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Common Name: Skullcap | Scientific Name: Scutellaria Laterifolia

Family Name: Labiatae


Scullcap was used by the Eclectic Physicians as a nerve tonic, said to make a weak or weakened nervous system stronger. It was very popular and considered very safe.


Notes from the Eclectic Physicians

Notes from the Eclectic Physicians

1874: Scudder
Prepare a tincture from the fresh herb, gathered whilst in flower, alchol 76%)j. Dose, from gtt.j to gtts.xx.

We have here another remedy that loses its medical properties by drying, until by age they are entirely dissipated. I have seen specimens furnished physicians by the drug trade that were wholly worthless, no wonder they were disappointed in its action.

The scutellaria exerts a direct influence upon the cerebro-spinal centers, controlling irritation. It is possible that it may also exert a tonic influence, favoring nutrition. It has been employed with success in chorea, convulsions, epilepsy, mania, etc.,and especially in hysteria, monomonania, and that undefined condition that we call nervousness. I value the remedy highly, but only it when prepared from the resh plant as above.

1883: Scudder
Scutellaria is antispasmodic,nervine, and tonic. scullcap is peculiarly available in diseases of a nervous character, while it acts as a tonic,invigorating the powers of the digestive organs and augmenting the energies of the general system, its nervine and antispasmodic properties paint to it as a useful remedy to allay morbid irritability of the nervous system. It is but little used in violent spasmodic action, nevertheless, it is well adapted to the relief of the morbid state of the nervous system upon which the spasm depends.

1895: Watkins: SCUTELLARIA, SP MED:
Convulsions from over study or long continued and exhaustive labor, tremor and twitching of lower limbs, insomnia, restlessness, cardiac palpitation, menstrual difficulties. Five drops to one drachm in four ounces water; teaspoonful every two hours.

1898:Felter and Lloyd – SCUTELLARIA (U.S.P.) – SCUTELLARIA
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage – Scullcap is tonic, nervine, and anti-spasmodic. This is one of those valuable agents which a certain class of physicians consider inert; yet is has proved especially useful in chorea, convulsions, tremors, intermittent fever, neuralgia, and many nervous affections. In delirium tremens, an infusion drank freely will soon produce a calm sleep. In intermittents it may be beneficially combined with lycopus. Where teething has impaired the health of children, an infusion may be given with advantage. In all cases of nervous excitability, restlessness, or wakefulness, attending or following acute or chronic diseases, from physical or mental overwork, or from other causes, it may be drank freely with every expectation of beneficial results. The warm infusion has a tendency to keep the skin moist; the cold has a tonic influence, and either may be drank freely. When its soothing effects have ceased, it does not leave an excitable, irritable condition of the system, as is the case with some other nervines. Scullcap has been extolled as a remedy in hydrophobia, but this is still a matter of uncertainty. That it influences the cerebro-spinal centers, controlling nervous irritation there can be no doubt, and this fact is well illustrated by its control over functional cardiac disorders, due to purely nervous causes, with or without hysterical manifestations, and exhibiting intermittency of pulse. Specific scutellaria well represents the plant. Half an ounce of the recently dried leaves or herb, to 1/2 pint of boiling water, will make a very strong infusion. Dose of specific scutel laria, 1 to 30 drops; of scutellarin, 1 to 5 grains; fluid extract, 1 to 60 drops.

Specific Indications and Uses – Nervousness, attending or following acute or chronic diseases, or from mental or physical exhaustion, teething, etc; nervousness manifesting itself in muscular action; tremors, subsultus, etc.; hysteria, with inability to control the voluntary muscles; functional cardiac disorders of a purely nervous type, with intermittent pulse.

1901 : Harvey W Felter (Appendix) – SCUTELLARIA – SCULLCAP
BOTANICAL ORIGIN – The green herb of Scutellaria lateriflora , Linne. Nat. Ord., Labiateae. Common in damp places and along bank of streams throughout the United States .

Scullcap is a remedy of secondary importance but when specifically indicated it does good service. It is a tonic, nervine and antispasmodic. It is a remedy for nervousness, during or after acute or chronic diseases, or from teething, or mental or physical exhaustion. When nervousness takes the forms of convulsive muscular movements, tremors, or subsultus, it proves a soothing agent. In hysteria, with involuntary muscular movements, it has given prompt results. Mild cases of chorea are benefited by it, while in purely functional nervous derangements of theheart action, with intermittent pulse, it is a very serviceable remedy. The dose of specific scutellaria is form 1 to 30 drops.

