Skullcap Extract in Skin Care

Written by Craig Kraffert, board certified dermatologist and president of Amarte

A member of the mint family, scutellaria baicalensis (baikal skullcap) is a purple flowering perennial plant native to East Asia. For over 2,000 years, baikal skullcap root extract has been a key component of traditional herbal medicine used in the management of acne, eczema, and even psoriasis.

plantInternally, skullcap extract has been used in herbal medicine for treatment of inflammation, infection, cancer, and other ailments. In modern times, treatment of skin disease with skullcap has not been clinically investigated. Use of skullcap extract in the maintenance of healthy skin, however, is becoming increasingly popular because of skullcap’s potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, as well as its ability to inhibit melanin synthesis and protect against sun damage.
Skullcap extract is a potent antioxidant compound that is rich in flavonoids and other bioactive elements, including terpenes and volatile oils. Skullcap’s three most important antioxidants are flavonoids baicalein, oroxylin A, and wogonin. Oroxylin A and wogonin are particularly potent antioxidants and superoxide scavengers. Their in-vitro antioxidant properties directly correlate with in-vivo anti-inflammatory effects.1 These antioxidant properties appear to provide significant protection from sun damage.2 Skullcap extract is also a very potent tyrosinase inhibitor with great potential to downregulate melanin production.3
Skullcap’s potential anticancer properties have been the source of significant study in recent years. Baicalein, skullcap’s namesake flavonoid, is favored as the main source of these anti-cancer benefits. Skullcap extract’s chemo-preventative effect may extend to several cancers including skin cancer.4
Baikal skullcap root extract epitomizes the new class of natural antioxidants that provide multiple skin benefits. Skullcap is increasingly included in skin care products for the benefits offered by its potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and skin-brightening properties. Skullcap’s potential to contribute to skin cancer prevention is a nice but unproven theoretical bonus.

1. Huang, Lee, et. al., (2006). Antioxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Activities of Polyhydroxyflavonoids of Scutellaria Baicalensis, GEORGI, Biosci. Biotech. Biochem., 70(10): 2371-80. Web.
2. Kimura, Sumiyoshi, (2011). Effects of Various Flavonoids Isolated From Scutellaria Baicalensis Roots on Skin Damage in Acute UVB-irradiated Hairless Mice, J Pharm Pharmacol, 63(12): 1613-23. Web.
3. Miao, Kayahara, et. al., (1997). Superoxide-scavenging and Tyrosinase-inhibitory Activities of the Ex-tracts of Some Chinese Medicines, Biosci. Biotech. Biochem., 61(12): 2106-08. Web.
4. Ma, Liu, et. al., (2013). Baicalein Inhibits DMBA/TPA-induced Skin Tumorigenesis in Mice by Modu-lating Proliferation, Apoptosis, and Inflammation, 36(2): 457-67. Web.

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