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‘Mad dog’ weed aids sleep

Post Independent Writer

Skullcap received its biggest press buzz more than 200 years ago when a New England doctor discovered the herb could prevent “the mad dog’s bite,” aka rabies. The Humorous HerbalistBy Laurel DeweySkullcap received its biggest press buzz more than 200 years ago when a New England doctor discovered the herb could prevent “the mad dog’s bite,” aka rabies. The good doctor claimed to stop 400 people and 1,000 cows from “going mad” after they were attacked by a pack of wild dogs. In true 19th-century fashion, the doc got to nickname the herb, so he chose “mad dog weed.” However, the true medicinal use for skullcap had yet to be discovered. And that was as a No. 1 natural sedative. Skullcap is considered to be a “specific herb” for anyone suffering from a nervous condition brought on by emotional distress, worry and accompanying digestive problems. One old herbal book states that skullcap “quiets frantic, neurotic women.” Might I add that it can also do the same for frantic, neurotic men. You can replace the word “neurotic” with “easily excited” in the case of someone who sees life more as a continual melodrama rather than a long play with frequent intermissions. Skullcap won’t sedate or tranquilize you into a stupor. Instead, it will, over time, gently restore balance to your nervous system. The operative words are over time because it takes continual use of skullcap before you feel the lasting benefits.The most common, everyday use for skullcap is as a sleep aid. The following formula can work wonders for adults and children. Blend equal parts of skullcap, hops, and chamomile together with a pinch of cloves. Scoop out one tablespoon of the thoroughly blended mixture into a cup and pour three cups of boiling water over the herbs. Cover and steep for 30 minutes, sweeten with honey and sip an hour before bedtime. For nervous, high-strung kids 5 years and older who have a hard time going to sleep, use a scant teaspoon of the herb by itself or the above mentioned blend to 10 ounces of boiling distilled water and give one tablespoon of the tea three times a day between meals and one tablespoon before bed. This blend of herbs is one sweet-smelling mixture, and it has done wonders for knocking out the “unknockable.” However, I’ve made this exact blend for people and it has also failed miserably. Why the different reactions? There can be lots of reasons – everything from the individual doesn’t drink the whole dose, to the body has too many chemical drugs running around inside. If someone has been dependent upon chemical over-the-counter or prescription drugs (such as antidepressants or Valium) or even narcotics and alcohol, herbs can take longer to work.Skullcap has also been called into duty when it comes to weaning people off of drugs (recreational and prescription) and alcohol. It has been shown to lessen the latter stages of convulsions and manic activity. For years, folk healers gave skullcap to those going through the delirium tremens and it was often the only remedy that made them sleepy. Skullcap has also been used in tincture form to calm those who are trying to wean themselves off Valium. The dose is 25 to 30 drops in eight ounces of hot water, two to three times a day. Long-term use of skullcap has been known to suppress sexual desire (Hops can have the same effect when taken over a long period of time.) If this is not something you want to experience, but you still want a good sedative, consider trying chamomile or passionflower liquid extract. You could also simply use skullcap on a limited basis with frequent breaks to avoid any possible sexual side effects.Don’t double or triple doses of skullcap in hopes of getting to sleep faster. Excessive use of skullcap can cause confusion, extreme nervousness, twitching, and spasms. Since skullcap has been used to promote menstruation, pregnant women should not take the herb.Skullcap may have started out as a cure for rabies, but a little hair of this dog may be the ticket to a restful night of sleep. E-mail your questions to The Humorous Herbalist at writer8@sopris.net.


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