(PFAF lists 2 species found in North America)
Common Name: Common Skullcap (Scutellaria galericulata)
Appearance and Habitat: Moist Acid or calcareous soils on the edges of streams, in water meadows and fens, ascending to 360 meters in Britain. A perennial growing to 0.5 m (1ft 8in). It is hardy to zone 5 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jun to September, and the seeds ripen from Jul to September.
Edible Uses: None
Medicinal Uses: The herb is anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, slightly astringent, febrifuge, nervine and strongly tonic. In the home an infusion is sometimes used in the treatment of throat infections. The plant is harvested in the summer as it comes into flower and can be dried for later use. This plant is rarely if ever used in herbal medicine, though it is said to have the same applications as S. lateriflora. These applications are:- Skullcap was traditionally used in the treatment of a wide range of nervous conditions including epilepsy, insomnia, anxiety, delirium tremens, withdrawal from barbiturates and tranquillisers, and neuralgia. An infusion of the plant has been used to promote suppressed menstruation, it should not be given to pregnant women since it can induce a miscarriage. This plant should be used with some caution since in excess it causes giddiness, stupor, confusion and twitching.
Common Name: Virginian Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)
Appearance and Habitat: Alluvial thickets, meadows and swampy woods. Found in Newfoundland to British Columbia, south to Florida and Ontario. A perennial growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 0.4 m (1ft 4in). It is hardy to zone 7 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jun to August, and the seeds ripen from Jul to September.
Edible Uses: None
Medicinal Uses: A commonly used herbal medicine, Virginian skullcap is a very effective nervine that has traditionally been used in the treatment of a wide range of nervous conditions. Its tonic and restorative properties help to support and nourish the nervous system, calming and relieving stress and anxiety. Very little research has been carried out on this species, despite its long use in American and British herbal medicine. Research is sorely needed, and may reveal more uses for this valuable herb. The leaves are antispasmodic, slightly astringent, diuretic, nervine, sedative and strongly tonic. They are harvested in early summer and dried for later use. It is used in the treatment of various problems of the nervous system including epilepsy, insomnia, anxiety, delirium tremens, withdrawal from barbiturates and tranquillisers, and neuralgia. An infusion of the plant has been used to promote suppressed menstruation, relieve breast pain and encourage expulsion of the placenta, it should not be given to pregnant women since it can induce a miscarriage. This plant should be used with some caution since in excess it causes giddiness, stupor, confusion and twitching. The plant was once believed of use in the treatment of rabies, though there is no evidence to support this
Common Name: Skullcap
Appearance and Habitat: S. laterifolia is a migrant from the eastern states. It grows occasionally in forested rich wet areas of the west, though different than western species. The flowers grow on little stems branching from the axils of the upper leaves. They are small and bright blue, with the fowering stem between 1 and 2 inches long. It might be confused with another flowering plant that lives in wet areas, Speedwell, but Speedwell has round stems and has a green taste. Skullcaps are bitter and have a square stem. S. galericulata is the most predictable of our Skullcaps and grows across the Americas, Europe, and Asia. It is usually found in running water, it has the usual square stems and opposite leaves of the mint family. It might be confused with Poleo Mint, but Poleo has a distinct odor of menthol, where Skullcaps don’t. The other Skullcaps are different than the first two and hard to spot when not in bloom. The blooms are solitary or opposite paired of blue or purple with a light stripe down the flower tubes. The bloom extend out past the leaves with distinct two lipped type of flowers, the upper hooded, the lower like an apron.
In the west Skullcaps ;are found between 2,000 and 10,000 feet. They bloom in late spring to midsummer. Look around meadow edges, in rock crevices, and gravelly hillsides. When you find one there are lots in that area because they spread by roots under the surface of the ground. The plants are seldom taller than 18 inches. There is a dwarf Skullcap, Scutellaria nana, that has yellow flowers. It is found in California and in the Great Basin.
