The leaves and blue flowers of this 2-foot-tall perennial are used as an ingredient in many over-the-counter herbal sleep remedies. Some researchers, especially in Europe and Asia, report that skullcap contains chemicals that calm the nervous system. Chinese medicine physicians believe that skullcap is effective for treating hepatitis, a serious liver disease. In the United States, however, skullcap is considered controversial and even useless by many medical authorities, at least partly because of its early and unearned reputation for curing rabies, for which it garnered the now archaic name of mad dog weed. Its current name comes from an elongated, caplike appendage on the upper lip of the flower.
Taken internally for:
Over the counter:
Available as prepared tea, tinctures, dried leaves and capsules.
Tea: A cup of boiling water poured over 2 tsp. dried leaves and steeped for 10 to 15 minutes.
Tincture: 1/2 to 1 tsp. taken per 8-oz. glass of warm water.