Perennial orchid with several stems sheathed by broad lance-shaped leaves. Has beautiful, complex golden-yellow and purple flowers in late summer.
Habitat & Cultivation
This herb is native to eastern North America. Its natural habitat is woods and pastures, but due to overharvesting, it is rarely found in the wild. It 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.
History & Folklore
Lady’s slipper was held in high regard by Native Americans, who used it as a sedative and antispasmodic. It was commonly taken to ease menstrual and labor pains, and to counter insomnia and nervous conditions.
The Cherokee used one variety to treat worms in children. In the Anglo-American Physiomedicalist tradition, lady’s slipper had many uses. Swinburne Clymer (in Nature’s Healing Agents, 1905) considered the plant “of special value in reflex functional disorders, or chorea, hysteria, nervous headache, insomnia, low fevers, nervous unrest, hypochondria, and nervous depression accompanying stomach disorders.”
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Due to its scarcity and cost, lady’s slipper is now rarely used. A sedative and relaxing herb, it treats anxiety, stress-related disorders such as palpitations, headaches, muscular tension, panic attacks, and neurotic conditions generally. Like valerian (Valeriana officinalis), lady’s slipper is an effective tranquilizer. It 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.
In view of its rarity, lady’s slipper should no longer be used medicinally.