Skullcap: A Witchy Herb to Calm Your Nerves
There's a good reason why nervines are some of the most common plants we use in herbalism. It’s both simple and profound to note the extreme stressors present in modern life.
Constant overstimulation, personal, and collective traumas all compound to overwhelm our nervous systems, and this is one place where herbs are there to support us when we need them most.
I could get all heady and talk to you about how humans and herbs have co-evolved over time and space to support each other in a myriad of symbiotic ways, but I’ll just dive in to tell you about one of the best nervines out there: Skullcap.
A Soothing Nervine Tonic
Common Name: Skullcap
Latin Name: Scutellaria lateriflora
Family: Lamiaceae, Mint Family
Native to North America, this plant loves damp conditions and needs plenty of sun. It is a perennial herb belonging to the Lamiaceae, or Mint, family. Scutellaria lateriflora generally grows to about 2 feet, has opposite leaves and square stems and grows violet flowers. The seed capsules look like skullcaps when they are dried, giving the plant its common name.
To harvest, collect the aerial parts when flowering in the summer. Some say it’s best to harvest from 3-4 year old plants. As always, make sure you are 100% certain you’re harvesting the correct plant and it’s coming from a clean source. Like most Mint family plants, Skullcap is prolifically easy to grow in the garden, which is a great option for having your own fresh, organic and low-cost herbs.
Skullcap makes me feel heavy and relaxed when I drink it as a tea. It has a cooling energy and is great for fiery individuals with an overactive nervous system. This plant is also deeply soothing to the mind and is particularly helpful for those of us who struggle with anxious thoughts and overactive headspaces. A great herb for your head, it strengthens the brain, calms the mind and stimulates a meditative state (making it a particularly good herb for witchy activities of a mental nature).
Herbal Actions and Uses
Skullcap’s herbal actions include:
This plant is one of the best nervine tonics out there. It is good for all kinds of agitated and tense states, including overwork, trauma, addiction and burnout. A great herb for insomnia, nightmares and restless sleep, Skullcap also relieves muscle tension. Skullcap is a great herb to take regularly over an extended period of time, as it helps restore the Central Nervous System to a cohesive, balanced state.
In addition to depression, anxiety and insomnia, Skullcap can be used for a number of other neurological issues, including seizures, epilepsy and tremors and convulsions. It’s also a cardiac relaxant that can ease heart palpitations and other imbalances, particularly ones that stem from a nervous origin.
Scutellaria lateriflora is a great menstrual aid, helping with cramps and stress and generally easing PMS symptoms. It can also soothe migraines, although it depends on the type. As a cerebral vasodilator that expands your blood vessels, it may actually exacerbate headaches that are caused by that same effect.
A powerful herb that helps you cut out that which weighs you down, Skullcap is an amazing herbal ally for people in recovery. It is great for helping to break addictions, taking a half a cup of tea every hour or two can help people get through withdrawals, tapering off as symptoms decrease.
Magnesium is one of Skullcap’s constituents that makes it so great at easing tension, tremors and nervous stress. This is a mineral that many of us are unfortunately deficient in, causing a wide range of mental health symptoms including irritability, anxiety, depression and tension. Drinking Skullcap daily is a great way to increase your Magnesium intake, which is a water soluble mineral that needs to be taken in regularly, as your body doesn’t store it.
So, how do you take Skullcap as medicine? Tea, also called a standard infusion, will do just fine, and Skullcap tea actually tends to be stronger than a tincture of the herb.
To make a Skullcap infusion: