After first coming across Skullcap, I was confused on just what a “skull cap” was and why it was in a gardening definition book. Reading on in the description of the plant I found that it was an herb that has special medicinal properties that have been used for years.
Skullcap has been stated as helping with anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, slightly astringent, febrifuge, sedative and strongly tonic as an alternative medicine. It is most commonly used today in mental health medicine. This plant has been known to help in the aid of nervous conditions including anorexia nervosa, anxiety, delirium tremens, epilepsy, hysteria, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, tension headache, withdrawal from barbiturates and tranquilizers. At this moment, most medicines that are used for ADD and nerve disorders have a small amount of this plant infused into the chemical based medicine. It is important to always follow strict doctor’s orders when taking anything with skullcap though since an overdose can cause stupor, mental confusion, giddiness, irregular heartbeat and twitching. In addition, pregnant woman should never take any part of this herb plant since it can induce a miscarriage.
To my realization, I learned that this plant can actually be planted in North America. Although it first started here in the states, it has also become widely spread throughout Europe and now Asia. In addition, this herb can be purchased at online stores and health food stores around the nation. It is usually available in a powdery form or oil. Most stores will be selling it so that it can be used as a calming herbal medicine save for children and adults. In our health food store, there are tea bags that contain the actual leaves that can be steeped for around two minutes and then sipped to calm children down or adults. It is much like chamomile however has a stronger calming power. Online alternative herbal stores will also provide the plant to grow in your own garden.
When planning on growing this plant in your own garden, it is important that you are located somewhere from New York to West Virginia and southward to South Carolina, Alabama and Missouri. It naturally grows in wooded areas, along roadsides and in regular untreated garden soil. It flourishes in all sunny locations. The root comes in a rhizome form, like a regular day lily, and can spread easily. Since it is a natural herb, you can cut off part of a rhizome and transplant it in your garden. It will then grow into a mature plant the next blooming season. To distinguish this plant from others, look for light green hairy square stems that can grow to around 6 to 18 inches in height. The long, scalloped or toothed edged leaves are light green and have a slight heart shape near the stem. Each leaf can grow from 1 to 2.5 inches in length. Bluish-lavender flowers are seen racemes and grow from the leaf axils near the top of the plant. They will bloom from May to August.
Throughout history, Native American Indians have been using this herb for various purposes. Usually, the Cherokee and other Native American tribes have stated that they dried the flowers each season for later usage. Once completely dried, the flowers would be used “emmenagogue” (starting the menstrual period before it took course naturally) and for other female medicinal herb usage. In addition, it would assist in the aid against rabies and schizophrenia in those affected. Some forms have been known to be used to induce visions during ceremonial events.
If you are lucky enough to find Skullcap online or in a store to plant in your garden, it would make a wonderful conversational piece to friends in the garden. In addition, any part of the leave can be snipped off and steeped for a few moments to make a tea. Just remember to ask your doctor before drinking any of this herb since it can cause reactions to prescribed drugs that you are already taking.