Cypripedium pubescens. Yellow Ladies' Slipper.
Nat. Ord. — Orchidaceae. Sex. Syst. — Gynandria Diandria.
Description. — Cypripedium Pubescens is an indigenous plant, known by various names, as American Valerian, Umbel, Nerve-Root, Yellow Moccasin Flower, Noah's Ark, etc. ; its roots are perennial, fibrous, fleshy, undulated or crooked, long, about a line in diameter, and from which arise one or several round, leafy stems, growing from twelve to eighteen inches high. The leaves are from three to six inches long by two or three broad, sheathing, oblong-lanceolate, entire, veined, cauline, acuminate, pubescent, alternate, generally the same number on each side. Flowers large, very showy, terminal, solitary. Segments four. Lobe of the style triangular-oblong, obtuse; sepals ovate, oblong, acuminate; petals long, linear, contorted; lip shorter than the other petals, compressed laterally, very convex and gibbous above, pale-yellow, from one and a half to two inches long.
Cypripedium Parviflorum, has been considered a distinct species by some Botanists, and as a mere variety by others. It differs from the above, in having the lobe of the style acute, the leaves are broader, the flowers somewhat larger, and the perianth more brownish-purple in color.
History. — This plant is found in most parts of the United States, in rich woods and meadows, flowering in May and June ; its flowers are scentless. There are several varieties of it, all of which possess similar virtues, and the roots of which are undoubtedly collected, sold, and used, with the officinal article indiscriminately. They are as follows :
1. G. Spectabile, or Showy Ladies-slipper, having crowded, ovatelanceolate leaves, embracing each other ; lobe of the style elliptic-cordate, obtuse ; sepals broad-ovate, obtuse ; lip longer than the petals, not cleft before, white, striped with purple, two inches long, one and a half broad ; flowers very large, two or three on each plant, appearing in June and July. The whole plant pubescent.
2. C. Acaule, Low or Stemless Ladies-slipper, having a bulbous root with numerous fleshy fibers ; scape leafless, one-flowered ; leaves radical, in pairs, oblong, obtuse ; lobe of the style round-rhomboid, acuminate, deflexed ; lip longer than the lanceolate-petals, cleft before, purple or white, nearly two inches long, veiny ; flowers solitary, terminal, with a single, lanceolate bract at the base, and appearing in May and June.
3. C. Candidum, Small white, or White-flowered Ladies-slipper, having a leafy stem, oblong-lanceolate leaves ; lobe of the style lanceolate, somewhat obtuse ; lip rather shorter than the lance-linear petals, white, about three-quarters of an inch long ; flowers terminal, solitary. The plant is slightly pubescent, seldom growing above a foot in Light ; the flowers appear in May and June.
4. C. Arietinum, or Ram's Head, having a leafy stem; elliptical, striate-veined, sessile, amplexicaul leaves ; lobe of the style orbicular, somewhat obtuse ; Up as long as the petals, saccate, obconic before, red, and white veined, hairy at the orifice, about half an inch long ; perianth greenish-brown. The flowers are mostly solitary with a leafy bract at base, and appear in May and June.
The C. Spectabile and C. Acaule, are said to possess more narcotic properties than the others, especially when inhabiting dark swamps.
The fibrous roots of these plants are the parts used in medicine ; they should be gathered in autumn, cleansed from dirt, and carefully dried in the shade. They have a peculiar, slightly bitter, and rather nauseous taste, and a somewhat unpleasant odor. As met with in the shops, they are composed of many long, fleshy, cylindrical fibers, of a pale-yellow color, matted together. Alcohol, or boiling water takes up their virtues, which, however, are impaired by boiling. No analysis has been made of them.
Properties and Uses. — Tonic, stimulant, diaphoretic, and antispasmodic. Useful in hysteria, chorea, nervous headache, and all cases of nervous irritability ; and combined with Eupatorium Aromatica and Scutellaria Lateriflora, it has proved beneficial in neuralgia, delirium, and hypochondria. The alcoholic extract is the best form of administration. Dose, from ten to twenty grains ; tincture, from one to three fluid-drachms ; infusion, from one to four fluidounces ; of the powder, one drachm in warm water, repeated as often as required. The following preparation has been used in sick or nervous headache, not dependent on acid stomach, in several hundred cases, by various practitioners : Take of nepeta cataria, scutellaria lateriflora, and cypripedium pubescens in powder, of each, half an ounce — pour on a pint of boiling water, and infuse for fifteen or twenty minutes ; dose, one fluidounce of the warm infusion ; after which, half a fluidounce, every half hour, for three or four hours, or until the headache ceases. Used thus, during three or four attacks of headache, it has, as far as I am informed, invariably effected permanent cures of this distressing complaint. An infusion is said to be beneficial in the pains of the joints following scarlet fever. Although considered by many practitioners superior to the foreign valerian, yet it will be found inefficient in many instances where the European article will prove beneficial.
Off. Prep. — Extractum Cypripedii Hydro-alcoholicum ; Extractum Cypripedii Fluidum ; Infusum Cypripedii ; Tinctura Serpentariae Composita.