May 202008

One of my favorite plants is in full bloom! Blisswort, otherwise known as Skullcap (Scutellaria spp) is a beautiful native perennial of the mint family. Ours grows in Ponderosa Pine forest in partly shady spots among pine needles, Wild Lima Beans, Golden Pea and Candytuft. They’re little pincushion plants, small and soft and round for the most part, though there’s some bigger, bushier plants this particular spring. The leaves are hairy and sticky with resin. The flowers are voluptuous, rich purple-blue and look very much like a deep hood.

I’ve written a bit about this wonderful nerve tonic here and here, and more tidbits can be found by looking up Blisswort or Skullcap in the search box.

Blisswort is a relaxant nerve trophorestorative, it rebuilds the nerves from the inside out while relaxing any impediment to the release of tension. It opens up the internal flow of energy and stress, helping to move it and let it cycle out. This is different from just sedating the nerves because it’s a nourishing, native process for the body. I feel that in addition to strengthening the nervous system, it also helps retrain the body to deal with stress in more productive ways, encouraging it move along rather than stagnating or sticking in one tired, manic part of your brain or body.

This herb tends toward the cooling and drying end of the spectrum, though I’ve not ever seen it aggravate dryness in any individual. It can have an overly cooling effect though, and that should be watched for and balanced by other herbs if appropriate. Again, it is a very ~moving~ type of herb, and not all people need to be moved along, some need more in the way of grounding and deepening from a nervine and so may find another herb more ideal. Another post on nervine differentials coming soon.

I have found that Blisswort is most appropriate for those who have anxiety from exhaustion, often accompanied by sensations of heat, flushing and/or sweating. It’s less likely to work well for those who have anxiety from excess causes, who are just too wound up to relax. It’s more of a supplementing food for frayed nerves in those who are deeply tired, and are finding that both their energy reserves and their bodily fluids are in the process of drying up. If they’re already dried up, and there’s signs of full on adrenal exhaustion with feelings of coldness and severe dryness, then I think Blisswort would be better in the company of Milky Oat tincture (specifically the tincture, not the infusion) and maybe some Ashwagandha too.

As with any herb, food or other form of healing, it will be more effective the more you engage it and have a personal relationship with the process. This is why herbs can sometimes work very very well on someone who’s indications are totally different than the classical description, it’s all about our connection our bodies, the process of healing, and the plants themselves.

A nice bedtime tea is 1 part Blisswort, 2 parts Rose and 2 parts Chamomile, it’s good for the belly and digestion too. Blisswort is often bitter (more or less bitter depending on the specific spp.) so often tastes better mixed with aromatic or sweeter herbs, and accompanied by a dollop of honey, or a bit of stevia if you’re inclined.

Right this moment, my favorite nervine combo is 2 parts Monkeyflower, 2 parts Wild Rose and 1 part Blisswort. It’s divine, nourishing and deeply relaxing. The blend of tastes (sweet/astringent Rose, bitter Blisswort and sweet Monkeyflower) is a cooling and soothing mix for the hot SW summer.


Blisswort Pics (c)2008 Kiva Rose

  4 Responses to “Blisswort in Bloom: Subtleties & Specifics”

  1. I make a nice tea of skullcap, blackberry leaves, oatstraw & tops and rosehips…

    My friend Mairi Ross who wrote “Smoke Plants of North America” ( considers smoking skullcap specific for acute anxiety, as its action is near immediate.

    I consider skullcap specific for people who are “emotionally reactive”. There are other, less polite, synonyms for this…

  2. that sounds like a lovely tea, jim!

    I have forgotten to mention smoking skullcap, that is an excellent use of the plant, and I’ve definitely used it that way, though not everyone is very open to using that delivery method LOL I like smoking skullcap with sawtooth sage and mugwort, an instant chill pill, so to speak.

    I agree completely about the emotionally reactive aspect, and I find that people who have that desperate, flying off the handle kind of reactivity are usually those so exhausted and worn out that just can’t take it anymore and lash out, “at the end of their rope” is a good metaphor. David Winston describes it as people likely to “fly off the handle” when they get stressed out. Usually this kind of reactivity is followed by a feeling hopelessness and being out of control. I see this as a kind of kidney cycle where there is usually deficient water element in someone.

  3. many lovely blends. i like to have scullcap with wood betony as a nervine restorative, and sometimes add rose and gotu kola for myself.

    I dont have tons of personal experience with scullcap yet, as I really only started using it this past year, but Paul taught that it is THE herb for those with “compensatory tension”. they are stressed out and tight all over.

    But I’ve found wood betony and vervain to do very well in those cases. i’m still really trying to figure this scullcap baby out.
    thanks for the insights!

  4. […] type headaches and tension related back pain. Kiva Rose has also written about it extensively as a nerve tonic. She calls it blisswort, so if you do a search for that word on her site, you’ll pull up all […]

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