Harvest the aerial parts as soon as it produces its first flowers. A cup of fresh skullcap tea is said to be more potent than the dried herb – another reason to grow it yourself rather than buy it from the shops.
For best results, sow indoors in early spring. Scatter seeds on the surface and press into the soil; do not cover with soil as the seed requires light to germinate. In our experience it usually germinates within 1-2 weeks, but some people report that it can take up to several months, so if your seed is slow to germinate, hang in there and keep the soil moist until it germinates.
The seed germinates best following a period of cold, so if you miss the spring sowing-window and want to sow in the warmer months, cold-moist stratify the seed by mixing it with moist sand and keeping in the fridge for at least a week or two before sowing.
Skullcap thrives in fertile soil that is moist but not waterlogged, and does well in partial shade. Once the seedlings are established it will start to spread laterally like a mint. This is obviously a good thing if you want lots of skullcap, but do be mindful that it can encroach into other plants (and paths) and is difficult to weed out once it gets into a neighbouring plant’s root system. Generally speaking it’s easy to keep under control if you keep an eye on it and cut it back at the edges where needed.
It’s an easy plant to divide and multiply. Once you have an established patch you probably won’t need more seed from us.
Skullcap’s exquisite flowers and seed pod reveal the ‘sign’ of a ‘hat’ associated with its effect on the mind. Filled with flavonoids associated with neurotransmitters managing our response to life’s pressures, skullcap is used by herbalists as an ‘anxiolytic’ to calm anxiety and act as a ‘nervine’; calming the system helping to increase tolerance. Think of skullcap where vitality is low from exhaustion due to being over-excited or over-whelmed. It also has an anti-spasmodic action that can be used for pain and restlessness.
Considering it is a herb with such respected benefits, skullcap is under researched. However, some of its bitter baicalein it contains has received a lot of interest from the Chinese variety, Scuttelaria biacalensis. Known as ‘huang qin’ in TCM, the yellow roots also contain berberine indicating its use for acute bacterial infections and inflammation. Don’t confuse the two though.