1905: Petersen
Syn – Scutellaria; Skullcap

P. E. – Whole plant

N. O. – Labiatae

N. H. – United States

Properties: Tonic, nervine, antispasmodic

Use: In nervousness with fear of calamity it has a direct influence upon the derebro-spinal centers, controlling irritation. Is of use in irritable condition of the nervous system. We think of it in conditions, the result of above, such as insomnia, irregular action of the muscles, chorea and paralysis agitans. In the first it is especially valuable if combined with cimicifuga. Of use in organic heart trouble with nervousness and palpitation. It is also of value in spasmodic affections of women.

1911: Fyfe
Hysteria, with inability to control voluntary muscles, nervousness, manifesting itself in muscular action, incoordination of muscular movements, tremors, twitchings, restlessness, agitation, sleeplessness, mutering delirium, subsultus tendinum, cerebral irritation from teething, delirium tremens. Scutelaria lateriflora is tonic, nervine, and antispasmodic.

Synonyms – Scullcap, madweed, hoodwort.

Constituents – A bitter principle (crystalline glucoside), volatile oil, fat, tannin, sugar.

Preparations – Extractum Scutellariae Fluidum, Fluid Extract of Scutellaria. Dose, from five to thirty minims. Infusum Scutellariae, Infusion of Scutellaria.

Specific Scutellaria. Dose, from one to ten minims.

The remedy is usually prescribed in the form of the specific medicine. The normal tincture is very satisfactory, and in some cases scutellerin is the best form of the remedy to give. The glucoside in granules, which contain one-twelfth of a grain, will produce good results.

Specific Symptomatology – French advises this remedy for two distinct lines of specific phenomena. The first is where there is irritability of the nervous system, with restlessness and nervous excitability; inability to sleep without pain; general irritability, with insomnia from local physical causes. The second is where there is nervous disorder, characterized by irregular muscular action, twitching, tremors and restlessness, with or without inco-ordination. These symptoms are found in chorea, paralysis agitans, epilepsy and delirium tremens. Its soothing influence continues for a protracted period, after the agent is discontinued. It is not a remedy of great power, but when indicated is of much service.

Its specific nerve sedative properties were those observed by the older writers who obtained this influence from a strong infusion which without doubt will yield results not obtained from small doses of the finer pharmaceutical preparations.

Therapy -Its soothing influence upon the nervous system conduces to quiet and restful sleep. In large doses in delirium tremens, it is a sufficient remedy. Its influence will be enhanced by combining it with capsicum, the tincture of red cinchona, or some other non-alcoholic stimulant. Combined with macrotys, the value of both these agents is increased in their adaptability to chorea.

In restlessness, or in nervous excitability producing insomnia, and in prolonged fevers, it promotes sleep and at the same time stimulates the skin and kidneys to increased activity. Its soothing influence is retained after the agent is discontinued. The agent was at one time supposed to exercise an influence over the spasms of hydrophobia, but it is doubtless too feeble for such a purpose.

1921: Lloyd
Introduced into the U.S.P. in 1860, but occupied a place in the Secondary List in this and the following edition, 1870. It was wholly official from 1880 to 1900, but was then dropped, not appearing in the 1910 edition.

The record of this American drug is so remarkable, for several reasons, as to lead this reviewer to accept that, in justice to the problem as a whole, unusual attention is needful in its direction. He therefore devotes to it more space than usual, and even then he appreciates that he but faintly presents the story of this drug.

Like some others, (Chionanthus for example), this plant was introduced for one purpose which was later lost to sight, other uses becoming conspicuous. Thus coca was introduced as a stimulant and considered as a substitute for tea and coffee; abandoned as inert by no less an authority than Dr. E. R. Squibb, an alkaloid of it, cocaine, was next found to possess most remarkable qualities as a local anesthetic.

Before the date of the publication of the first American Materia Medica, by Schoepf, in 1785, Dr. Lawrence Van Derveer, of Roysfield , New Jersey , to whom may be given the credit of its introduction, used scutellaria in his practice, believing it to be of exceeding value as a remedy for hydrophobia. Dr. Van Derveer has been charged with keeping his remedy a secret, but although he became celebrated as an expert in treating the disease, there is no evidence to show that he ever kept the name of the drug private. For forty years he had a widely extended neighborhood reputation as a specialist in hydrophobia, during which time he treated as many as four hundred persons (an average of ten a year), with but one death.

