Scutellaria baicalensis
Scutellaria baicalensis
This information describes the common uses of Scutellaria baicalensis, how it works, and its possible side effects.

Common Name

Huang Qin, Baikal skullcap, Chinese skullcap

How It Works

Scutellaria baicalensis is used in traditional medicine to treat many medical conditions. Studies on its potential anticancer effects are underway.

S. baicalensis, also known as Huang Qin or Chinese skullcap, is a root extract used in traditional medicine, often in combination with other herbs. Most studies have been conducted in the lab rather than in humans. Some cancer cell lines undergo cell death when exposed to extracts from this herb. However, there are some compounds in this herb that may have opposite effects. Additional studies are needed to confirm the circumstances under which this herb may be beneficial.

S. baicalensis extracts also reduce inflammation, act as antioxidants, and kill gram-positive bacteria in the laboratory setting. In animals, the extracts help lower blood cholesterol levels under certain conditions. However, it is not yet clear if any of these effects occur in the human body.

Purported Uses

  • To treat atherosclerosis
    Studies in animals show that extracts of this herb may help lower blood cholesterol levels under certain conditions, but human studies have not been conducted.
  • To treat cancer
    Extracts from this herb cause cell death in isolated liver cancer and leukemia cell lines, but human data are lacking. S. baicalensis has not been studied in clinical trials as a single agent, but has been studied in combination with other herbs in formulations such as PC-SPES and sho-saiko-to.
  • To treat hepatitis
    The herbal formulation sho-saiko-to, which contains Huang Qin, has been studied for its possible liver-protectant effects.
  • To treat arthritis
    An herbal supplement containing S. baicalensis has been shown to reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis. It is not known if the herb would exert similar effects by itself.

Do Not Take If

  • You are taking warfarin or other blood thinners: Chinese skullcap can increase the risk of bruising and bleeding.
  • You are taking statins: Chinese skullcap can decrease the blood level of drugs used to lower cholesterol.
  • You are taking Cytochrome P450 substrate drugs: Chinese skullcap may increase the risk of side effects of these drugs.

Side Effects

  • Liver damage
  • Lung inflammation due to bacterial or viral infection

Case Report
Acute liver injury: In patients following consumption of a formula containing baicalin derived from S. baicalensis for osteoarthritis.