Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Skullcap
Native Americans as well as traditional European herbalists used skullcap to induce sleep, relieve nervousness, and moderate the symptoms of epilepsy, rabies, and other diseases related to the nervous system. In other words, skullcap was believed to function as an herbal sedative.
A relative of skullcap, Scutellaria baicalensis, is a common herb used in Chinese medicine. However, the root instead of the above-the-ground portion of the plant is used, and overall effects appear to be far different. The discussion below addresses European skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)only.
Effect of Skullcap on Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Often taken with other herbs, skullcap can be used to induce sedative effects which are beneficial for individuals suffering form anxiety. European skullcap specifically has been studied, and preliminary research has also been done for Chinese skullcap.
Research Evidence on Skullcap
A very small double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study found that use of the herb European skullcap reduced general anxiety levels.9
Preliminary research has also shown that Chinese skullcap might be beneficial for the treatment of anxiety.12
Side Effects and Warnings
Not much is known about the safety of skullcap. However, if you take too much, it can cause confusion and stupor. ^ There have been reports of liver damage following consumption of products labeled skullcap; however, since skullcap has been known to be adulterated with germander, an herb toxic to the liver, it may not have been the skullcap that was at fault. ^ Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
- Wolfson P, Hoffmann DL. An investigation into the efficacy of Scutellaria lateriflora in healthy volunteers. Altern Ther Health Med. 2003;9:74-78.
- Liao JF, Hung WY, Chen CF. Anxiolytic-like effects of baicalein and baicalin in the Vogel conflict test in mice. Eur J Pharmacol. 2003;464:141-6.