Nor need we look with suspicion upon the large number of cases of hydrophobia said to have been treated by Dr. Van Derveer. Statistics from the most reliable sources show that hydrophobia was either very common a century ago, or the scare over it widely disseminated. In our early life in Kentucky we continually beard of deaths from this cause, and knew of frequent rabies in our beighborhood. The disease is one demanding immediate medication. No risk of time, remedy or physicians will be taken by any one, and it is likely that each person bitten by a questionable dog, and knowing Dr. Van Derveer’s reputation for treating the disease, would make every effort to secure his personal services. The rule of seeking a therapeutic expert holds good today. In recent years (1908), two persons bitten by a mad dog in Florence, Kentucky, went at once to Chicago to receive authoritative “serum” treatment, both of whom, however, died of hydrophobia, as recorded by Dr. W. M. Corey, of that town, who accompanied these patients to Chicago, where they received the Pasteur treatment, with which the profession is familiar. Let us now revert to the literature connecting scutellaria with the dreaded disease, hydrophobia.

In 1812, Dr. James Thacher (631), who served as surgeon through the Revolutionary War, locating then in Plymouth , Massachusetts , issued a book of 301 pages titled:

“Observations on Hydrophobia, produced by the bite of a mad dog or other rabid animal, with an examination of the various theories and methods of cure existing at the present day, and an inquiry into the merit of Specific Remedies. Also a Method of Treatment best adapted to the Brute Creation.”

In this book, whose frontispiece carried the illustration of Scutellaria lateriflora, Dr. Thacher considers in detail the history and pathology of hydrophobia, as well as the various theories that have prevailed concerning its origin and distribution, together with discussions from such eminent authorities as Boerhaave, Hunter, Darwin, Rush, Cullen, Physick, Coxe, etc. These were analtyical and discursive, involving the cause, progress and treatment of the disease. But though very interesting, they are not here relevant.

Chapters XIII and XIV of Thacher’s book deal with the many nostrum cures for hydrophobia that have been celebrated both popularly and in the medical profession, such as “the liver of the mad dog broiled,” “cray fish burnt with twigs of bryony,” the famous “East Indian Remedy,” “Sir George Cobb’s powder,” the famed “Pulvis Antilyssus” of Dr. Mead, the renowned “Omskirk medicine,” and a host of such that had their day and passed into disrepute. Among these was “Crouse’s Remedy,” once so celebrated as to have induced the New York Legislature, 1806, to purchase the formula, for which it paid one thousand dollars. It was found to be as follows:

“Jawbone of a dog, bruised and powdered, one ounce; false tongue of a newly-foaled colt, dried and powdered, one ounce; verdigris on an old copper coin (coinage of George I or II preferred), one scruple. Mix the ingredients and give a teaspoonful at a dose.”

Seventeen pages of Thacher’s book are devoted to the record of scutellaria, in which the names of Dr. Van Derveer, “a physician of eminence in New Jersey ,” and the “Lewis’s” use of scutellaria play an important part. Out of a large number of cases but one failure was reported, that of a Dr. Bartlett, who began the use of the drug eight or ten days after several animals were bitten, six of which died of hydrophobia. This lapse of time led Dr. thacher to say:

“The facts offered by Dr. Bartlett, although deserving of serious consideration, are not to be accounted sufficient to countervail the copious mass of evidence from unquestionable sources, which has been exhibited.”

In summing up, Dr. Thacher, who had condemned all the so-called “cures,” and all other remedies named, writes of scutellaria:

“Since the plant is not known to possess properties inimical to the constitution, it merits the most persevering examination and trial in every instance, in either the human subject or brute creation. Every consideration therefore conspires to urge the employment of this article, and the result of every experiment ought to be promptly promulgated.”

From the date of Thacher’s publication (1812) to the present time, 1920, scutellaria has not commanded much attention either in the press or from the medical profession of the Eastern states. Except to the casual student, the remarkable record of the drug has been completely lost.

