Cypripedium spp. – Lady’s slipper
Lady’s slipper – Cypripedium spp.
Cypripedium = kip-ree-pee-dee-um, from the Greek kypris (a name for Venus) and pediton (a slipper or foot) referring to the shape of the flower;
Synonyms: Nerve Root, Two Lips, Indian Moccasins.
Identification: This orchid is 15-25 cm high with very beautiful flowers which vary in colour according to species. The leaves are alternate and sheath the stems. The roots are thick, creeping and fibrous.
Distribution & Habitat: These rare plants are found in moist, wooded areas. These plants are fast becoming an endangered species, due mainly to people picking them. Unless in an emergency it would be a shame to destroy this plant. It is cultivated for herbal use and is available in health food stores.
A Lady’s slipper Legend
There was once a little daughter of an Indian Chieftain. One day, while she was playing far away from her camp, she met a rabbit. The rabbit was crying. It had hurt its feet and couldn t go home. The little girl begged the rabbit to stop crying and gave it her moccasins so it could travel home without further damaging its feet.
It was growing late and the child decided to return to her camp. It was not long before her feet were torn and bleeding. She collapsed in exhaustion along the wooded pathway and fell asleep. Before long a songbird flew by and seeing her bleeding feet, begged the Great Spirit to help the poor little maiden. On awakening, she found a beautiful pair of moccasins hanging on two slender stems. She slipped these moccasins on her bleeding feet and was able to make her way home.
If you don t believe this story, look inside a yellow lady’s slipper orchid sometime and you ll see the reddish purple spots of blood and some lines made by the little maiden s bleeding feet.
Preparation & Uses: The root of this herb is nature s tranquilizer, calming and easing one s mind. It has been used with good results in reflex functional disorders or chorea, hysteria, nervous headache, insomnia, low fevers, nervous unrest, nutrition of the nerve centers, hypochondria and nervous depression accompanying stomach disorders.
For depression, it is best combined with chamomile (Anthemis nobilis). If combined with skullcap (Scutellaria sp., scutellaria = L. dish [the depression of the fruiting calyx]), it is effective for hysteria, headaches, and other nervous disorders.
To make a good infusion, pour 1 pint boiling water over 5 tablespoons of the root and steep for 1 hour.
According to Dr. Nowell, the lady’s slipper root is almost a pure nervine. It is excellent in relieving pain and inducing sleep. Lab studies indicate that it decreases pain, quietens nerves and promotes sleep. Drink a strong decoction hot.
– 4 oz. lady’s slipper root
– 1 quart distilled water
– 8 oz. glycerine
Soak the root in cold water for 2 hours. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes, then strain, and remove liquid to a clean vessel. Reduce to 3/4 pint by slow boiling. Remove from the heat and add glycerine while it is still hot, mix thoroughly, cool, bottle and store it in a cool place.
The Menomini Indians considered Lady’s slipper root useful for female disorders, for inducing dreams and for its supernatural properties. The Meskwaki Indians used it as a major part of a love potion.
Lady’s slipper root was officially recognized in U.S.P 1863-1916, N.F. 1916-36. Because Lady’s slipper is non-poisonous and perfectly safe, it may be taken in larger doses when necessary. Lady’s slipper has caused contact dermatitis in some sensitive people.