Herb: Nerve Root

Latin name: Cypripedium calceolus parviflorum

Synonyms: Cypripedium parviflorum

Family: Orchidaceae (Orchid Family)

Medicinal use of Nerve Root:

Nerve root has a high reputation for its effect on the nervous system. The root is a pungent bitter-sweet herb with an unpleasant odour, it is antispasmodic, diaphoretic, hypnotic, nervine, sedative, tonic. It is taken internally in the treatment of anxiety, nervous tension, insomnia, depression and tension headaches. The active ingredients are not water soluble and so the root is best taken in the form of a tincture. 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. The roots are harvested in the autumn and are dried for later use. 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.

Description of the plant:


60 cm
(2 feet)

May to


Habitat of the herb:

Swamps and bogs.

Propagation of Nerve Root:

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. 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. Remove part of the original rootball with the soil intact. Division is best carried out towards the end of the growing season, since food reserves are fairly evenly distributed through the rhizome. 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. Replant immediately in situ.

Cultivation of the herb:

Swamps and bogs.

Known hazards of Cypripedium calceolus parviflorum:

Contact with the fresh plant can cause dermatitis in sensitive people.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.