Scutellaria baicalensis, also called Chinese skullcap, is a member of the mint family and has long been used in traditional Chinese herbal medicine. Chinese skullcap has been incorporated in herbal formulas designed to treat such widely varying conditions as cancer, liver disease, allergies, skin conditions, and epilepsy. The root is the part used medicinally.
Note: Chinese skullcap is substantially different from American skullcap ( Scutellaria lateriflora).
What is Chinese Skullcap Used for Today?
The root of Chinese scullcap contains the flavonoids baicalin, wogonin, and baicalein, and most studies have involved these substances rather than the whole herb.
Highly preliminary evidence suggest that baicalin can enhance the activity of antibiotics against antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria.1-3 Other highly preliminary evidence suggests that baicalin, wogonin, and baicalein may have anti-cancer,4-8 anti-inflammatory,9,10liver-protective,11anti-anxiety,12 and antihypertensive effects.13 However, for none of these uses does the evidence approach the level necessary to truly establish a treatment as effective.
Chinese skullcap ( Scutellaria baicalensis) combined with Acacia catechu was found to provide short-term relief of pain, stiffness, and range of motion similar to naproxen. The 79 participants of the trial were overweight or obese, aged 40-90 years old, and were randomized to either the herbal supplement or naproxen. No placebo group was tested.16
Research involving combination herbal therapies containing Chinese skullcap are discussed in the Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine article.
The optimum doses, if any, of baicalin, wogonin, and baicalein have not been established. Chinese skullcap is typically taken at a dose of 3-9 grams daily as part of an herbal combination.
Baicalin, wobogin, and baicalein appear to have a low order of toxicity, though comprehensive safety studies have not been performed. There have been case reports of liver injury associated with use of skullcap products, but these may have been due to adulteration by the herb germander.
One animal study found worrisome evidence that baicalin might markedly reduce the absorption of drug cyclosporine, used to prevent organ transplant rejection.14 Another study found that baicalin might reduce blood levels of drugs in the statin family, used to improve cholesterol profile.15
Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
1. Liu IX, Durham DG, Richards RM. Baicalin synergy with beta-lactam antibiotics against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and other beta-lactam-resistant strains of S. aureus. J Pharm Pharmacol. 2000;52:361-366.
2. Wang J, Yu Y, Hashimoto F, et al. Baicalein induces apoptosis through ROS-mediated mitochondrial dysfunction pathway in HL-60 cells. Int J Mol Med. 2004;14:627-632.
3. Yang ZC, Wang BC, Yang XS, et al. The synergistic activity of antibiotics combined with eight traditional Chinese medicines against two different strains of Staphylococcus aureus. Colloids Surf B Biointerfaces. 2005;41:79-81.
4. Bonham M, Posakony J, Coleman I, et al. Characterization of chemical constituents in Scutellaria baicalensis with antiandrogenic and growth-inhibitory activities toward prostate carcinoma. Clin Cancer Res. 2005;11:3905-3914.
5. Liu JJ, Huang TS, Cheng WF, et al. Baicalein and baicalin are potent inhibitors of angiogenesis: inhibition of endothelial cell proliferation, migration and differentiation. Int J Cancer. 2003;106:559-565.
6. Wozniak D, Lamer-Zarawska E, Matkowski A, et al. Antimutagenic and antiradical properties of flavones from the roots of Scutellaria baicalensis Georgi. Nahrung. 2004;48:9-12.
7. Ong ES, Len SM, Lee AC, et al. Differential protein expression of the inhibitory effects of a standardized extract from Scutellariae radix in liver cancer cell lines using liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry. J AgricFood Chem. 2005;53:8-16.
8. Ikemoto S, Sugimura K, Yoshida N, et al. Antitumor effects of Scutellariae radix and its components baicalein, baicalin, and wogonin on bladder cancer cell lines. Urology. 2000;55:951-5.
9. Chi YS, Lim H, Park H, et al. Effects of wogonin, a plant flavone from Scutellaria radix, on skin inflammation: in vivo regulation of inflammation-associated gene expression. Biochem Pharmacol. 2003;66:1271-8.
10. Shen YC, Chiou WF, Chou YC, et al. Mechanisms in mediating the anti-inflammatory effects of baicalin and baicalein in human leukocytes. Eur J Pharmacol. 2003;465:171-81.
11. Jang SI, Kim HJ, Hwang KM, et al. Hepatoprotective effect of baicalin, a major flavone from Scutellaria radix, on acetaminophen-induced liver injury in mice. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2003;25:585-94.
12. Liao JF, Hung WY, Chen CF. Anxiolytic-like effects of baicalein and baicalin in the Vogel conflict test in mice. Eur J Pharmacol. 2003;464:141-6.
13. Huang Y, Tsang SY, Yao X, et al. Biological properties of baicalein in cardiovascular system. Curr Drug Targets Cardiovasc Haematol Disord. 2005;5:177-184.
14. Lai MY, Hsiu SL, Hou YC, et al. Significant decrease of cyclosporine bioavailability in rats caused by a decoction of the roots of Scutellaria baicalensis. Planta Med. 2004;70:132-137.
15. Fan L, Zhang W, Guo D, et al. The effect of herbal medicine baicalin on pharmacokinetics of rosuvastatin, substrate of organic anion-transporting polypeptide 1B1. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2007 Sep 12. [Epub ahead of print]
16. Arjmandi BH, Ormsbee LT, Elam ML, et al. A combination of Scutellaria baicalensis and Acacia catechu extracts for short-term symptomatic relief of joint discomfort associated with osteoarthritis of the knee. J Med Food. 2014;17(6):707-713
Last reviewed December 2015 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
Last Updated: 12/15/2015
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