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Scutellaria lateriflora


Scutellaria lateriflora


No documentation

Vernacular Name

Skullcap, American Skull Cap, Blue pimpernel, Blue skull cap, Helmet flower, Hood-wort, Mad-dog weed, Quaker Side flower, Sideflower, Skull Cap Helmet Flower, Virginian Skullcap.


The flowers of Scutellaria lateriflora grow to 2cm in length and are divided into two lips, the lower having a shape resembling a helmet.

Origin / Habitat

S. lateriflora is a hardy perennial herb found native to almost all moist climates of North America, including some of the northernmost territories of the continent. Flourishing best in moist areas such as fens, shorelines and moist ditches, S. lateriflora is a relatively small plant, growing to a height of a little over half a meter, though rarely some can grow up to one meter in height. The plant is densely covered in simple and glandular hairs and the thin stems are heavily branched and grow purple in heavy sun. The light green leaves range between ovate and lanceolate, and have rounded teeth on the edges. The flowers rarely grow from the main stem, instead growing of the side stems all the way up the height of the plant. Blooming between the months of July and September, the small blue or pink flowers droop of the side of the stems from which they grow, hence the common name “Sideflower”.

Chemical Constituents

Dihydropyranocoumarins, Flavonoids (baicalin, baicalein and wogonin), Lignin, Magnesium, N-Hentriacontane, N-Nonacosane, N-Pentatriacontane, N-Tritriacontane, Potassium, Scutellarin, dihydrochrysin, dihydrooroxylin A, lupenol, scutellaric acid, pomolic acid, ursolic acid, beta-sitosterol, daucosterol, and palmitic acid Tannins.(2),(3),(4),(5),(6)

Plant Part Used

Roots (7)

Traditional Use

Traditionally, an infusion of the roots of S. lateriflora has been given by Native American tribal healers to women who were experiencing difficulties during menstruation.(7) Not only was the infusion used to reduce discomfort associated with menstruation, but to stimulate menstruation if the menstrual cycle is irregular.(8) Additionally, Native American practitioners believed that an infusion of the roots of S. lateriflora may assist in the process of childbirth, having used it to expel the afterbirth.(8) Some Native American tribes used S. lateriflora in order to ease nervous disorders and certain spasmic disorders.(7) The Iroquois used an infusion of the root to protect against smallpox and ease throat disorders.(8) There is little Native American information available that indicates that S. lateriflora was used as a nerve tonic.


The traditional dosages varied by preparation, indication and by tribe and region where the herb was grown.

Liquid Extract- 850-1250mL for 3 times a day.(1)



S. lateriflora is thought to be a hepatotoxic agent. This was originally due to several case reports of mixtures containing S. lateriflora that resulted in its being removed from the market in some countries.(2)  Since the herb was used in a formulation, it remains unknown as to whether the resulting hepatotoxicity was due to S. lateriflora or not. Subsequent laboratory analysis has investigated these properties and identified the potential adulterant responsible for the noted activity.(9)


Numerous studies have examined S. lateriflora and its constituents for antioxidant properties. In a laboratory study, 47 botanicals were evaluated for their in vitro toxic or antioxidant effects in an effort to determine if these botanicals had therapeutic value in instances of renal fibrosis involving oxidative stress. Several of the herbs examined, including S. lateriflora, demonstrated strong antioxidant activity in epithelial cells.(10) These findings support earlier studies supporting the antioxidant properties of this herb.(11)

S. lateriflora is regularly marketed for its anxiolytic activity and there are numerous anecdotal reports of its use as a calming agent in anxiety. In an animal model, extracts of S. lateriflora were evaluated for their anxiolytic properties and it was found that two constituents of S. lateriflora, baicalin and baicalein, bind to the benzodiazepine site of the GABAA receptor.(12)  In a small human study, S. lateriflora was determined to have “noteworthy” anxiolytic activity.(13)

Additional research on properties of S. lateriflora includes investigations into its anti-seizure activity in animal models(14),(15) and preliminary investigations into its anti-tumor potential.(16)


No documentation

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

In Japanese Kampo medicine, S. lateriflora is considered a drug and has been determined to have side effects and interactions with other Kampo medicines which result in interstitial pneumonia and hepatoxicity.(17)

Interaction with Drugs


Based on pharmacology, this herb should not be used in combination with any psychotropic medications.

