Baikal skullcap roots

Chinese: 黄芩

Pinyin: Huáng Qín

Parts used: Dried root

TCM category: Herbs that clear Heat and dry Dampness

TCM nature: Cold

TCM taste(s): Bitter

Meridian affinity: GallbladderSpleenHeartLarge intestineLungSmall intestine

Scientific name: Scutellaria baicalensis

Other names: Scute, Chinese skullcap

Use of baikal skullcap roots (Huáng Qín) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitionner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Remove impurities, steam for half an hour, cut in thin slices, dry.

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Expels Heat and Dampness. Clears Upper Burner Heat, especially of the Lung. Clears Heat and stops reckless movement of Blood. Clears pathogenic Heat which is upsetting the fetus. Cools the Liver, reducing Liver Yang rising syndrome.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which baikal skullcap roots may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Chest pain Vomiting Dysentery Jaundice Coughing Bloody sputum Nosebleed Carbuncles Sores Miscarriage

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those with Deficiency Heat in the Lungs, with Coldness in the Middle Burner with diarrhea, nor by those mothers with restless fetus due to Cold conditions.

Common TCM formulas in which baikal skullcap roots are used*:

Key TCM concepts behind baikal skullcap roots' properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), baikal skullcap roots are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that clear Heat and dry Dampness' category. Herbs in this category are used to clear inflammatory and infectious conditions, referred to as 'Internal Heat' in TCM. This is why most of the herbs in this category will have both antibacterial and antiviral properties. In TCM one has too much 'Heat' in their body as a result of a deficiency of 'Yin' (which is Cold in nature, see our explanation on Yin and Yang) or, more commonly, an excess of Yang (Hot in nature). Herbs that clear Heat and dry Dampness treat the latter while, at the same time, relieving the body of excess Dampness. As such they tend to be Cold or Neutral in nature.

As suggested by its category baikal skullcap roots are plants that are Cold in nature. This means that baikal skullcap roots typically help people who have too much "heat" in their body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much heat in their body are said to either have a Yang excess (because Yang is Hot in nature) or a Yin deficiency (Yin is Cold in Nature). Depending on your condition baikal skullcap roots can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Baikal skullcap roots also taste Bitter. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like baikal skullcap roots tend to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing heat, drying dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such baikal skullcap roots are thought to target the Gallbladder, the Spleen, the Heart, the Large intestine, the Lung and the Small intestine. Similar to modern medicine, in TCM the Gall Bladder stores and releases bile produced by the Liver. It also controls the emotion of decisiveness. The Spleen on the other hand assists with digestion, blood coagulation and fluid metabolism in the body. In addition to regulating blood flow, the Heart is believed to be the store of the "spirit" which basically refers to someone's vitality. The Large Intestine receives the "impure" parts of the digested food from the Small Intestine, absorbs the remaining fluids and excrete the remainder as feces. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the body fluids that nourish the body. Like the Stomach, the Small Intestine has a digestive role, extracting the "pure" part of what we injest to the Spleen and the "impure" down to the Large Intestine.

Research on baikal skullcap roots

Flavones isolated from Scutellaria baicalensis root exhibit strong neuroprotective effects on the brain and are not toxic in the broad range of tested doses.1

Baicalein, one of the important Scutellaria flavonoids, was shown to have cardiovascular effects in in vitro.2

Scutellaria has demonstrated anxiolytic activity in humans.3

Sources:

1. Gasiorowski K, Lamer-Zarawska E, Leszek J, Parvathaneni K, Yendluri BB, Błach-Olszewska Z, Aliev G. (2011). Flavones from root of Scutellaria baicalensis Georgi: drugs of the future in neurodegeneration? CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. , 10(2):184-91.

2. Huang, Yu; Tsang, Suk-Ying; Yao, Xiaoqiang; Chen, Zhen-Yu (2005). "Biological Properties of Baicalein in Cardiovascular System". Current Drug Targets. 5 (2): 177–84. doi:10.2174/1568006043586206.

3. Wolfson P, Hoffmann DL (2003). "An investigation into the efficacy of Scutellaria lateriflora in healthy volunteers". Altern Ther Health Med. 9 (2): 74–8. PMID 12652886.