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American & Chinese Skullcap: What’s the Difference?

If you’ve seen American or Chinese Skullcap in your herbal formulas and have wondered what the difference is between them, you’re not alone. Both members of the Mint family, these Skullcap cousins both have a rich history in herbalism and helping to support well-being.* Discover the difference between American and Chinese Skullcap, and a few of our favorite products that contain each.

American Skullcap

American Skullcap, Scutellaria lateriflora, is a perennial wildflower with buds reminiscent of Bluebells. It has a long history of use in Western herbalism and was once infamously referred to as the “Mad Dog” herb since it was used in pre-industrialized America to treat rabies in both humans and animals.1 The aerial (above-ground) parts are used from this gentle Nervine to help support relaxation.* Nervines are herbs that help the body's response to stress and occasional anxiousness.* American Skullcap is used in several of our calming herbal formulas.* In the ingredients list on these products, you will see this herb listed as Gaia-grown® American Skullcap, as we grow this herb as an annual on our Certified Organic farm in Brevard, North Carolina. Seeds are started in our greenhouse in the Spring and transplanted in the field around late May or early June. The aerial parts are harvested that same year in the Fall and are extracted fresh to preserve the flavonoids. Flavonoids are compounds found in many fruits, vegetables, and herbs that are rich in antioxidants.

Our Favorite American Skullcap Products

Calm A.S.A.P.®

With the ongoing health crisis, it's the perfect storm for stress. Combine this with juggling work and home life, as well as increased time spent under the same roof with family, and it's no wonder you may be feeling increased moments of anxiousness. When the ups and downs become overwhelming, embrace serenity with Calm A.S.A.P.®* This award-winning blend is made with Passionflower, Chamomile, Vervain, Lavender, Holy Basil, and Gaia-grown® American Skullcap to promote feelings of tranquility when you need it the most.*

Sound Sleep®

Falling asleep is sometimes the most challenging part of the sleep cycle. This formula helps you relax with a peaceful blend of herbs that supports a natural transition to sleep.* With Kava, Passionflower, and Gaia-grown® California Poppy and American Skullcap, Sound Sleep® is a great choice if you're experiencing occasional sleepless nights.*

Chinese Skullcap

Chinese Skullcap close up in nature

Chinese Skullcap resembles American Skullcap, but it is a different plant. Its single stems bear a plethora of purple flowers all resembling medieval helmets, which is where the name "Skullcap" came from. Chinese Skullcap, Scutellaria baicalensis, is grown as a biennial on the farm. Seeds are started in our greenhouse in early Spring and transplanted in the field in early Summer. The following year around September and October, the roots are harvested, washed, and dried prior to extraction. This herb is popular in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and its roots are used in formulations to support the immune system and to help maintain a healthy liver.* TCM uses six pernicious influences to describe imbalances or disturbances within the body. These are heat, cold, dampness, dryness, wind, and summer heat. Chinese Skullcap is believed to clear heat and dry dampness within the body.* Heat in the body acts as it does in the environment, and can cause agitation or anger, and dampness is stagnation in the body. 2

According to our Formulation Manager, Susan Hirsch, Chinese Skullcap is also a great herb to pair with Turmeric to help reduce occasional inflammation.* “Inflammation is an over-activity in the body. Chinese Skullcap has a cooling and calming effect, as described in Traditional Chinese Medicine, to help calm down that over activity,*” Hirsch said.

Our Favorite Chinese Skullcap Products

Liver Cleanse Products 

Proper liver function is essential to overall health as your liver helps remove waste products, processes various nutrients, and aids in the absorption of vitamins. Made with Chinese Skullcap, Licorice, Dandelion, and Peppermint, our Liver Cleanse Tea helps maintain healthy liver function and supports the body’s natural cleansing process.* If being at home more often has you occasionally overdoing it with food and drink, this tea may be the herbal ally that your body needs.* If tea is not your scene, we also offer Liver Health capsules made with Milk Thistle, Turmeric root, Schisandra, Licorice root, and Gaia-grown® Chinese Skullcap. This is a great formula to help you stay feeling well for the long-term.*

Gaia-grown Herbs

Each year, we grow between 20-30 different herbs on the Gaia Farm. In addition to the American and Chinese Skullcap varieties that you read about about in this article, we grow fields of flowering Echinacea, fragrant Lemon Balm, brilliant California Poppy, and more, all nourished by the clear mountain waters flowing through the valley. We nurture and observe each plant, allowing it to flourish in the sun until the right moment to harvest. We call these herbs "Gaia-grown" to highlight that they were cultivated on our Certified Organic farm in Brevard, North Carolina. By mirroring the growing conditions of Nature, we ensure the purity, potency, and integrity of each plant.

Fun Fact: If you see a white squirrel on the back of your Gaia Herbs product, this means it features a Gaia-grown herb in the formula. The white squirrel is a rare and much-loved species of squirrel found exclusively in this area of the country.

References:
1 “Skullcap: A Synergistic Powerhouse with Historical Acclaim.” Organic Newsroom, https://www.organicnewsroom.com/skullcap/
2 "The 6 Pernicious Influences. Abacus Chinese Medicine, http://abacuschinesemed.com/5210-2/