The science of skullcap


You could be forgiven for thinking wogonin and baicalein are Viking gods. In fact, they are potent inflammation suppressing phytochemicals (see Why nutraceuticals matter) from Scutellaria baicalensis, a shrub which is also known as Baikal skullcap. Skullcap has blue helmet shaped flowers – hence the name – and grows from Siberia to Eastern Asia. Its woody carrot shaped root has been a mainstay of Chinese medicine for centuries.

There are six active phytochemicals in the dried root, which block inflammation at multiple stages. They mop up free radicals, which are a major cause of the ‘inflammage’ (see Age Better). They inhibit nitric oxide, a major inflammatory stimulus. They also appear to protect brain tissue from oxidative stress and age-related neurodegeneration.

Cytokines are small molecules that carry inflammatory signals. Baicalein binds to them to stop them working. There is also evidence that baicalein breaks down brain amyloid deposits, which are the lesion behind Alzheimer’s dementia.

Likewise, wogonin appears to be good for ageing brains, and may even stimulate brain regeneration. It also blocks an enzyme called cyclooxygenase 2, which is part of the production line for making inflammatory mediators from prostaglandins. Cyclooxygenase 2 is a key bottleneck in the inflammatory cascade, and a whole class of conventional anti-inflammatory drugs, prescribed by doctors, operate by obstructing the same enzyme.

Each capsule of LifeGuard Essentials delivers 30 milligrams of skullcap extract, the equivalent of 1.5 grams of the dried root.