In tracing the history of scutellaria, we find that Lyman Spalding, M. D., in 1819, read a lengthy and detailed paper before the New York Historical Society on the “History and Use of Scutellaria Lateriflora in Hydrophobia.” This was soon afterward published in pamphlet form of thirty pages, carrying as its frontispiece the illustration of Dr. Thacher. Its title page was:

“A History of the Introduction and Use of Scutellaria Lateriflora (Scullcap), as a Remedy for Preventing and Curing Hydrophobia, Occasioned by the Bite of Rabid Animals; with Cases; accompanied with a plate of the plant, by Lyman Spalding, M. D. Read before the New York Historical Society, September 14, 1819, New York. Printed by William Treadwell, and for sale by Collins & Co., No. 189 Pearl Street , and J. B. Jansen, No. 15 Chatham Street . 1819.”

After giving Dr. Van Derveer credit for being “The first person, so far as we have been able to learn, who used Scutellaria as a preventive of hydrophobia from the bite of rabid animals,” Dr. Spalding disposes of the charges of any secrecy as concerns the drug by Dr. Van Derveer:

“On a reference to the many nostrums which have been celebrated for preventing hydrophobia, we do not find that Scutellaria had been used either in Virginia , or in any other place, previous to its employment by the doctor. Our inquiries do not lead us to believe that he kept his remedy a profound secret, although he has been accused of so doing by many; but so much the medical men despise what they consider vulgar specifics, and so little faith do the public place in them, that this remedy for forty years was scarcely known or heard of beyond the doctor’s immediate circle of practice. It was from these circumstances that no one had the curiosity to ask this gentleman how he came by a knowledge of the antidoal powers of Scutellaria. From the upright, unassuming character of Dr. Van Derveer, his correct moral deportment, and regular medical standing, we are led to believe that he would as frankly have communicated the source of his information, as the remedies used.

“Among the many persons to whom he communicated a knowledge of his remedies may be numbered Drs. Morris, Kinney, Little, Henry, and Bloomfield of the Revolutionary Army; Dr. Henry Schenck, Sen. Daniel Lewis, and Dr. Henry Van Derveer.”

This, in our opinion, together with the evidence given by Mr Daniel Lewis, to whom he taught the use of the drug, and by his son, Dr. Henry Van Derveer, fully relieves Dr. Van Derveer from the charge of drug secrecy.

Next comes the statement that Dr. Van Derveer treated over four hundred persons, but two dying. For one of these Dr. Van Derveer disclaimed responsibility:

“Dr. Van Derveer was called to visit a young woman living near Rahway in New Jersey , who had been attended by another physician, and in whom hydrophobic symptoms had so far advanced before Dr. Van Derveer saw her, as in his opinion to preclude all human aid. She took the Scutellaria, but it did not cure the disease. She died rabid. The doctor was of opinion that several persons for whom he prescribed his remedy in the early part of his practice had some of the symptoms of hydrophobia, and that they were removed by a free use of the plant.”

That Thacher accepted the estimate of Dr. Van Derveer, is shown by the fact that in his Dispensatory he states thatout of four hundred treated, but one died.

Comes now the ever suggestive question, whether the scutellaria effected the cure, or whether the animals and people treated would have recovered without it. This problem is disposed of somewhat after the physiological methods of today to determine a drug’s curative value, excepting that, instead of injecting animals in health to obtain a standard in disease expression, Dr. Van Derveer’s process was to medicate afflicated creatures, and contrast them with the results noted in a similar number of animals not medicated.

For example: The physiological prover of today inoculates an animal in health with a given remedy, to determine the potency of that drug with a human being afflicated by disease. Dr. Van Derveer antidoted (treated) animals inoculated with hydrophobia poison, to determine whether the remedy could cure the afflicted animals, or could abort or counteract (neutralize) the virus, providing it had not begun its action. He reasoned that if a substance (mad dog virus) killed a number of animals inoculated with it, either by the bite of a rabid animal or by injection, the virus was a poison. If a number of bitten animals were not medicated and died, whilst others inoculated in the same way, at the same time, and then treated with scutellaria recovered, he argued that the drug antidoted the poison. Let us quote from Dr. Spalding:

“Dr. Van Derveer made more than an hundred experiments on the antidotal powers of the scullcap, in each of which the remedy was given to a part of the bitten animals, none of which were afflicted with hydrophobia; but in every instance some of the animals which did not take the scullcap died rabid.”

