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Scutellaria baicalensis, also known as Chinese skullcap, is a perennial flowering plant highly prized for its reputed medicinal properties. The low-growing plant bears flowers that vary from blue to purple. Long a mainstay of traditional Chinese medicine, skullcap roots are ground into powder that is used to treat a variety of ailments, including allergies, headaches, infections and inflammation. Research studies have confirmed some of the traditional claims for this herbal remedy and have also revealed other health benefits.
Preliminary in-vitro and animal testing has shown that some of the phytochemicals, or plant-based compounds, in Scutellaria baicalensis can trigger early cell death in certain cancers, according to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. However, some studies have indicated that baicalin, one of the plant's components, can actually weaken the antitumor potential of Chinese skullcap extract. In a study published in 2013, University of Chicago researchers prepared an extract of Scutellaria from which the baicalin had been removed and used it to treat human colorectal cancer cells in vitro. In the March 2013 issue of the вЂњInternational Journal of Oncology,вЂќ researchers reported that this unique skullcap formula without baicalin significantly inhibited the growth of malignant cells and hastened their demise.
Based on its traditional use as an anti-inflammatory, South Korean researchers studied the effects of Scutellaria baicalensis in reducing adverse reactions to known allergens. They conducted laboratory and animal tests to assess the herb's antiallergic properties. In an article in the May 2012 issue of the вЂњJournal of Ethnopharmacology,вЂќ researchers revealed that the skin of rats injected with Scutellaria exhibited significantly less inflammatory reaction than was seen in the control group after both groups were subjected to known allergens. Human cells pretreated with Scutellaria showed a sharply reduced release of histamines when exposed in vitro to known allergens. Histamines are proteins that the body releases in reaction to allergens.
Stroke can cause significant damage to brain cells deprived of oxygen during an interruption of blood flow to the brain, whether caused by a blood clot or bleeding in the brain. South Korean researchers conducted an animal study to evaluate the ability of Scutellaria baicalensis and four of its bioactive components to minimize stroke damage. Laboratory rats in which stroke had been induced were treated with a methanol extract of Scutellaria, as well as four of its components: baicalein, baicalin, wogonin and wogonoside. In a 2012 issue of вЂњPlanta Medica,вЂќ researchers reported that all agents except baicalin significantly inhibited the death of brain cells, demonstrating a strong potential role in the treatment of stroke.
A Chinese study indicates that baicalein and baicalin, two of the bioactive components in Scutellaria baicalensis, may be useful in treating diabetes. In a laboratory study, researchers treated pancreatic cells from hamsters with each of the skullcap phytochemicals. They found that both substances prolonged the survival rate of these cells and also stimulated their secretion of insulin in the presence of glucose. Researchers published their findings in a 2012 issue of вЂњAdvanced Materials Research.вЂќ