August has arrived in the Northeast. It's the hot days of summer, before the harbingers of fall begin to show when the leaves change their colors. It's a time to harvest as much as possible for the winter months that will eventually come. It may be hard to think of cold weather when it's hot but the hardiest of rural families knows to "consider the ants".
The fields and forests are still lush with green and the gardens are showing their finest. Here, at Healing Leaves Center we are harvesting as much cultivated and wildcrafted material, drying and storing it for a later date when we will process it. We do that over fall and winter when time presents itself.
As I was examining the gardens and what needed to be harvested next, the beautiful blue flowers of the scutellarias caught my eyes. Scutellaria is the latin name for the skullcaps. We have two here at the Center; Lateriflora, or common and Biacalensis, or Chinese. In our stressful, fast-paced lifestyles, the skullcaps are good additions to our medicine cupboards.
Scutellaria Lateriflora grows well in our region as a perennial. It is easily harvested and dried and makes a beautiful addition to cultivated garden areas. In the wild it is found in sunny but damp, wet areas. It is part of the mint family, so can be identified by its square stem.
The leaves of blue skullcap have a history of use in herbal medicines as a sedative and tranquilizer and for treatment of a variety of conditions including stress, nervous tension, headaches, insomnia, anxiety, convulsions and certain neurological disorders. It is used in formulas with other herbs to support the above functions. It is very safe to use with little side effects. (Please note, any one individual can have a reaction to almost anything, including food. Use all herbs in small doses until you are sure you do not personally have any negative reactions).
Scutellaria Biacalensis, or Biacal Skullcap can be grown in the northeast to zone 4. After that it will need to be potted and put under cover or grown in a greenhouse and mulched in for winter. It likes sunny locations but, unlike Lateriflora, it does not like damp soil but needs soil that drains well. The extra time and care needed to grow it are not only rewarded by its medicinal uses but also by its larger, darker blue and showier flowers. Unfortunately it is the root of the plant that is needed medicinally so if you are using for that purpose, you will need a number of plants to continue to proliferate as you take some for processing.
Biacalensis has been used for many years in Chinese medicine and is just beginning to show itself more popular in Western herbal medicne. Common uses are for inflammation, insomnia, hepatitis, epilepsy, atherosclerosis and cancer.
Skullcap Tea for Headaches and Nervous Stress (made with common skullcap)
2 parts scutellaria lateriflora
2 parts lemon balm
1/2 part feverfew
4 parts chamomile
Directions: Use 1 tsp per cup of boiling water, cover and and let steep 15 minutes