Scutellaria baicalensis, or Chinese skullcap, is well-known for its support of a balanced inflammatory response in conditions such as osteoarthritis. The flavonoid baicalin is a constituent of S. baicalensis that has been researched in vivo and in vitro for its potential ability to help reduce inflammatory markers. But Chinese skullcap is a versatile botanical that has many more clinical uses.
S. baicalensis is a plant that is widely found in China, Russia, Mongolia, and Japan. The root is used medicinally, and more than 40 compounds have been isolated from it, including terpenoids, volatile oils, polysaccharides, beta-sitosterol, and flavonoids such as baicalin. Traditional uses of S. baicalensis date back to the Western Zhou Dynasty around 1,000 BC where it was used to treat liver and lung diseases. It is still a popular traditional Chinese medicinal herb used for a variety of conditions. In clinical research, S. baicalensis has been shown to support many aspects of human health.
A 2019 review article compiled comprehensive data on S. baicalensis and reported detailed effects of its use on a variety of systems within the human body. Regarding the immune system, S. baicalensis has been shown to inhibit production of interleukin 5 (IL-5) and indirectly reduce immunoglobulin E (IgE), independent of cell viability, which suggests its potential use for allergic conditions mediated by IL-5 and IgE. In vivo and in vitro laboratory studies have reported the suggestion that ethanol extracts from S. baicalensis had a significant inhibitory effect on allergic inflammation.
Modern research has shown that S. baicalensis may be beneficial for liver support, which is in alignment with its traditional use. Baicalin has been shown to have antifibrotic effects in laboratory studies. S. baicalensis was also shown to inhibit the growth of hepatocellular carcinoma cells in vitro. It has also been used to support the liver in conditions such as liver necrosis and liver fibrosis.
Additionally, studies have shown that extracts of S. baicalensis could protect neuronal cells from oxidative stress. It may also provide antioxidant qualities, and it may protect against free radical stress in the presence of microvascular and macrovascular conditions such as diabetes.
S. baicalensis has been shown to have calming effects. In animal studies, it was shown to enhance sleeping in mice. In addition, it has been shown to inhibit certain bacterial and virus growth in laboratory studies. S. baicalensis is currently well-known for its potential of support in certain cancers. A review article of studies conducted both in vivo and in vitro suggest that extracts and certain flavonoids from S. baicalensis may have anticancer qualities in certain cell lines. This article also reported that S. baicalensis may potentially improve the quality of life of individuals with certain cancers.
S. baicalensis has been used for centuries in the support of human health. Modern laboratory and clinical evidence suggest that it has the potential to support many functions within the body, including the support of healthy cell proliferation, liver function, memory, and immune health.
By Colleen Ambrose, ND, MAT