Scutellaria baicalensis , also called Chinese skullcap, is a member of the mint family and has long been used in traditional Chinese herbal medicine . Chinese skullcap has been incorporated in herbal formulas designed to treat such widely varying conditions as cancer, liver disease, allergies, skin conditions, and epilepsy. The root is the part used medicinally.

Note: Chinese skullcap is substantially different from American skullcap ( Scutellaria lateriflora ).

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What is Chinese Skullcap Used for Today?  

The root of Chinese scullcap contains the flavonoids baicalin, wogonin, and baicalein, and most studies have involved these substances rather than the whole herb.

Highly preliminary evidence suggest that baicalin can enhance the activity of antibiotics against antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria. 1-3 Other highly preliminary evidence suggests that baicalin, wogonin, and baicalein may have anti-cancer , 4-8 anti-inflammatory, 9,10liver-protective , 11anti-anxiety , 12 and antihypertensive effects . 13 However, for none of these uses does the evidence approach the level necessary to truly establish a treatment as effective.

Research involving combination herbal therapies containing Chinese skullcap are discussed in the Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine article.

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Dosage  

The optimum doses, if any, of baicalin, wogonin, and baicalein have not been established. Chinese skullcap is typically taken at a dose of 3-9 grams daily as part of an herbal combination.

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Safety Issues  

Baicalin, wobogin, and baicalein appear to have a low order of toxicity, though comprehensive safety studies have not been performed. There have been case reports of liver injury associated with use of skullcap products, but these may have been due to adulteration by the herb germander.

One animal study found worrisome evidence that baicalin might markedly reduce the absorption of drug cyclosporine , used to prevent organ transplant rejection. 14 Another study found that baicalin might reduce blood levels of drugs in the statin family , used to improve cholesterol profile. 15

Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.

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Interactions You Should Know About  

If you are taking:

  • Cyclosporine : Do not use Chinese skullcap or its constituents.
  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs in the statin family : Use of Chinese skullcap might reduce its effectiveness.