Lady's Slipper

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Cypripedium pubescens (Willd.)

Synonyms: C parviflorum (Salisb.), nerve root, American valerian, bleeding heart, moccasin flower, monkey flower, Noah's ark, slipper root, Venus shoe, yellow lady's slipper, yellows

Order: Orchidaceae

Description: Cypripedium is a perennial plant; indigenous to the U.S.A. and Canada but grown in many parts of Europe. It is now a protected species due to its rarity, although it is cultivated in eastern Europe for medicinal use. The fleshy rootstock produces several round, glandular-hairy, leafy stems with alternate, sessile, sheathing, lanceolate leaves which are marked with several nerves. The characteristic flowers, with the lower lip forming an inflated sac suggesting the shape of a moccasin, are golden-yellow and lined with purple. Flowering time is from May to July.

Parts used: dried root and rhizome

Collection: This plant is a protected species and must not be collected in the wild.

Constituents: volatile oil, resins, glycosides, tannins

Actions: sedative, mild hypnotic, spasmolytic, thymoleptic, diaphoretic, nervine

Indications: insomnia, hysteria, emotional tension, anxiety, delirium tremens

Therapeutics and Pharmacology: Cypripedium may be used in the treatment of all stress reactions, helping to elevate the mood, especially where there is depression. It is particularly of benefit in anxiety associated with insomnia.  It can ease nervous pain, though is best combined with other herbs for this purpose. It can also be helpful against cramps and muscle spasms and is useful as an aid to recovery from chronic conditions.

Combinations: Cypripedium may be combined with Avena or Scutellaria in anxiety neurosis. For nerve pain it may be combined with Passiflora, Valeriana and Piscidia.

Caution: Taken in large doses the rootstock may cause hallucinations. The fresh plant can cause severe contact dermatitis. This plant is a protected species, although it is cultivated in Eastern Europe for medicinal use.

Preparation and Dosage: (thrice daily)

Regulatory Status: GSL

Dried rhizome and root: 2-4g or by infusion

Liquid extract: 1:1 in 45% alcohol, 2-4ml.

Additional Comments: Native Americans used this root for nervous diseases and to allay pain.



BHMA 1983 British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, BHMA, Bournemouth.

Grieve, M. 1931 A Modern Herbal, (ed. C.F. Leyel 1985), London.

Hoffmann, D. 1990 The New Holistic Herbal, Second Edition, Element, Shaftesbury.

Lust, J. 1990 The Herb Book, Bantam, London.

Mabey, R. (ed.) 1991 The Complete New Herbal, Penguin, London.

Mills, S.Y. 1993 The A-Z of Modern Herbalism, Diamond Books, London.

Polunin, M. and Robbins, C. 1992 The Natural Pharmacy, Dorling Kindersley, London.

Wren, R.C. 1988 Potter's New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations, C.W.Daniel, Saffron Walden.


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Christine Haughton, MA MNIMH MCPP FRSPH

Wold Farm, West Heslerton, Malton, North Yorkshire YO17 8RY, UK

Last updated 27th November 2014     ęPurple Sage Botanicals