Scutellaria Lateriflora. Scullcap, Blue scullcap, Hood-wort.
Description: Natural Order, Labiatae. Genus SCUTELLARIA: Calyx bell-shaped in flower, two-lipped; the lips entire, closing over the ripening fruit after the corolla has fallen, the upper lip with an enlarged appendage which becomes hoodshaped over the fruit. Corolla with the tube ascending, elongated, curved, dilated at the root, two-lipped. Stamens four, ascending under the upper lip of the corolla, filaments bearded, anthers approximate in pairs. S. LATERIFLORA: Stem smooth, upright; one to two feet high, square, stout, much branched. Leaves ovate-oblong, rounded at the base, pointed, coarsely serrate, opposite, on spreading petioles two or three inches long. Flowers in axillary racemes; racemes two to four inches long, the flowers on only one side; corollas pale blue; calyx appendage giving this closed envelope the appearance of an old-fashioned hood. Common in moist and shaded places, blooming in August.
This, the true medicinal scullcap, is distinguished from all the other species by the arrangement of its flowers on only one side of the long axillary (in a few cases terminal) racemes. Other species are medicinal, especially the CANESCENS, which is from two to four feet high, slightly branched above, covered with a minute white down when young, and with corollas more than half an inch long; and also the SERRATA, which is from one to three feet high, slender, scarcely branched, smooth, leaves tapering at both ends, and with tapering corollas an inch long. This latter species, much less valuable than the lateriflora, is often mistaken for it; but can easily be distinguished by its leaves, the terminal and not one-sided arrangement of its racemes, and its large corolla with an undilated tube.
The whole herb is medicinal; is without smell, but has a hitter and not very pleasant taste. Age and heat impair its virtues, and it needs to be dried in the shade, and kept in airtight vessels. Water extracts its qualities moderately well, and diluted alcohol effectually.
Properties and Uses: This much-neglected herb is a truly valuable medicine, but is many times rendered inert by being boiled; and some physicians have laid it aside, having used some of the weaker species instead of the true lateriflora. It is equally relaxant and stimulant; antispasmodic, and tonic, acting upon and through the nervous system. It is best suited for restless and wakeful conditions, with feebleness; and for all forms of nervousness with fatigue or depression. In the wakefulness of typhoid, delirium tremens, and other acute cases; and also in chronic wakefulness, and even in the horrid sleeplessness that arises under the effort to abstain from the habitual use of opium, it is one of the most prompt and reliable agents of the whole Materia Medica. By toning and also soothing the nervous structures, it secures that steadiness of action which is followed by quiet sleep; and it induces no shade of narcotism, neither leaves behind any excitement, sensitiveness, nor languor. Through the nervous system, it reaches localized pains of the above character, (§138;) whence it is of much value in uterine sufferings, nervous headache, achings through the bowels, and neuralgia, when any of these difficulties is due to feebleness with agitation, but not connected with acute or sub-acute inflammatory excitement. It may also be used to excellent advantage with suitable diffusives in spasmodic difficulties, to sustain nervous tone, as in hysteria, chorea, puerperal convulsions, and epilepsy. The steady tonic power it exerts, makes it an available combination in nervous forms of dyspepsia, female weaknesses, and nervous forms of intermitting difficulties. At one time it enjoyed a wide repute in hydrophobia, though the good opinion of it once entertained has not been fully confirmed. There is no sense, however, in trying to sneer down this reputation by saying that "empirics" use it thus; for the most eminent Allopathic authors plainly say that a large portion of their best practice is empirical, and the use of scullcap in hydrophobia was first commended by Dr. Vandesveer in 1772, and its good name warmly defended by Dr. White of Fishkill, and Prof. Rafinesque of New York–all established and honorable Allopathic physicians. While the plant has, in this direction, probably been overrated, its antispasmodic power is of the highest quality, and an abundant use of it would certainly be suitable treatment in that malady.
Dose, of the powder, five to twenty grains every six or four hours. Half an ounce digested with a pint of warm (not boiling) water, makes a good infusion; of which a fluid ounce or more may be given three times a day, cold, for tonic purposes, or used warm every second hour or hour for acute nervousness. For spasmodic difficulties, it is best associated with lobelia or caulophyllum, and given in doses of half a fluid ounce every hour or half hour.
Pharmaceutical Preparations: I. Tincture. Finely crush four ounces of scutellaria, pack it well in a percolator, and treat with diluted alcohol till a quart has been obtained. Dose, a fluid drachm at suitable intervals.
II. Fluid Extract. Macerate a pound of well-crushed herb for two days in diluted alcohol; transfer to a percolator, and treat with diluted alcohol till eight ounces have passed; set this aside, and proceed as for fluid extract of cypripedium. This is a strong and very available preparation, in doses of from five to twenty drops as often as necessary. It can be combined to much advantage with fluid extract of macrotys or of valerian, with essence of anise as an adjuvant, in acute and sub-acute wakefulness and general nervousness.
III. Scutellarin. Under this name the market occasionally furnishes an article claimed to be the active principle of the plant. One method of procuring it is by making a saturated tincture on absolute alcohol, and then proceeding as for podophyllin. The precipitate thus obtained is a lightish-green powder; but it is obtained at the sacrifice of a very large portion of the scullcap, and does not fairly represent the active qualities of the article. Another method is by carefully evaporating the absolute tincture on a water bath. It finally becomes pulverulent, though it will not always remain so without the addition of one fifth part of the powdered herb. The latter preparation is usually a good article, and may be employed in doses of from one to three grains.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com