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Health Benefits of Skullcap Tea

By Ryan Biddulph

Skullcap, also known as Scutellaria lateriflora, comes in two forms: American and Chinese. Both contain very different components and are used for different conditions--one cannot be substituted for the other. If interested in using skullcap as a tea, the University of Maryland Medical Center, or UMMC, recommends using one cup of boiling water and one teaspoon of dried American skullcap or steeping three to nine ounces of the dried root of Chinese skullcap in one cup of boiling water. Do not use either form if pregnant or nursing. Consult with a knowledgeable healthcare practitioner before self-treating with these herbs.

Anxiety and Relaxation

The UMMC explains that American skullcap has a long history of use in North America for treating anxiety and promoting relaxation, but more research is needed to substantiate these claims. Because of its possible sedative effects, you should not use scullcap in conjunction with other medications that produce these same effects such as antidepressants, barbiturates and anticonvulsants. Taking this herb with other antianxiety herbs such as valerian can also produce compound effects. While Chinese skullcap does not have a history of use for this purpose, it can also interact with these types of herbs and medications.


Chinese skullcap has a long history of use in China for treating various types of cancer. The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center or MSKCC, notes that in vitro and animal studies have shown that this herb induces apoptosis, a process where a cancer cell destroys itself. Do not attempt to self-treat cancer with this herb; consult with a practitioner knowledgeable in alternative medicine, particularly for cancer treatments. This is especially important if you take any conventional cancer drugs to avoid interactions.


Chinese scutellaria has also been prized for its anti-inflammatory properties making it useful for conditions triggered by excessive inflammation in the body like arthritis and inflammatory bowel diseases. The MSKCC notes studies have shown that its anti-inflammatory properties might positively influence conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Other Possible Uses of Chinese Skullcap

Chinese skullcap has also been employed for a number of other conditions including infections, allergies, headaches, hardening of the arteries, epilepsy, insomnia and hepatitis. The UMMC notes it possesses antiviral and antifungal properties. Animal studies have also shown it might help lower blood pressure.

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