Scutellaria baicalensis syn. S. macrantha
- Baical Skullcap
- Huang Qin
Baical skullcap (botanical name Scutellaria baicalensis) is basically an herb-like plant that grows perennially up to a height of about 0.3 meter to 1.2 meters. The leaves of this herb are shaped like lances, while its flowers have a purplish-blue hue. Chinese herbalists use the dried out roots of baical skullcap to prepare a medicine. This herb is related to a species found in North America and known as skullcap (botanical name Scutellaria laterifolia).
Baical skullcap is a traditional herbal remedy used extensively in the Chinese system of medicine. The traditional and ancient use of this herb was confirmed when in 1973 excavations led to the discovery of 92 wooden tablets in a 2nd-century AD tomb in a region of northwestern China.
The baical skullcap was among the herbs listed in the various prescriptions for the preparation of decoctions, tinctures, pills, and ointments in these ancient wooden tablets.
Chinese medicine gives a central place to the baical skullcap, and traditionally the Chinese herbal medicine has made extensive use of the herb. It was considered one of the main remedies to treat “hot and damp” conditions, including disorders such as dysentery and diarrhea – and it is used in this role to this day.
Baical skullcap according to the traditional Chinese medical texts possesses “cold” and “bitter” qualities. And for this reason, the remedies of the baical skullcap are usually suggested in the medical system of China for use in the treatment of hot and thirsty conditions-including the treatment of various high fevers, all kinds of persistent coughs which come with the production of thick and yellow phlegm, and in the treatment of all manners of gastrointestinal infections which give rise to diarrhea, and in the treatment of dysentery and other related conditions.
Individuals suffering from painful urinary conditions also benefit from using remedies made from the baical skullcap.
Extensive use of the baical skullcap is now also suggested to treat all kinds of allergic conditions, with the evidence from recent research. Thus this remedy is suggested for use in the treatment of conditions like asthma, conditions such as hay fever, skin disorders such as eczema, and in the treatment of nettle rash.
The remedy is thus mainly used for the treatment of topical disorders of the skin, even if the anti-inflammatory properties will no doubt be much more effective and useful in treating all sorts of digestive infections and problems associated with the gastrointestinal tract.
Circulation and disorders of the circulatory system also benefit from remedies based on the baical skullcap; indeed this herb is a very valuable remedy for all problems related to the circulation of blood.
Baical skullcap is used in herbal combination formulas with other herbs, and such remedies are used to treat conditions such as high blood pressure, problems like arteriosclerosis, disorders such as varicose veins, and to prevent easy bruising of the skin.
Baical herbal remedies are also used as applications on the skin, and remedies based on the baical skullcap are used to treats all kinds of sores, to treat swelling, and in the treatment of boils and other topical disorders. Herbal remedies made from the baical skullcap are also considered effective and extremely useful in the treatment of circulatory problems which can arise from metabolic disorders such as diabetes.
For more than 2,000 years now, people have been using baical skullcap for therapeutic purposes and latest studies have discovered that the roots of this herb enclose flavonoids, which not only augment the functioning of the liver, but also possess anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory actions.
The root of baical skullcap possesses anti-bacterial, anti-pyretic, anodyne, anti-spasmodic, anti-cholesterolemic, astringent, diuretic, febrifuge, cholagogue, expectorant, nervine, purgative, haemostatic, stomachic, gently tranquilizing and also tonic properties. The tonic properties of the root are especially beneficial for people suffering from tuberculosis (TB).
The root has a reputation of calming the fetus in pregnant women. In addition, the remedial preparations using this root are ingested to treat dysentery, enteritis, diarrhea, chronic hepatitis, jaundice, hypertension (high blood pressure), infections of the urinary tract, nosebleed, threatened miscarriage and also to stop bleeding from the bowel or the lungs. In fact, the root of baical skullcap is a constituent of the Chinese drug called ‘injection of 3 yellow herbs’.
The roots of this herb are usually harvested during autumn or in spring from plants that have been in existence for three to four years. After the harvesting, the roots are dried up in the sun and stored for use in future. The seeds of this herb are employed to cleanse bowels containing blood and pus.