Concerning the number treated, we have the statement of Dr. Henry Van Derveer, son of Dr. Lawrence Van Derveer, in a letter to Dr. Spalding. He says:

“It is impossible to determine to what number of animals my father gave the scullcap. I should, however, say that it was not less than one thousand, and in no instance has an animal to which he gave the plant died of hydrophobia. In more than an hundred cases my father experimented with the Scutellaria, and he has repeatedly told his medical brethren that each experiment was successful, and tended to establish the antidotal powers of the plant.”

Having now established the essentials concerning the introduction of scutellaria, let us briefly give a few abstracts illustrating the manner in which evidence was established a century ago, to demonstrate the drug’s antidotal power. In all cases, the most detailed information, such as dates, localities, authorities, publications, etc., were recorded, as well as the testimony of witnesses under oath.

By Dr. Henry Schenck, Shannock Hills , New Jersey . – “In the year 1777, two black persons and five hogs belonging to Mr. James Van Derveer, of that county, were bitten by a mad dog. Dr. Van Derveer prescribed the Scutellaria, which was administered by our informant to the two blacks and to four of the hogs, neither of which had any symptoms of hydrophobia; but the fifth hog, which was the least injured, and which did not take the plant, died in a rabid state about the 19th day after the accident. This experiment, made for the express purpose of testing the antidotal powers of the scullcap, was witnessed by Drs. Morris, Kinney, Little, Henry, and Bloomfield, who considered it as having been satisfactorily conducted.”

By Dr. Henry Van Derveer and Dr. John Vancleve, of Princeton, New Jersey: “About the year 1814, seven cattle belonging to George Schenk, Redington, Hunterdon County, New Jersey, were bitten by a mad dog. The scullcap was given to six of them, neither of which had any indisposition, but the seventh, which did not take the plant, died of hydrophobia three of four weeks after it was bitten.

“Of seven cattle bitten by a mad dog, in six treated no indication of hydrophobia appeared. The one not treated died of rabies.”

Dr. Henry Van Derveer, who succeeded his father, reports:

“Seven persons were bitten by a puppy that shoed indications of hydrophobia. Six were put in charge of a physician, treated with Scutellaria, and recovered. The seventh did not take treatment, and died fourteen days afterward of hydrophobia.

“Three persons in one family, and two cows were bitten. Two persons came at once to Dr. Van Derveer, took Scutellaria treatment immediately, and recovered. The third went to another physician, in seventeen days was stricken with symptoms of hydrophobia, and sent for Dr. Van Derveer, who at once administered ‘a very strong infusion of Scutellaria, which the patient drank in as large quantities as his stomach would retain. In thirty-six hours all symptoms vanished.’ Both the cows died.

“A man, two hogs, and two cattle, were bitten by a mad dog. Scutellaria was given the man and one hog. Both recovered. The other animals died of hydrophobia.

“A negro girl, four hogs and a cow were bitten. Scutellaria was given the girl and one hog. Both recovered. The other animals died of hydrophobia.”

By Mr. Lewis, North Castle , New York , (who obtained the remedy from Dr. Lawrence Van Derveer): “A number of hogs that had been bitten by a mad dog were divided into two groups. To one group Scutellaria was administered. All recovered. The others all died.”

Another report is as follows: “Stephen W. Williams, M. D., and his father, both of Deerfield, Mass., have prescribed the Scutellaria for about thirty persons, and for forty or fifty brutes which had been bitten, and in no instance did hydrophobia appear. In the doctor’s letter to me of the 13th August, 1819, he says: ‘A Mr. Williams, of Heath, in this county, had, in the autumn of 1813, a valuable cow and an ox bitten at the same time by a mad fox. He applied to us for the Scutellaria. We had only enough for one animal. He prized his cow more highly than his ox, and was very anxious to save her. He therefore gave the whole of the scullcap to his cow, and suffered the ox to take his chance without any medicament. The ox died, exhibiting the aggravated symptoms of hydrophobia, while the cow had no indisposition.’”

Statements by recognized authorities, in the press and in magazines, finally became so abundant in support of scutellaria in hydrophobia as, if the disease was authentic, to seem incontrovertible. Two detailed reports given by Thacher, by Dr. Fisk, of Massuchusetts, and by Dr. Robson, of New York , are too detailed for even summarizing.

