Lady's slipper - a perennial herb growing 1-2 feet tall. The stems bear oval leaves up to 8 inches long. A solitary yellowish to purplish-brown flower (April-June) is borne at the tip of a long stalk. One of the petals is transformed into a yellow pouch like structure (the "slipper").
The bright yellow, moccasin like lip of the flower makes lady's-slipper easy to recognize when it blooms in spring. Wildflower lovers seek out this beautiful orchid; but with the shrinking of American forested areas, they find that lady's-slipper, like many other native orchids, is increasingly rare.
The value of lady's-slipper is due to more than its decorative qualities, however, for it has a distinguished medicinal past. American Indians used a boiled extract of the roots for calming the nerves, and early settlers found that an extract was a good substitute for the garden heliotrope, or valerian, that women and children in particular had used as a sedative in Europe. They began to refer to the plant as American valerian. By the mid-19th century, American doctors were prescribing the root for such ailments as hysteria, delirium, irritability, headache, epilepsy, and neuralgia. It was reported that lady's-slipper was superior to opium for inducing sleep and that the herb was not narcotic. Today herbalists recommend lady's slipper as a sedative and an antispasmodic.
Due to its scarcity and cost, lady's slipper is now used on a small scale. A sedative and relaxing herb, lady's slipper treats anxiety, stress-related disorders such as palpitations, headaches, muscular tension; panic attacks, and neurotic conditions generally. Like valerian, lady's slipper is an effective tranquilizer. Lady's slipper reduces emotional tension and often calms the mind sufficiently to allow sleep. Indeed, its restorative effect appears to be more positive than that of valerian.
Lady's Slipper is one of the most widely applicable nervines that we posses in the materia medica. Lady's slipper will help elevate the mood, especially where depression is present. Lady's slipper can help in easing nervous pain, though it is best used in combination with other herbs for this purpose. Lady's slipper is perhaps at its best when treating anxiety that is associated with insomnia.
Lady's slipper is native to eastern North America. Its natural habitat is woods and pastures, but due to overharvesting, lady's slipper is rarely found in the wild. Lady's slipper is cultivated to a limited degree.
Lady's slipper is poorly researched, but it is known to contain a volatile oil, resins, glucosides, and tannins.
Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the root and let infuse
for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk as required.
Tincture: take 1-4 ml of the tincture three times a day.
Lady's slipper is a protected plant in the United Kingdom and so should never be collected if found wild.
Lady's slipper combines well with oats and skullcap. For nerve pain lady's slipper may be used with Jamaican dogwood, passion flower and valerian.