Did You Know…that skullcap is an ancient natural remedy for nervous system maladies?
We all know we need to lower our stress levels, but it’s important to remember that stress is not entirely bad. It activates your fight-or-flight reaction and keeps you safe and alert in times of danger.
Chronic stress, however, occurs when your stress response never turns off. Over time, chronic stress wears your nervous system down, and that’s why it’s essential to keep chronic stress at bay. Fortunately, there are natural remedies that can do just that.
The Danger of Chronic Stress
If left unchecked, chronic stress can lead to the deterioration of the nervous system, which manifests as:
- Mental confusion
- Hormone imbalances
- Chronic inflammation
Skullcap to the Rescue
Skullcap is a perennial herb native to North America that has been used for centuries to help deactivate the stress response, alleviate anxiety, and promote proper functioning of the brain and nervous system. It’s used to help treat neurological conditions such as:
- Nervous tension
And it’s not just a terrific tonic for the nervous system — it also helps to soothe muscle spasms, stress headaches, and emotional agitation.
The name suits the herb. Skullcap has the ability to calm the mind (hence the moniker “skull”) and its flower is shaped much like a hood (as in “cap”). In his book, Medical Herbalism, David Hoffman categorizes skullcap as a sedative, nervine, tonic, antispasmodic, and mild bitter that “[r]elieves anxiety and stress; strengthens a depleted nervous system” and is “supportive and nourishing to the nervous system.”
Let’s take an in-depth look at some of these properties.
Nervine: a nervine helps to enhance nervous system function and soothe and release tension.
Neuro-trophorestorative: other experts classify skullcap as a neuro-trophorestorative, because it helps deliver nutrition to the nerves and restore neuron function.
Antispasmodic: as an antispasmodic, skullcap helps to relieve muscle tension and decrease spasms in smooth and skeletal muscle.
Anxiolytic: an anxiolytic such as skullcap helps to relieve anxiety. A 2003 double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine showed that when healthy subjects were given skullcap they experienced a significant reduction in anxiety with peak effect after an hour.
Herbalists recommend using skullcap whenever you are experiencing symptoms of nervous or emotional irritability, such as spasms, tremors, restlessness, muscle tension, teeth-grinding, anxiety, stress headaches, or physical or emotional distress.
It’s not addictive like prescription drugs such as valium or benzodiazepines, and is safe to use during the day or evening, although it is slightly sedating. Natural health practitioners say it’s perfect for those nights when you come home feeling overstimulated but exhausted.
When choosing a skullcap supplement, experts say to look for the Scuttelaria lateriflora variety, which is the type of skullcap studied for medicinal purposes.