FAILURES -As recorded by Spalding, but one man reports a failure with the scutellaria antidote. He says:

“A child bitten was faithfully dosed with the infusion twice daily, but died on the 30th day.” (New York Medical Repository, New Series, Vol. 1, p. 175).

Reported by Lewis Bartlett to Dr. Thacher, (Thacher on Hydrophobia, 1812), “Nine hogs were bitten by a mad dog, treated with Scutellaria, six died.”

These are the only cases of failure reported by Dr. Spalding, out of more than 850 persons, and a large number of animals, treated with scutellaria. Dr. Spalding sums up the whole subject as follows:

“We have then the foregoing testimony that the Scutellaria has been used by more than eight hundred and fifty persons, bitten by animals believed to be rabid; and in only three instances have symptoms supposed to be hydrophobic supervened, and in each of these cases the quantity of the plant actually taken was very inconsiderable. In two of them the symptoms disappeared on taking more freely of the medicine.

“Furthermore, the Scutellaria is said to have been administered to more than eleven hundred brutes, bitten by animals supposed to be rabid, and in no instance have any symptoms of madness appeared, excepting in the cases communicated by Dr. Bartlett.

“In more than one hundred instances it is said that experiments have been made to test the antidotal powers of this plant, by giving it to a part, only, of the animals bitten, and it is stated that in every experiment, those animals which did not take the Scutellaria have died rabid; but in no instance have any of those which took it had any indisposition.”

Now came the popular, newspaper era of the drug. In the year 1783 Mr. DanielLewis, of North Castle , New York , a weaver, was bitten by a mad dog. He went to New York for treatment, and was directed to Dr. Van Derveer of New Jersey . Dr. Van Derveer showed Mr. Lewis the plant, and by giving him written directions, taught him how to use it. Mr. Lewis recovered, and having the formula, next told his neighbors that he could cure hydrophobia, and began neighborhood treatment, acquiring thus a local reputation. He kept the name of the plant secret, using it only in form of powder, and acquainting only his son with the formula. At his death, 1810, he had treated successfully about one hundred persons. A record of these cases is given by Dr. Spalding, accompanied by names, dates, places of residence, and often by certificates from witnesses. But in it all, seemingly, no mention was made of the treatment being identical with that of Dr. Van Derveer, from whom it was obtained, and who, as is recorded, did not make any secret of the name of the herb, giving it freely to whoever asked for it.

Before the death of Lewis the elder, the “Lewis Secret Cure” for hydrophobia became celebrated far and near, and it also became known to some persons that the remedy employed was identical with that of Dr. Van Derveer.

Scutellaria, about 1809, came into popular as well as newspaper notoriety as a cure for hydrophobia, one of the first notices in print being a letter to Mr. Robert Bowne, a celebrated philanthropist of New York City , published in the Salem Gazette, Sept. 15, 1809. The writer credits the Lewises with the secret cure, and states that the drug has been proven to be scutellaria, the identification being made as follows:

“The remedy he made use of is nothing more than a plant that grows in the fresh meadows of our country. The botanic name of it is Scutellaria galericulata. *1 This plant Lewis used to gather, dry it and reduce it to a powder, in order to prevent a discovery of what it actually was. It was found out by a person who obtained some of it in a powdered state; observing seeds in it, he placed them in his garden, where they came to perfection.”

Following this, Mr. Coleman, editor of the New York Evening Post, published corroborative editorial testimony:

“He himself had been witness of the cure of hydrophobia by the use of this plant alone, and that there are a number of gentlemen of the most respectable characters in New York , who will attest that they have been witnesses of repeated cures by the same remedy. He also confirms the account given in the above letter. The Rev. Dr. Cutler (Manasseh Cutler) also has received verbal information, which he considers as confirmatory of the above important particulars.” Thacher.

