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Nerve Root (Cypripedium calceolus pubescens)

C. flavescens. C. pubescens. Willd. C. parviflorum pubescens.
Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Nerve Root
Cypripedium calceolus pubescens

None known

  • Medicinal Use

    Nerve root has a high reputation for its sedative and relaxing effect on the nervous system[238, 254]. The root is a pungent bitter-sweet herb with an unpleasant odour. It was much used by the North American Indians who used it as a sedative and antispasmodic to ease menstrual and labour pains and to counter insomnia and nervous tension[238, 254].

    The root is antispasmodic, diaphoretic, hypnotic, nervine, sedative, tonic[21, 46, 165, 192, 222, 238]. It is taken internally in the treatment of anxiety, nervous tension, insomnia, depression and tension headaches[238]. The active ingredients are not water soluble and so the root is best taken in the form of a tincture[222]. The plant is said to be the equivalent of Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) in its effect as a nervine and sedative, though it is less powerful[1, 4]. Another report says that its restorative effect appears to be more positive than that of valerian[254].

    The roots are harvested in the autumn and are dried for later use[238]. In the interests of conservation, it is best not to use this herb unless you can be certain it was obtained from a cultivated source – see the notes above under cultivation details[K].

  • Edible Use

    None known

  • Cautionary Notes

    Contact with the fresh plant can cause dermatitis in sensitive people[1, 21]. Large doses can cause hallucinations[268].

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – surface sow, preferably as soon as it is ripe, in the greenhouse and do not allow the compost to dry out. The seed of this species is extremely simple, it has a minute embryo surrounded by a single layer of protective cells. It contains very little food reserves and depends upon a symbiotic relationship with a species of soil-dwelling fungus. The fungal hyphae invade the seed and enter the cells of the embryo. The orchid soon begins to digest the fungal tissue and this acts as a food supply for the plant until it is able to obtain nutrients from decaying material in the soil[200]. It is best to use some of the soil that is growing around established plants in order to introduce the fungus, or to sow the seed around a plant of the same species and allow the seedlings to grow on until they are large enough to move. Division with care in early spring, the plants resent disturbance[200]. Remove part of the original rootball with the soil intact[200]. Division is best carried out towards the end of the growing season, since food reserves are fairly evenly distributed through the rhizome[230]. Small divisions of a lead and two buds, or divisions from the back (older) part of the rhizome without any developed buds, establish quickly using this method[230]. Replant immediately in situ[230].
Succeeds in shade or full sun so long as there is adequate moisture[42]. Grows well in a woodland garden[230]. Plants are best grown on a north or north-west aspect in order to slow down early growth[1]. Requires a humus rich soil with plenty of moisture in the growing season[42], it also succeeds in chalky soils[200]. Must not be planted too deeply[42]. A very ornamental plant[1] it is long-lived when once established, though it is very difficult to establish a plant[233]. The flowers have a soft, rose-like aroma[245]. Plants are growing very well at the Savill Gardens in Windsor[233]. This plant is becoming very rare in the wild due to overcollecting for medicinal usage[238]. Reports that the plant is cultivated for its medicinal uses are largely spurious and, unless you can be certain that the root has come from a cultivated source, it is best not to use this plant medicinally but to use suitable substitutes such as Scutellaria laterifolia and Lavendula angustifolia[238]. Orchids are, in general, shallow-rooting plants of well-drained low-fertility soils. Their symbiotic relationship with a fungus in the soil allows them to obtain sufficient nutrients and be able to compete successfully with other plants. They are very sensitive to the addition of fertilizers or fungicides since these can harm the symbiotic fungus and thus kill the orchid[230].
N. America to E. Asia – Japan.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.