A member of the Mint family, Skullcap is quite a varied genus with some 90 species that are spread all over the world. Only two occur in Britain, though they are shy little herbs that don't announce their presence to casual passers-by. America is blessed with some 30 species of which the most commonly used medicinal one is Virginian Skullcap, which is also known as 'Mad-Dog Weed' on account of its supposed ability to cure rabies. This claim was touted far and wide in the early days of its discovery, but was later renounced and the herb fell into disrepute. However, despite its failure to cure rabies Skullcap does have some very valuable healing properties and thus never quite disappeared from the Herbal Materia Medica. It was official in the American Pharmacopoeia between 1863 -1916.
Skullcap is best known for its excellent nervine properties. It is calming and relaxing and can be used in cases of anxiety, insomnia, stress related conditions and anorexia, panic attacks and depression. It is also said to ally conditions that are marked by involuntary muscle twitching or convulsions, such as restless leg syndrome and mild epileptic seizures. It used to be used for St. Vitus dance when this was a common problem, and even for schizophrenia. It also appears to be useful for fibromyalgia. It can be used for menstrual cramps and Native American women drank it to promote menstruation. It can also help to relax tense muscles, especially when their uptightness is due to stress. A closely related Chinese species is used for Cancer, but more research is necessary to confirm this use. Do not use during pregnancy.
Magically this herb has been used for cleansing in cases where a menstruation taboo has been broken. It also can be used for exorcism and to protect the practitioner on spirit journeys.