Scutellaria baicalensis, a mint family member, is grown in China and Russia. The root of this plant is used in traditional Chinese herbal medicines and has been the focus of most scientific studies on scullcap. American scullcap and Chinese scullcap are not interchangeable.
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For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.
3 StarsReliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 StarsContradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 StarFor an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:
2.5 grams a day of sho-saiko-to or saiko-keishi-to in tea or capsules
The Chinese herb bupleurum is included in two herbal formulas, sho-saiko-to and saiko-keishi-to. Both have been shown to be helpful for epilepsy.
The Chinese herb bupleurum is included in two similar Chinese herbal formulae known as sho-saiko-to and saiko-keishi-to; these combinations contain the same herbs but in different proportions. The other ingredients are peony root, pinellia root, cassia bark, ginger root, jujube fruit, Asian ginseng root, Asian scullcap root, and licorice root. Both formulas have been shown in preliminary trials to be helpful for people with epilepsy.2, 3, 4 No negative interactions with a variety of anticonvulsant drugs were noted in these trials. The usual amount taken of these formulas is 2.5 grams three times per day as capsules or tea. People with epilepsy should not use either formula without first consulting with a healthcare professional.
Take 2.5 grams of sho-saiko-to three times per day
Trials have shown that the bupleurum-containing formula sho-saiko-to can help reduce symptoms and blood liver enzyme levels in people with chronic active viral hepatitis.
Preliminary trials have shown that the bupleurum-containing formula sho-saiko-to can help reduce symptoms and blood liver enzyme levels in children and adults with chronic active viral hepatitis.5, 6, 7, 8 Most of theses trials were in people with hepatitis B infection, though one preliminary trial has also shown a benefit in people with hepatitis C.9 Sho-saiko-to was also found, in a large preliminary trial to decrease the risk of people with chronic viral hepatitis developing liver cancer. However, people who had a sign of recent hepatitis B infection were not as strongly protected in this trial.10 The usual amount of sho-saiko-to used is 2.5 grams three times daily. Sho-saiko-to should not be used together with interferon drug therapy as it may increase risk of pneumonitis - a potentially dangerous inflammation in the lungs.11
2.5 grams of the Chinese herbal formula sho-saiko-to three times daily
The Chinese herb bupleurum is a component of the formula sho-saiko-to, which was shown in one preliminary trial to liver cancer risk in people with liver cirrhosis.
The Chinese herb bupleurum is an important component of the formula known as sho-saiko-to. Sho-saiko-to was shown in one preliminary trial to reduce the risk of liver cancer in people with liver cirrhosis.12 The amount of this formula used was 2.5 grams three times daily.
Refer to label instructions
Chinese scullcap might be useful for bronchitis as an anti-inflammatory.
Anti-inflammatory herbs may help people with bronchitis. Often these herbs contain complex polysaccharides and have a soothing effect; they are also known as demulcents. Chinese scullcap might be useful for bronchitis as an anti-inflammatory. However, the research on this herb is generally of low quality.13
Refer to label instructions
Chinese skullcap may be useful for liver infections.
Another Chinese herb, Chinese scullcap, might be useful for liver infections. However, the research on this is generally of low quality.14
HIV and AIDS Support (Asian Ginseng, Bupleurum, Cassia Bark, Ginger, Jujube, Licorice, Peony, Pinellia)
Refer to label instructions
The herbal formula sho-saiko-to has been shown to have beneficial immune effects on white blood cells in people infected with HIV.
The Chinese herb bupleurum, as part of the herbal formula sho-saiko-to, has been shown to have beneficial immune effects on white blood cells taken from people infected with HIV.15 Sho-saiko-to has also been shown to improve the efficacy of the anti-HIV drug lamivudine in the test tube.16 One preliminary study found that 7 of 13 people with HIV given sho-saiko-to had improvements in immune function.17 Double-blind trials are needed to determine whether bupleurum or sho-saiko-to might benefit people with HIV infection or AIDS. Other herbs in sho-saiko-to have also been shown to have anti-HIV activity in the test tube, most notably Asian scullcap.18 Therefore studies on sho-saiko-to cannot be taken to mean that bupleurum is the only active herb involved. The other ingredients are peony root, pinellia root, cassia bark, ginger root, jujube fruit, Asian ginseng root, Asian scullcap root, and licorice root.
Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)
The root of Chinese scullcap contains the flavonoid baicalin that has been shown in test tube studies to have protective actions on the liver. Anti-allergy actions and the inhibition of bacteria and viruses in test tube studies have also been documented with Chinese scullcap.19 Some preliminary Chinese human trials, generally of low quality, suggest that Chinese scullcap may help people with acute lung, intestinal, and liver infections, as well as hay fever.20 More extensive clinical research is needed to clearly demonstrate Chinese scullcap’s effectiveness for these conditions.
How to Use It
In traditional Chinese herbal medicine, Chinese scullcap is typically recommended as a tea made from 3–9 grams of the dried root.21 Fluid extract, 1–4 ml three times per day, is also used.22
Asian Scullcap, Baikal Scullcap, Huang Gin
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
At the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.
Test tube studies show that the herbal combination sho-saiko-to enhances the antiviral activity of lamivudine.23 Sho-saiko-to contains extracts of seven herbs, including Bupleuri radix, Pinelliae tuber, Scutellariae radix, Zizyphi fructus, ginseng (Ginseng radix),licorice(Glycyrrhizae radix), and ginger(Zingibers rhizoma). Controlled studies are needed to determine whether taking sho-saiko-to might enhance the beneficial effects of lamivudine.
