In last week’s post, I wrote about one of my all time favourite herbs for interstitial cystitis – North American skullcap. Just to recap, North American skullcap is a safe and effective nervous system tonic that is especially beneficial for those suffering from nervous system exhaustion, anxiety, muscle spasms and insomnia.
One of the 50 fundamental herbs in traditional Chinese medicine
Native to China and parts of Russia, Chinese skullcap, also known as huáng qín, wogon, Scutellaria baicalensis or Baikal skullcap, is one of the 50 fundamental herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine. Although Chinese skullcap resembles and is related to North American skullcap, it is a different plant and the roots are used medicinally, rather than the aerial parts. Blue or purple flowers bloom from its single stems.
Chinese skullcap has a wide range of treatment applications in TCM, including allergies, infections, inflammation, cancer, diabetes and headaches. Its medicinal uses are due to several chemical compounds that have been isolated form the root, such as the flavanoids baicalein, baicalin, wogonin, norwogonin and oroxylin A and the plant sterol, β-sitosterol.
Chinese skullcap for interstitial cystitis
Chinese skullcap has a few applications that are beneficial to those suffering from interstitial cystitis. First, it has anti-inflammatory properties and can therefore help reduce inflammation in the bladder and elsewhere in the body. It is my belief, based on the fact that most IC patients have multiple chronic conditions related to inflammation, that the inflammation we experience is likely systemic and not isolated to the bladder.
Second, Chinese skullcap has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties, making it a good choice for the IC patient who suffers from some kind of infection, be it acute, chronic or occult. Infections are also common in those with IC.
What is Chinese skullcap used for today?
Although further studies are needed, preliminary evidence suggests that the flavonoid baicalin can enhance the activity of antibiotics against antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria. This is an important application considering there are several antibiotic resistant bacteria emerging due to our overuse of antibiotics. Baicalin, wogonin, and baicalein are being studied for their anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, liver-protective, anti-anxiety and anti-hypertensive effects.
How to use it
Currently in the North American market, Chinese skullcap is mainly seen in herbal combinations for inflammation. For instance, New Chapter’s Zyflamend is a combination of herbs, including Chinese skullcap, that work on promoting a healthy inflammatory response throughout the entire body. You can also find Chinese skullcap it on its own in capsule form.
You can purchase the root in bulk (usually found in powdered form) and make a tea with other anti-inflammatory herbs, such as rosemary, turmeric and ginger. As we age, our risk of chronic inflammation increases. It is one of the major contributing factors of heart disease, joint pain and auto-immune conditions. Anyone with a chronic inflammatory condition, like interstitial cystitis, arthritis, high cholesterol or multiple sclerosis, may benefit from the use of Chinese skullcap.
The optimum doses of Chinese skullcap have not been established, but it is typically taken at a dose of 3-9 grams daily as part of an herbal combination (tea, tincture or capsules).
If you are taking any drugs or herbs that have a sedating effect, such as anticonvulsants, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, tricyclic antidepressants, drugs for insomnia, alcohol, valerian, kava or catnip, avoid the use of Chinese skullcap.
It can also lower blood sugar and make the effects of diabetes drugs stronger, leading to a risk of hypoglycemia.
Chinese skullcap is contraindicated if you are on a drug in the statin family (for lowering cholesterol) or cyclosporine, which is used to prevent organ transplant rejection.
Lastly, safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
Is Chinese skullcap right for you?
The best way to determine if Chinese skullcap might help your interstitial cystitis is to consult with a knowledgeable holistic healthcare practitioner, such as a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine, herbalist, naturopathic doctor or nutritionist.
Make sure they have experience in treating IC, or are at least familiar with the condition and willing to learn more about it. Some qualities to look for in a practitioner include an open-mind, meticulous, caring, patient and willing to dip deep to uncover and treat the root cause(s).