Update: I have had an eventful couple of months with the skullcap and my ME, but the key thing I have found that it is still very effective, and still the most effective treatment I have tried, at least in terms of exercise anyway, but probably also for general health.
I found this out the hard way, however: I actually managed to inadvertently carry out a blinded, placebo-controlled test on myself! The short version of how this happened is that I mixed up astralagus root with chinese skullcap (there was some linguistic trouble as I was buying it in a Chinese medicine shop as I usually do, so my advice is write the characters down beforehand!). This turned out to be considerably less effective than skullcap, even though when I realized my mistake I found that it seems to have some similar qualitiies in terms of reducing the body's reaction to stressors such as LPS, and may be effective when combined with skullcap (I have not tried this yet.) When I discovered my mistake and started to take skullcap again, I immediately was able to do more exercise again - having only done one session a week on the astralagus root, since i needed that long to recover from the PEM, I did four sessions in four days the day after I started taking skullcap again.
However, I then stupidly thought that I was back to where I had been a few months ago, and drank a considerable amount on three occasions in one week. After doing this, I found that I could not exercise properly again, until last week when I made a new discovery: the skullcap I had been taking since realizing my mistake was actually a much less potent form of skullcap called withered skullcap (枯芩), rather than the one I had taken before, which is known as strip skullcap (条芩 ), since it is produced in strips. The following article refers to these as WSR and YSR respectively (since the strip one is the young version), and notes that these two varieties have differing levels of baicalin, which the study suggests is the reason for YSR or strip skullcap's greater efficacy (it may just have a higher baicalin/baicalein ratio, but other things I read suggests this is higher because the level of baicalin is lower in withered skullcap or WSR, rather than because there is a higher level of baicalein - this interpretation makes more sense given the way baicalin changes into baicalein before it can be absorbed by the body, and given the fact that there is much more baicalin than baicalein in skullcap root to begin with, and thus decreases in baicalin are more significant. Finally, I managed to get the same effect I get with YSR by doubling the dose of WSR, suggesting that it is to do with the level of baicalin rather than the ratio).
The fact that the study shows that YSR is effective in chronic ulcerative colitis suggests that skullcap may also help in ME patients through its direct effects on the gut, and the increase in GI symptoms I had while not taking YSR suggests to me that this is true.
Anyway, to summarize:
- Chinese skullcap (the variety of it known as strip skullcap, allows me to exercise pretty much freely when taken in reasonably large doses (3-6 grams a time in 2-3 doses each day). Note that I have added sodium bicarbonate back into my workout formula that I posted above, as this seems to be useful when trying to work out when I already have that lactic acid feeling.
- the variety of skullcap known as withered skullcap also has an effect, but it is not nearly as effective at the same dose.
- astralagus root does not have the same effect on exercise, and is easy to confuse with YSR!
Once again, I hope this encourages others to try Chinese skullcap/YSR so that they hopefully reap some of the same benefits. I am actually approaching the best shape of my life at 35, and since I got ME at 28 that isn't bad going. I also feel and look healthy when I take skullcap, with only minimal PEM if I push myself too far (i.e. combining strenous exercise with drinking).