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Baikal skullcap, Scutellaria baicalensis, is a lesser-known herb in the West. However, it is a useful nervous system and immune support herb. Read on and learn about Baikal skullcap according to herbal traditions and modern research.
What is Baikal skullcap?
This plant is a perennial herb. It is native to Russia, Northern China, and Mongolia. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Baikal skullcap is is known as Huang Qin. The root is the part used in herbalism.
Although you can buy the dried root from herbal suppliers, this skullcap is also a beautiful addition to the herb garden! The flowers look like blue dolphins leaping from the stem. It doesn’t like our heavy clay soil, but I’ve successfully grown it in more loamy/sandy soils and even as a container plant.
Traditional uses of Baikal skullcap
So how is Baikal skullcap used? This herb is used to clear Damp Heat in TCM. Damp Heat is similar to our modern concept of bacterial infection, where there is a lot of yellow mucus or puss, redness and swelling.
Damp Heat is also similar to some inflammatory or autoimmune conditions where there is a lot of swelling or edema, The affected area feels unusually warm or hot to the touch. It may also be very red.
These are the main uses, but there are also many other folk uses for this herb. I recommend doing a materia medica study on it if you want to learn more!
Modern herbalists believe this type of skullcap has an affinity for the mucus membranes. This includes:
- respiratory tract
- digestive tract
- urinary tract
Mucus membranes play an important role in immunity. So it makes sense that an herb that supports the mucus membranes also supports immunity. Because of these affinities, this plant may provide herbal support for inflammation and infections involving the sinuses and lungs, the stomach and intestines, or kidneys and bladder.
Some of the immune roles of Baikal skullcap include:
- antihistamine activity
- antiinflammatory properties
How to use Baikal skullcap
I generally use Baikal skullcap as an extract. I like the convenience of making a lot at once and then having it on hand.
Personally, I’ve used it alongside antibiotics for infections. I also like using this herb to support the respiratory tract while recovering from colds, the flu, or other viral challenges.
Another beautiful garden plant for the immune system is peony! Learn about peony root and immunity in this article.
McIntyre, A. (2019) The Complete Herbal Tutor. Aeon Books. London.