Reference is made to these facts in Thacher’s New Dispensatory, 1810, long descriptions being given in detail. In the revised edition, 1821, Dr. Thacher, after making his special study of the disease, condenses the article, abandons the verbatim reproduction from the current press, but emphasizes the value of scutellaria in the treatment of hydrophobia, in the following positive language:

“The medical properties ascribed to scullcap are those of an antidote against the effect of canine madness. In a publication entitled Observations on Hydrophobia, by the compiler of this work, a mass of evidence in favor of the antidotal powers of this plant has been recorded. Numerous gazettes and journals have also teemed with encomiums on its preventive powers, and from sources so respectable as to claim attention and confidence; and where it has been most known and employed, it has been the most highly extolled. Dr. Van Derveer, late of New Jersey , being in possession of the secret, acquired extensive popularity by his success; and he is said to have declared, that during his practice he has prevented upwards of three hundred persons from going mad, and that he never lost but one patient to whom his medicine had been administered. From the high reputation, therefore, of Scullcap, perhaps surpassing that of any other remedy, practitioners ought to resort to the use of it on any occasion which may offer, either in relieving mankind from this awful malady, or in arresting the devastation among the brute creation.”

TREATMENT – The following is the manner in which Mr. Lewis and Dr. Van Derveer respectively prepared and administered the remedy:

“The leaves of Scutellaria should be gathered when in flower, carefully dried, reduced to a fine powder, and put into bottles, well corked, for use. When a person has received a bite by a mad dog, he must take of a strong infusion of the leaves or powder, a gill four or five times a day, every other day. The day it is omitted he must take a spoonful of the flowers of sulphur in molasses, in the morning, fasting, and at bedtime in new milk, and apply the pounded green herb to the wound every two hours, continuing the prescription for three weeks. For cattle or horses, use four times that prescribed for a man. – Thacher.”

THE DISCREDITING OF SCUTELLARIA – Between the date of the discovery of the properties of scutellaria in 1773, by Dr. Van Derveer, who experienced nearly half a century of quiet, neighborhood practice of medicine, and the charlatanism methods of the weaver, Lewis, who knew nothing of medicine, but was an advertising “mad-dog doctor,” scutellaria passed into offensive notoriety, several causes uniting to discredit the drug.

1. The hostility of the leaders of the medical profession, largely by reason of its newspaper popularity, through which the drug had come to be dominated by non-medical men.

2. The extravagant claims of enthusiastic empiricists.

Thus, under prevailing therapeutic methods and theories, distrust of the remedy was natural, and antagonism to it became inevitable. The leaders of the profession of the date following 1820, neglecting Thacher’s advice, either ignored scutellaria as a “quack” remedy for hydrophobia, or discredited it because of its mild inoffensiveness. Whether, in the ultimate, this ostracism of the remedy was just or unjust, in the face of all the evidence, rests yet unsettled. In the light of its record and of what history teaches concerning medical politics in the first half of the 19th century, it may be considered an open question whether scutellaria is an invaluable remedy that dropped from sight because of the prejudice of the men (“skeptics,” they were called by Rafinesque), who opposed the methods of its advocates and refused to test the drug, or was dropped because it has no virtues. the talented scientist, C. S. R. Rafinesque, giving a summary of its hydrophobia record, in 1830, expresses himself much as the evidence appeals to us:

“Many empirics and some enlightened physicians have employed Scutellaria successfully. But several skeptical physicians have since denied altogether these facts, and pronounced the plant totally inert, because it has no strong action on the system, and has failed in their hands. Dr. W. P. C. Barton and Dr. Tully have strenuously asserted this, but without analyzing the plant, and denying instead of proving …. In hydrophobia it appears to be a good prophylactic, if not a certain cure. A physician (Dr. White, of Fishkill), bitten by a mad dog, has assured me that he alone avoided the disease by using the plant, while others bitten by the same dog, died. Many instances of the same kind are on record: nay, many who believe in the property, say it never fails. We lack, however, a series of scientific and conclusive experiments, made by well-informed men; they have been discouraged by the ridiculous denial of skeptics; but let us hope these may yet be performed.” – Rafinesque, Mat. Med., Vol. II, 1830. (Italics our own).

It will be observed that the scholarly Rafinesque, who was familiar with all connected scientific literature to his date, and who refers to such authorities as Tully and Barton, with whom he was intimately acquainted, asserts that the drug had not been given justice, because, to put the matter plainly in his words, the “skeptics” forbade. Nor do we find authoritative data between 1830 and 1920 to weaken this statement.

Disclaimer: The author makes no guarantees as to the the curative effect of any herb or tonic on this website, and no visitor should attempt to use any of the information herein provided as treatment for any illness, weakness, or disease without first consulting a physician or health care provider. Pregnant women should always consult first with a health care professional before taking any treatment.