon Rose
1 teaspoon Tulsi
1 teaspoon Spearmint

Combine herbs in a pot or a teapot. Pour 2 cups boiling water over the herbs and cover, steeping for 10 minutes. Strain and enjoy. Drinking this tea while cool or room temperature is especially refreshing for the summertime. It can also be cold-brewed.

^ This blend is also great when added to green tea.

Anxiety-Reducing Sleep Tea

1 tablespoon Lemon Balm
1 teaspoon Skullcap
1 teaspoon Passionflower
1/2 teaspoon Valerian root

An hour or so before bed, combine herbs in a pot or a teapot. Pour 2 cups boiling water over the herbs and cover, steeping for 10-15 minutes. Strain, and sweeten with raw honey. Drink daily for best results.

Over 100 species of skullcap grow from the tip of South America to the Arctic Circle. Be on the lookout for this beauty in moist, acidic soil near you!

Dried Skullcap


Skullcap tincture



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