The Natural Mood Booster You’ve Never Heard About

Learn all about the history, research and benefits of skullcap...

Between the load-shedding, disappearing cables, global news and political drama, how could we not sometimes lose sight of what's good and need a bit of a mood boost?

Skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) may not be as well-known as many of the other herbs used to promote calm, but it stands out for its deep history, recent scientific research outcomes and popularity amongst herb nerds.

Skullcap Through the Ages 

Skullcap is a herb from the mint family. It has been used in traditional medicine across various cultures for over 2 000 years. Chinese medicine has long revered it (as huang qin) for its effectiveness in treating insomnia and reducing inflammation. Native American tribes valued the American variety of skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) for its calming properties, and this influenced European settlers in America, who also adopted it into their herbal medicine.

What Does the Science Say?

Ongoing studies on skullcap have shown promising results so far.

One study identified that baicalin, a flavonoid found in skullcap, potentially affects monoamine oxidase (MAO) enzymes. Some antidepressants work similarly, so this could explain why some users find that using skullcap regularly helps to boost their mood. 

Another study on American skullcap also found evidence that it influences brain chemistry. This research saw an effect on GABA, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) involved in calmness. Tranquilisers, sleeping tablets and alcohol all influence the same system, so this may explain how skullcap helps people to feel relaxed. 

What Does this Mean for You? 

Herb enthusiasts might be tempted to say that the evidence proves that skullcap is a natural means of rebalancing and healing the emotional brain by impacting its intricate systems. 

Sadly, we aren't yet there, and far more research is needed. Indeed, little to no substantial evidence suggests that skullcap can replace any medication. But the evidence supports that people are experiencing real effects from taking it. 

The studies also imply that American and Chinese skullcap work differently and have different effects. Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) is potentially more mood-brightening. At the same time, American skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) may be more anxiety-soothing and relaxation-promoting.

What to Expect

Since we need more reliable data to draw on, most of what we know about skullcap comes from experience, small studies, oral traditions, and user reports.

While reports do differ, many find that using the herb regularly can help them relax, reduce anxiety, improve sleep and maintain a more balanced emotional state.

How to Use Skullcap

Always consult your healthcare practitioner before taking a new supplement and follow their dosage instructions.

The most common ways to use skullcap are to brew the leaves into tea, use capsules or tinctures, or combine it with other herbs to accentuate their effects.

Tea Preparation

The traditional method of taking skullcap is to steep dry leaves in hot water for 15 minutes and drink the solution like tea. You might want to do this in the evening to aid relaxation and sleep. 

Capsules and Tinctures 

These are especially popular and can help to provide a convenient and controlled dosage. But beware, not all products contain standardised extracts, so potency varies widely. Some manufacturers fill their capsules with raw dry herb powder, while others use concentrated extracts. There is a big difference between the two, so choose high-quality products and read the labels carefully.

Combining Skullcap with Other Herbs

To enhance Skullcap's stress-relieving properties, you can mix it with calming herbs like chamomile, lavender and lemon balm. However, as with pharmaceuticals, combining herbs can have harmful interactions, so talk to your doctor or a qualified herbalist before combining any herbs.

Holistic Health

Skullcap, like other natural remedies, is not a cure-all, and its effects and efficacy vary from person to person. Stress and emotional struggles can also be signs that you must address or change something about yourself or your life. 

Herbs can help support you, but ultimately, proper recovery grows from making tangible changes and taking steps to build a healthy, balanced life - one in which you value your health and nurture experiences and relationships that bring belonging, meaning, purpose and love.



Vincenzo Sinisi is a Clinical Psychologist / Psychoanalyst and Founder of TherapyRoute, an extensive, free-of-charge database of carefully reviewed and verified therapists to empower you to find your best fit online or nearby.

“Wellness Warehouse strives to help you live life well but because we are retailers and not medical practitioners we cannot offer medical advice. Please always consult your medical practitioner before taking any supplements, complementary medicines or have any health concerns and ensure that you always read labels, warnings and directions carefully, prior to consumption.”