Medicinal Uses: Take the upper plant leaving the roots to further spread. You can dry them in a paper sack or make a fresh tincture from them. It is an almost sure treatment for any nervous system malfunction of either a mild or chronic nature. It has been used for insomnia, sick headaches, and weaning people off barbiturate addictions as well as from Valium. For alcoholic d.t.’s use one half ounce of Skullcap with 1/4 ounce of American ginseng in small doses. An average dose for other conditions is a rounded teaspoon boiled in water for 30 minutes and drunk as needed. It can also be used for motor symptoms of Sydenham’s Chorea and will help relieve the earlier stages of pain associated with Multiple Sclerosis. Either use a rounded teaspoon boiled as stated above, or the tincture. It can also be used, with a doctor’s OK to supplant Dilantin in cases of epilepsy, especially if based on a single childhood seizure. To make a tincture use 1 part fresh plant to 2 parts 50% alcohol, or 1 part dried plant to 5 parts alcohol taking from 20 to 60 drops 3 times a day. Dilute vodka or straight grain alcohol for the tincture. For a standard infusion place 2 to 6 ounces of the fresh plant in water that has boiled and is cooling at a ratio of 32 parts, replacing the volume to 32 parts of water after letting it sit for at least 6 hours.
Medicinal Plants Of the Mountain West by Michael Moore, 1st Edition, page 146-47 , publisher: Museum of New Mexico Press ; copy right 1979
Common Name:Canadian Fleabane, Horseweed
Latin Name: Conyza canadensis,
Photos: (click on latin name after range)
Appearance and Habitat: A coarse weed with erect bristly-haired stem that has branching clusters of small, cup-like, greenish-white flower heads arising from upper leaf axils. The minute white rays do not spread and thus are not showy; the numerous disk flowers are yellow. An annual that thrives on bare soil, Horseweed is soon crowded out as perennials become established. Originally a North American plant, it has spread to Europe, where it colonizes open disturbed sites. Indians and early settlers used a preparation of its leaves to treat dysentery and sore throat. (1) Light soils on waste and cultivated land, also on walls, avoiding acid soils in Britain. North America – Naturalized in Britain. An annual growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in). It is hardy to zone 7. It is in flower from Jun to October, and the seeds ripen from Jul to October. (2) A tall annual or biennial, that has slender erect stems. It varies in height from a few inches to 8 feet. The branches towards the top have many small flowers that are semi-yellow. The leaves are long thin and strapped shaped up to four inches in length and the lower leaves are notched. The stems are hairy. The best plants are light green and tall. It forms wide spread communities and is found along roads, ditch banks, waste places, and cultivated fields. (3)
Warnings: Skin contact with the plant can cause dermatitis in some people (4)
Edible Uses: Young leaves and seedlings – cooked. Boiled, cooked in rice or dried for later use. A nutritional analysis of the leaves is available. The source of an essential oil that is used commercially for flavouring sweets, condiments and soft drinks. The fresh leaves contain 0.2 – 0.66% essential oil. (PFAF gives a break-down on nutrients, it is high in Calcium, phosphorus, and potassium) (5)
Medicinal Uses: In traditional North American herbal medicine, Canada fleabane was boiled to make steam for sweat lodges, taken as a snuff to stimulate sneezing during the course of a cold and burned to create a smoke that warded off insects. Nowadays it is valued most for its astringency, being used in the treatment of gastro-intestinal problems such as diarrhoea and dysentery. It is said to be a very effective treatment for bleeding haemorrhoids. The whole plant is antirheumatic, astringent, balsamic, diuretic, emmenagogue, styptic, tonic and vermifuge. It can be harvested at any time that it is in flower and is best used when fresh. The dried herb should not be stored for more than a year. The seeds can also be used. An infusion of the plant has been used to treat diarrhoea and internal haemorrhages or applied externally to treat gonorrhoea and bleeding piles. The leaves are experimentally hypoglycaemic. The essential oil found in the leaves is used in the treatment of diarrhoea, dysentery and internal haemorrhages. It is a uterine stimulant and is also said to be valuable in the treatment of inflamed tonsils plus ulceration and inflammation of the throat. A tea of the boiled roots is used to treat menstrual irregularities. A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant. It is used in the treatment of haemorrhoids and painful menstruation (6) Gather the entire plant, roots and all, when it is in early flowering. To save the essential oils, dry it whole in a paper bag, and chop it before using it. Use a 1/4 ounce of the plant added to water that has boiled and is now cooling, strain out the plant after a minimum of 6 hours, as a cold infusion and drink it daily for a variety of ills. The infusion works well for diarrhea, constant sweating, irritating urine, and hayfever. You can also make tea at any dosage and weight for coughs and running nose, that can be caused by hayfever. Irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis responds well to the cold infusion as do hemorrhoids that linger for days. The leaves can be finely powdered and sniffed into the nostrils for acute hayfever and itchy eyes. (7)
Foot Notes: ( 3, 7) Medical Plants of the Desert and Canyon West by Michael Moore, page 22- 23, Publisher: Museum of New Mexico Press, Copyright 1989, ISBN 978-089013182-4
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