American Scullcap


Botanical names:
Scutellaria lateriflora

Parts Used & Where Grown

Scullcap is a member of the mint family. Scutellaria lateriflora grows in eastern North America and is most commonly used in United States and European herbal products containing scullcap. The above-ground (aerial) part of the plant is used in herbal preparations. It is not interchangeable with Chinese scullcap.

What Are Star Ratings?

This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:

Used for Why
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American scullcap is one of a group of “nerve tonic” (nervine) herbs used in traditional herbal medicine for people with anxiety, with few reports of toxicity.

Other nervines include oats (oat straw), hops, passion flower, , wood betony, motherwort, pennyroyal, and linden.

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American scullcap is commonly recommended by doctors as a mild sedative for those suffering from insomnia or nervous exhaustion.

Combining valerian root with other mildly sedating herbs is common both in Europe and the United States. Chamomile, hops, passion flower, lemon balm, , and catnip are commonly recommended by doctors. These herbs can also be used alone as mild sedatives for those suffering from insomnia or nervous exhaustion. Chamomile is a particularly good choice for younger children whose insomnia may be related to gastrointestinal upset. Hops and lemon balm are approved by the German government for relieving sleep disturbances.

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American skullcap has been historically used to relieve pain.

Other herbs that have been historically used to relieve pain (although there are no modern scientific studies yet available) include valerian, passion flower, , Piscidia erythrina, and crampbark (Viburnum opulus).

Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)

As is the case in modern herbal medicine, scullcap was used historically as a sedative for people with nervous tension and insomnia. It was, and continues to be, commonly combined with valerian for insomnia.1 It was also used by herbalists as a remedy for epilepsy and nerve pain.

How It Works

Botanical names:
Scutellaria lateriflora

How It Works

Few studies have been completed on the constituents of American scullcap. One of its constituents, scutellarian, has been reportedly shown to have mild sedative and antispasmodic actions in animal studies.2 Human trials have not yet been conducted to confirm the use of scullcap for anxiety or insomnia.

How to Use It

Scullcap tea can be made by pouring 1 cup (250 ml) of boiling water over 1–2 teaspoons (5–10 grams) of the dried herb and steeping for 10 to 15 minutes. This tea may be drunk three times per day.3 Alternatively, tincture made from fresh scullcap, 1/3–3/4 teaspoon (2–4 ml) three times per day, may be taken.


Botanical names:
Scutellaria lateriflora

Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds

At the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.

Interactions with Medicines

As of the last update, we found no reported interactions between this supplement and medicines. It is possible that unknown interactions exist. If you take medication, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a new supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.

Side Effects

Botanical names:
Scutellaria lateriflora

Side Effects

Use of scullcap in recommended amounts is generally safe. However, scullcap use during pregnancy and breast-feeding should be avoided due to limited information about its safety. Cases of liver damage have been reported in association with the intake of scullcap. However, on closer examination, it appears these scullcap products actually contained germander (Teucrium chamaedrys), an herb known to cause liver damage.4

One case report exists of a 28-year-old man who died of liver failure after taking unspecified amounts of scullcap, pau d’arco and zinc.5 It appears likely that this, too, may have been a case of adulteration of scullcap with germander.6


1. Hoffman D. The Herbal Handbook: A User's Guide to Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1988, 77.

2. Foster S. Herbs for Your Health. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, 1996, 86-7.

3. Hoffmann D. The New Holistic Herbal. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1990, 233.

4. McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A. American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, 105.

5. Hullar TE, Sapers BL, Ridker PM, et al. Herbal toxicity and fatal hepatic failure [letter]. Am J Med 1999;106:267-8.

6. Brown D. A case of fatal liver failure associated with herbal products. Healthnotes Rev Complement Integrative Med 1999;6:176-7.

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