Scutellaria baicalensis seeds, Baikal skullcap or Chinese skullcap

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Scutellaria baicalensis
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Scutellaria baicalensis seeds, Baikal skullcap or Chinese skullcap

Scutellaria baicalensis is a flowering plant with a synonym of Scutellaria macrantha Fisch. It is also referred by common names such as Baikal skullcap and Chinese skull and is a native to China. The plant belongs to the Lamiaceae family. The plant has a common name of Huang Qin or Scute among the Chinese. The plant thrives well in a well-draining and light soil with moderate temperatures. The plant can moderately withstand the harsh temperatures and grows easily. It is a perennial plant with a life cycle of at least 3 years. The plant grows to a height of about 40cm and can expand to a width of 60cm.

The Baikal skullcap has dark green leaves that are spear like shaped, thin and long and extends from the stem of the plant. The stems are spread on the ground and extend up to at the tips. The plant blooms in June to produce blue-purple flowers that are helmet shaped on the upper part and have a skirt, wide like lobe on the underneath. The flowers are tubular and are held together in one side with long stalks adding more height to the plant. The roots of this plant are dark brown and woody on the outer side and bright yellow in the inside.

The Baikal skullcap undergoes self-fertilisation through pollination done by the insects. The plant has both the female and male organs and produces nectars that attract these insects. The plant produces seeds which are the major ways in which it is distributed. Though, stem cutting also works during suitable weather conditions.

Scutellaria baicalensis has been used as traditional Chinese medicine for over 2000 years. It is majorly used in infection, anxiety and nerve calming. The root is the major part used for medicinal purposes and needs to be harvested between spring and autumn when the plant is more than 3 years old. The roots should then be sliced and left to dry before it is used. In some cases, it can be boiled and its juice is consumed. The leaves of this plant are used for vegetable and salad dishes. Depending on the age of the plant, this leaves can be bitter or sweet. The plant should be consumed for medicinal purposes under a professional because it has several side effects which are often diverse. The pregnant and breastfeeding women are often advised to avoid consuming this plant to ensure they are safe. It reduces blood clotting too.

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