UN­COM­MON HERBS

It’s not a trendy su­per­star, but this work­horse of the herb world is a true Amer­i­can orig­i­nal

Better Nutrition - - CONTENTS - BY KARTA PURKH SINGH KHALSA, DN- C, RH Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, DN- C, RH, spe­cial­izes in Ayurveda and herbal­ism, and has more than 40 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in holis­tic medicine. Visit him on­line at kp­khalsa. com.

Soothe Anx­i­ety with Skull­cap This lesser- known botan­i­cal can of­fer calm­ing re­lief for fraz­zled nerves.

Skull­cap ( Scutel­laria la­t­er­i­flora) has a long his­tory of use in the herbal sys­tems of North Amer­ica, and more re­cently, in Europe. Its other com­mon names— hel­met flower, hood­wort, and Quaker bon­net— give you an idea what the flower looks like. As a mem­ber of the mint fam­ily, skull­cap is found in the rich woods and moist soils of North Amer­ica— from New­found­land to Bri­tish Columbia and south to Ge­or­gia and Cal­i­for­nia. But although it’s a mint, it has a bit­ter taste, and isn’t par­tic­u­larly aro­matic.

Skull­cap has a cool­ing, dry­ing en­ergy, and its aerial parts ( leaf, stem, and flower) have a va­ri­ety of uses in herbal medicine. The Chero­kee and Iro­quois na­tions used skull­cap tea to stim­u­late de­layed men­stru­a­tion. The Eclec­tics, the dom­i­nant herbal legacy in 1800s Amer­ica, ex­ten­sively wrote about, and co­pi­ously em­ployed, skull­cap for a wide range of is­sues. It was used by 19th­cen­tury herbal­ists to treat a con­di­tion that to­day we might call fi­bromyal­gia ( mus­cle, lig­a­ment, and ten­don pain). It was once known as “mad dog skull­cap” and was his­tor­i­cally used to treat ra­bies.

Skull­cap Stud­ies Are Im­pres­sive

To­day, skull­cap is best known as a safe, re­li­able, mild seda­tive that ex­cels in re­liev­ing anx­i­ety, neu­ral­gia, and in­som­nia. It treats high blood pres­sure, pre­men­strual syn­drome, ten­sion headache, and mus­cle spasm. Some con­tem­po­rary herbal­ists also use it to con­trol Brax­tonHicks con­trac­tions dur­ing late preg­nancy.

One re­cent study found that rats ex­hib­ited less anx­i­ety af­ter a dose of skull­cap. And a dou­ble- blind, cross­over hu­man study of 15 women and 4 men, aged 20– 70 years, found that, in healthy sub­jects, skull­cap “demon­strated note­wor­thy anx­i­olytic ef­fects.” An­other study in 2014 found that, in healthy peo­ple, skull­cap sig­nif­i­cantly en­hanced over­all mood with­out a re­duc­tion in en­ergy or cog­ni­tion.

Skull­cap also serves as a nerve tonic and tis­sue re­ju­ve­na­tor, and many re­cent sci­en­tific pa­pers have found it to be pro­tec­tive for nerve tis­sue. In ad­di­tion, it seems to have a pro­tec­tive ef­fect on the liver, as well as an­ti­cancer ac­tiv­ity. These qual­i­ties sug­gest that skull­cap could be ef­fec­tive for seizure and move­ment ( chorea) dis­or­ders, in­clud­ing a va­ri­ety of twitches, ticks, and tremors, for which it has been used for cen­turies.

A study pub­lished in Phy­tother­apy Re­search found that ro­dents prone to seizures that drank wa­ter con­tain­ing skull­cap ex­tract were seizure- free, while the con­trol group con­tin­ued to have seizures.

Skull­cap’s calm­ing ac­tion is thought to be mainly due to its an­ti­spas­modic con­stituent scutel­larin, a flavonoid gly­co­side. An­other con­stituent, the flavonoid baicalin, is known to bind to the GABAA re­cep­tor, a se­dat­ing neu­ral re­cep­tor sen­si­tive to many se­dat­ing drugs, in­clud­ing Val­ium.

How Much & What Form to Take

Skull­cap is avail­able in teas, cap­sules, tablets, and tinc­tures. For a tea, start with 10 grams of the dry herb. In­fuse the chopped dry leaves, strain, and drink. Use sev­eral small doses through­out the day for anx­i­ety, or the en­tire dose at bed­time for in­som­nia. In tinc­ture form, the equiv­a­lent dose is 8 tsp. Fresh herb tinc­tures are strongly pre­ferred.

His­tor­i­cally, skull­cap’s ef­fec­tive­ness has been en­hanced when com­bined with va­le­rian, chamomile, pas­sion­flower, and ver­vain, so it shows up in many com­bi­na­tion for­mu­las for sleep and anx­i­ety.

There’s not enough in­for­ma­tion on the phar­ma­co­log­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and tox­i­c­ity of skull­cap to com­ment on its use dur­ing preg­nancy and lac­ta­tion; how­ever, no spe­cific con­traindi­ca­tions have come to light. Mod­ern mid­wives some­times use skull­cap for in­som­nia, sci­at­ica, and stress dur­ing preg­nancy.

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