The Health Benefits of Skullcap


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Skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) is an herb commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine. Other names for skullcap (alternatively spelled as "scullcap") include huang qin and baikal skullcap.


In alternative medicine, skullcap is sometimes recommended for the following:

  • Inflammation
  • Insomnia
  • Hepatitis
  • Epilepsy
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Cancer


To date, few clinical trials have explored the health effects of skullcap. However, preliminary research suggests the herb may be useful in the treatment of these health conditions:

1) Memory Impairment

In a 2008 study on mice, scientists discovered that oroxylin A (an antioxidant found in the roots of skullcap) may help protect against memory impairment induced by amyloid beta (a substance that forms the brain plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease). 

2) Prostate Cancer

Compounds found in skullcap may help slow the growth of prostate cancer tumors, suggests a 2005 study on mice. Skullcap was a constituent of the herbal formula PC-SPES, a dietary supplement that was taken off the market because some batches were found to contain prescription medications. Although a number of laboratory and animal studies showed that PC-SPES may thwart the growth of prostate cancer cells, it's not known if those anticancer effects were due to the action of the herbs or the prescription medications.

3) Parkinson's Disease

Published in 2008, a study on mice found that baicalein (another skullcap-derived antioxidant) may help protect nerve cells from damage associated with Parkinson's disease (a chronic condition that causes tremor, stiffness of the limbs and trunk, impaired balance and coordination, and slowing of movement).


Although skullcap is generally considered safe, a report published in 2001 warns that the herb may have a causal association with pneumonitis (inflammation of the lung tissue). Given the potential adverse effects of skullcap use, it's important to consult a doctor before taking this herb.

It's also important to keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. 

Where to Find It

Skullcap is sold in many health food stores, often in supplement formulas containing other Chinese herbs.

A Word From Verywell

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend skullcap as a treatment for any condition. It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using skullcap for any health purpose, make sure to consult your physician first.

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Article Sources
  • Bonham M, Posakony J, Coleman I, Montgomery B, Simon J, Nelson PS. "Characterization of chemical constituents in Scutellaria baicalensis with antiandrogenic and growth-inhibitory activities toward prostate carcinoma." Clin Cancer Res. 2005 15;11(10):3905-14.
  • Cheng Y, He G, Mu X, Zhang T, Li X, Hu J, Xu B, Du G. "Neuroprotective effect of baicalein against MPTP neurotoxicity: behavioral, biochemical and immunohistochemical profile." Neurosci Lett. 2008 15;441(1):16-20.
  • Kim DH, Kim S, Jeon SJ, Son KH, Lee S, Yoon BH, Cheong JH, Ko KH, Ryu JH. "The effects of acute and repeated oroxylin A treatments on Abeta(25-35)-induced memory impairment in mice." Neuropharmacology. 2008 55(5):639-47.