Not to be used in combination with any prescription drug therapy as many of the pharmacological activities of this herb remain a mystery.

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

Not to be used by those with liver or kidney disease.


Based on anecdotal reports and traditional use, this herb should not to be used by pregnant or nursing women unless under full supervision of a professional.

Age limitation

Not to be used with children.

Adverse reaction

No documentation

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1) Western Herbs


  1. Duke JA.  The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook. New York: St. Martin’s Paperbacks; 1998.
  2. Bruneton J. Pharmacognosy: Phytochemistry, Medicinal Plants. 2nd ed. Lavoisier Publishing; 1992: 652.
  3. Pedersen, M. Nutritional Herbology. Bountiful, Utah: Pederson Publishing; 1987.
  4. List, P.H. and Horhammer, L. Hager's Handbuch der Pharmazeutischen Praxis, Vols. 2-6. Berlin: Springer-Verlag; 1969-1979.
  5. Gao J, Sanchez-Medina A, Pendry BA, Hughes MJ, Webb GP, Corcoran O. Validation of a HPLC method for flavonoid biomarkers in skullcap (Scutellaria) and its use to illustrate wide variability in the quality of commercial tinctures. J Pharm Pharm Sci. 2008;11(1):77-87.
  6. Li J, Ding Y, Li XC, Ferreira D, Khan S, Smillie T, Khan IA. Scuteflorins A and B, dihydropyranocoumarins from Scutellaria lateriflora. J Nat Prod. Jun2009;72(6):983-987.
  7. Griffith J. Mother Nature’s Herbal. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications; 2008.
  8. Moerman D. Native American Ethnobotany. Portland, OR. Timber Press; 2000.
  9. Lin LZ, Harnly JM, Upton R. Comparison of the phenolic component profiles of skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) and germander (Teucrium canadense and T. chamaedrys), a potentially hepatotoxic adulterant. Phytochem Anal. Jul. 2009;20(4):298-306.
  10. Wojcikowski K, Wohlmuth H, Johnson DW, Rolfe M, Gobe G. An in vitro investigation of herbs traditionally used for kidney and urinary system disorders: potential therapeutic and toxic effects. Nephrology (Carlton). Feb. 2009;14(1):70-79.
  11. Wojcikowski K, Stevenson L, Leach D, Wohlmuth H, Gobe G. Antioxidant capacity of 55 medicinal herbs traditionally used to treat the urinary system: a comparison using a sequential three-solvent extraction process. J Altern Complement Med. Jan-Feb. 2007;13(1):103-109.
  12. Awad R, Arnason JT, Trudeau V, Bergeron C, Budzinski JW, Foster BC, Merali Z. Phytochemical and biological analysis of skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora L.): a medicinal plant with anxiolytic properties. Phytomedicine. Nov. 2003;10(8):640-649.
  13. Wolfson P, Hoffmann DL. An investigation into the efficacy of Scutellaria lateriflora in healthy volunteers. Altern Ther Health Med. Mar-Apr. 2003;9(2):74-78.
  14. Zhang Z, Lian XY, Li S, Stringer JL. Characterization of chemical ingredients and anticonvulsant activity of American skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora). Phytomedicine. May. 2009;16(5):485-493.
  15. Peredery O, Persinger MA.Herbal treatment following post-seizure induction in rat by lithium pilocarpine: Scutellaria lateriflora (Skullcap), Gelsemium sempervirens (Gelsemium) and Datura stramonium (Jimson Weed) may prevent development of spontaneous seizures. Phytother Res. Sep. 2004;18(9):700-705.
  16. Parajuli P, Joshee N,  Rimando AM, Mittal S,  Yadav AK. In vitro Antitumor Mechanisms of Various Scutellaria Extracts and Constituent Flavonoids . Pharmacology Planta Med. 2009;75:41-48.
  17. Makino T, Hishida A, Goda Y, Mizukami H. Comparison of the major flavonoid content of S. baicalensis, S. lateriflora, and their commercial products. Nat Med (Tokyo). Jul. 2008;62(3):294-299.

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