In 1973, 92 wooden tablets were discovered in a 2nd-century CE tomb in northwestern China. Among other herbs listed in prescriptions for decoctions, tinctures, pills, and ointments was Baical skullcap. The herb has had an established role in Chinese herbal medicine at least from that time, and is one of the main remedies for “hot and damp” conditions, such as dysentery and diarrhea.
Habitat & Cultivation
Baical skullcap is found in China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, and Russia. It thrives on sunny, grassy slopes and open areas between 330 ft (100 m) and 5,900 ft (1,800 m) above sea level. Baical skullcap is propagated from seed sown in autumn or spring. The roots of 3- to 4-year-old plants are harvested in autumn or spring.
Skullcap (S. lateriflora) is a close relation. It is a Native North American remedy for anxiety and stress.
- Flavonoids (about 12%)— baicalin, wogoniside
- Benzoic acid
Flavonoids: Baical skullcap has been quite widely researched in China, and it is clear that it has marked anti-inflammatory, anti-allergy, and antioxidant effects, all 3 actions mostly being due to the flavonoids.
Clinical evidence: Clinical studies investigating different applications of Baical skullcap show the herb as promise in the treatment of infections, including bronchitis, and dysentery, high blood pressure, chronic hepatitis, and allergic rhinitis (hay fever). The root has anticancer activity, with studies showing small-scale positive results in patients with lung and prostate cancer.
Diabetes: The herb may be useful for problems arising from diabetes, including cataracts.
Weight-loss aid: A South Korean clinical trial in 2011 looked at the effectiveness of a baical skullcap and platycodon (Platycodon grandiflorum) combination in treating obesity. After 2 months, the group taking the herbs had lost significantly more weight than the placebo group.
Traditional & Current Uses
Cold & bitter herb: In traditional Chinese medicine, Baical skullcap is “cold” and “bitter”. It is prescribed in China for hot and thirsty conditions such as high fevers, coughs with thick yellow phlegm, and gastrointestinal infections that cause diarrhea, such as dysentery. It is also given to people suffering from painful urinary conditions.
Circulatory remedy: Baical skullcap is a valuable remedy for circulation. In combination with other herbs, it is used to treat high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, varicose veins, and easy bruising.
Other uses: Applied to the skin, Baical skullcap treats sores, swelling, and boils. It is also given for circulatory problems that arise from diabetes.
Allergic conditions: The herb is useful for treating allergic conditions such as asthma, hay fever, eczema, and hives. The flavonoids in particular inhibit the inflammatory processes in the body that lead to allergic reactions.