In addition, there are several people who use this herb for treating infections of the kidneys, pelvic inflammation, swellings and sores as well as HIV/ AIDS. Baical skullcap is also employed to treat conditions like headache, tetchiness, flushed face, red eyes, scarlet fever, hysteria, seizures, and nervous tension as well as to alleviate any bitter taste in one’s mouth.
Baicalin is the active element in baical skullcap and it is used in conjunction with shung hua (also known as ephedra) for treating infections of the upper respiratory tract. Baical skullcap is used together with other herbs to cure prostate cancer, arthritis, ADHD (attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder), a problem related to the lungs and known as bronchiolitis, and hemorrhoids.
Before we conclude this discussion, it needs to be mentioned that occasionally this herb is applied to the skin to treat psoriasis.
Other medical uses
- Bone cancer
- Applied to the skin, baical skullcap treats sores, swelling, and boils
- Baical skullcap appears to be useful for circulatory problems that arise from diabetes
The tender leaves of baical skullcap are cooked in the form of a vegetable. In addition, the entire herb is often dried up and later used as a substitute for tea.
Habitat and cultivation
Countries such as mainland China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, and the Russian federation are areas in which the baical skullcap grows native. The habitat that the baical skullcap herb prefers, include the sunny grassy slopes and the herb also grows well in open areas which have elevations between 350 ft-100 m and 8,000 ft-2,000 m above sea level.
The propagation of the baical skullcap is through the seeds which are sown during the autumn and harvesting of the roots of three to four year plants carried out during the autumn or in the spring time.
Baical skullcap, a really ornamental plant, grows well when planted in a sunlit place in any simple garden soil which does not parch during the plant’s growing season. This herb also has a preference for light, properly drained soil and total sunlight or semi-shade positions.
This species thrives on soil having a perfect drainage and when the plants have established themselves, they are able to endure droughts. The plants can also tolerate temperatures as low as -15°C.
When grown commercially, baical skullcap plants are propagated by means of their seeds that are directly sown outdoors during the later part of spring. However, if you have a very less amount of seeds, it is advisable that you sow them in a container in a cold frame during the early part of spring.
After the baical skullcap seedlings have grown quite large and you can handle them, prick out the young plants carefully and transplant them in different containers or pots outdoors in summer. If you wish to propagate the species through root division, it is ideal to do so prior to the start of new growth. This method is extremely simple and the comparatively large divisions may be directly planted in their permanent positions outdoors.
Chinese researchers have carried out extensive and thorough studies on the baical skullcap. These studies have confirmed that the baical skullcap herb indeed possesses marked anti-inflammatory and antiallergenic properties which are beneficial in the treatment of many ailments. The properties of this herb are largely due to the presence of compounds known as the flavonoids in the plant.
The levels of these beneficial flavonoids in the herb, is comparable to the levels of such compounds in other beneficial herbs such as the hawthorn – botanical name Crataegus oxyacantha. The remedies made from the baical skullcap may also be useful in effectively treating all sorts of venous problems and to treat fragile capillaries in the body.
Justification for the use of the baical skullcap in the treatment of high fevers and infections such as dysentery is suggested by numerous clinical studies. These disorders are traditionally treated using this herb and now clinical proof exists that the remedy is useful and effective.
The herbal remedies made from the baical skullcap may also be used to treat conditions and problems induced by the presence of diabetes, including complications such as cataracts in the eye.
- Flavonoids (about 12%)-baicalin, wogoniside
- Benzoic acid
Baical skullcap is available in the form of capsules (scutellaria) and it should be taken thrice daily. In case you have diarrhea, stop using it at once.
Side effects and cautions
Although the herb baical skullcap is harmless for majority of the people using it, it may result in side effects like drowsiness, liver ailment and inflammation of the lungs. Therefore, people using this herb need to do so with caution.
People enduring certain health conditions should avoid using baical skullcap. It is advisable that nursing mothers and people suffering from problems related to the functioning of their spleen and stomach should keep away from this herb.
How it works in the body
Scientists are of the view that the active chemical present in baical skullcap may possibly possess the ability to stop growth of tumours, lessen inflammation and also put off the reproduction by tumour cells.