Skullcap — The Scutellaria genus in China

Scutellaria rehderiana (甘肃黄芩)

There are 98 species of Scutellaria in China and yet the Grand Dictionary of Chinese Medicinals only lists 9 species being used. Having seen another species recently at the medicinal plant garden at the Institute for Medicinal Plant Research here in Beijing helped me to realize there are likely a number of other species not listed in that book that are likely used. This species, shown to the right has the functions of clearing heat and drying dampness, draining fire and resolving toxin, and cooling the blood and stopping bleeding.

Scutellaria laterifolia

For those who may not know yet what this genus represents in Chinese medicine, this is huang qin (黄芩) and in fact, it is called the huang qin genus in Chinese (黄芩属). There are about 350 species found in the world, most of them are in the Americas while only a few are found in tropical Africa. In North America a number of species are used locally, but one species Scutellaria laterafolia is famous throughout the Western world as a medicinal plant and found a home in my first book with a complete monograph of its uses within the Chinese medical paradigm.

In Chinese medicine there are two main species used, S. baicalensis and S. barbata. These two species are used quite differently and in fact, the former of the two is the only species I know of where the root is used. Most of the species used in Chinese medicine are said to clear heat and resolve toxin as well as some other functions. Some species, notably S. barbata have been used in cancer research.

Scutellaria sp. Qing Hai

In my travels around China I have found a number of species, and tasted them all. Many have a characteristic taste of the genus, while others, notably S. pekinensis have little taste. Last summer I was in Qing Hai Provice and found several species, one species was quite abundant and tasted like so many of the species I am familiar with on the West Coast of North America (California and Oregon) so I harvested some and tinctured it, and have been using it for the past year as a medicine. Love it! For all the things I would use our Western species for such as anxiety, nervousness, insomnia, menstrual pain, etc. mostly with a common root of liver depression (constraint) and depressive heat.

Scutellaria sp. Great Wall

In my garden on my little balcony in Beijing I have another species from seeds I picked on the Great Wall two years ago. Honestly, I have been struggling to key this species out and I am still not quite sure which on it is. This one is not strong tasting but has some taste. I have only made some tea with it and have decided not to make tincture with it this year, instead collecting seed from its prolific flowers.

That’s a little about the Scutterlias in China. There are so many and I look forward to meeting as many as I possibly can.

One Response to “Skullcap — The Scutellaria genus in China”

  1. robyn August 17, 2010 6:07 am
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