The interaction is supported by preliminary, weak, fragmentary, and/or contradictory scientific evidence.
In a study in rats, oral administration of Chinese scullcap at the same time as cyclosporine significantly reduced the absorption of cyclosporine.24 Chinese scullcap did not interfere with the availability of cyclosporine when cyclosporine was given intravenously. Because of the potential adverse interaction, people taking cyclosporine should not take Chinese scullcap.
Potential Negative Interaction
The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
Asian Scullcap, Baikal Scullcap, Huang Gin
Use of Chinese scullcap in recommended amounts appears to be safe. The safety of Chinese scullcap during pregnancy and breast-feeding is unknown and should be avoided during these times.
1. Bone K, Morgan M. Clinical Applications of Ayurvedic and Chinese Herbs: Monographs for the Western Herbal Practitioner. Warwick, Australia: 1996, 75-9.
2. Yarnell EY, Abascal K. An herbal formula for treating intractable epilepsy: a review of the literature. Alt Compl Ther 2000;6:203-6 [review].
3. Narita Y, Satowa H, Kokubu T, et al. Treatment of epileptic patients with the Chinese herbal medicine “saiko-keishi-to” (SK). IRCS Med Sci 1982;10:88-9.
4. Nagakubo S, Niwa S-I, Kumagai N, et al. Effects of TJ-960 on Sternberg's paradigm results in epileptic patients. Jpn J Psych Neur 1993;47:609-19.
5. Hirayama C, Okumura M, Tanikawa K, et al. A multicenter randomized controlled clinical trial of Shosaiko-to in chronic active hepatitis. Gastroent Jap 1989;24:715-9.
6. Fujiwara K, Ohta Y, Ogata I, et al. Treatment trial of traditional Oriental medicine in chronic viral hepatitis. In: Ohta Y (ed) New Trends in Peptic Ulcer and Chronic Hepatitis: Part II. Chronic Hepatitis. Tokyo: Excerpta Medica, 1987, 141-6.
7. Tajiri H, Kozaiwa K, Osaki Y, et al. The study of the effect of sho-saiko-to on HBeAg clearance in children with chronic HBV infection and with abnormal liver function tests. Acta Paediatr Jpn 1991;94:1811-5.
8. Gibo Y, Nakamura Y, Takahashi N, et al. Clinical study of sho-saiko-to therapy for Japanese patients with chronic hepatitis C (CH-C). Prog Med 1994;14:217-9.
9. Gibo Y, Nakamura Y, Takahashi N, et al. Clinical study of sho-saiko-to therapy for Japanese patients with chronic hepatitis C (CH-C). Prog Med 1994;14:217-9.
10. Oka H, Yamamoto S, Kuroki T, et al. Prospective study of chemoprevention of hepatocellular carcinoma with sho-saiko-to (TJ-9). Cancer 1995;76:743-9.
11. Mizushima Y, Oosaki R, Kobayashi M. Clinical features of pneumonitis induced by herbal drugs. Phytother Res 1997;11:295-8.
12. Yamamoto S, Oka H, Kanno T, et al. Controlled prospective trial to evaluate Shosaiko-to in preventing hepatocellular carcinoma in patients with cirrhosis of the liver. Gan To Kagaku Ryoho (Jpn J Cancer Chemother) 1989;16:1519-24 [in Japanese].
13. Bone K, Morgan M. Clinical Applications of Ayurvedic and Chinese Herbs: Monographs for the Western Herbal Practitioner. Warwick, Australia: 1996.
14. Bone K, Morgan M. Clinical Applications of Ayurvedic and Chinese Herbs: Monographs for the Western Herbal Practitioner. Warwick, Australia: 1996.
15. Inada Y, Watanabe K, Kamiyama M, et al. In vitro immunomodulatory effects of traditional Kampo medicine (sho-saiko-to: SST) on peripheral mononuclear cells in patients with AIDS. Biomed Pharmacother 1990;44:17-9.
16. Piras G, Makino M, Baba M. Sho-saiko-to, a traditional kampo medicine, enhances the anti-HIV-1 activity of lamivudine (3TC) in vitro. Microbiol Immunol 1997;41:835-9.
17. Fujimaki M, Hada M, Ikematsu S, et al. Clinical efficacy of two kinds of kampo medicine on HIV infected patients. Int Conf AIDS 1989;5:400 [abstract no. W.B.P.292].
18. Li BQ, Fu T, Yan YD, et al. Inhibition of HIV infection by baicalin—a flavonoid compound purified from Chinese herbal medicine. Cell Mol Biol Res 1993;39:119-24.
19. Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press, 1996, 239-40.
20. Bone K, Morgan M. Clinical Applications of Ayurvedic and Chinese Herbs: Monographs for the Western Herbal Practitioner. Warwick, Australia: 1996, 75-9.
21. Foster S. Herbs for Your Health. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, 1996, 86-7.
22. Bone K, Morgan M. Clinical Applications of Ayurvedic and Chinese Herbs: Monographs for the Western Herbal Practitioner. Warwick, Australia: 1996, 75-9.
23. Piras G, Makino M, Baba M. Sho-saiko-to, a traditional kampo medicine, enhances the anti-HIV-1 activity of lamivudine (3TC) in vitro. Microbiol Immunol 1997;41:835-9.
24. Lai MY, Hsiu SL, Hou YC, et al. Significant decrease of cyclosporine bioavailability in rats caused by a decoction of the roots of Scutellaria baicalensis. Planta Med 2004;70:132-7.
The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2015.
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