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Venus shoe


Among the many species of orchid, some show off very special flowers: this is the case of the shoe of Venus, called by this name in allusion to the shape of the flower's labellum, typically a “slipper”. The shoe of Venus is also called the pianella (or shoe) of the Madonna . The botanical name is Cypripedium calceolus or Cypripedium pubescens : the root of the genus has Greek derivation (Cupris = Cypris, nickname of Venus), while the ending - pedilon means footwear. Despite the correct name is "Cypripedilon", the shoe of Venus is however indicated with Cypripedium, following a writing error by Linnaeus.

The Venus slipper, unlike what one might think, is not only cultivated for its particular aesthetic appearance: it is in fact also used in the homeopathic and phytotherapeutic field.


The shoe of Venus is distinguished from other species by its charm and elegance; the preciousness of the plant is also related to its rarity, so much to be considered the flowery jewel of Italy . Unfortunately, the splendor of the flower has always attracted the attention of hikers and tourists, who - impressed by its elegance - collect it indiscriminately: to overcome this problem, the shoe of Venus is currently considered a rare and protected species.

Originally from North America, the beautiful Venus slipper can potentially grow in all areas of the northern hemisphere, although its cultivation is not always so simple. In Italy it can be admired, in particular, in the Alpine arc.

The shoe of Venus loves damp limestone soils and environments with a rather high degree of humidity: in this regard, it lives in the undergrowth near beeches, conifers and broad-leaved trees.

Botanical analysis

The shoe of Venus is the most elegant specimen of the Orchidaceae family: we are talking about a herbaceous plant that generally does not exceed 50 centimeters in height. The root has a typically horizontal rhizome, which expands broadly. The plant is made up of 3 or 4 bright green oblong leaves, enveloping the caul, from which 2 large and magnificent flowers branch out. The flowers have two brownish-colored sepals located at the same height, which descend on hazel-colored petals and end with a distinctive labellum. It is precisely the labellum that assigns the name "plant of Venus" to the plant: it is a very particular petal - typical of orchids - with a mushroom conformation, a sort of hollow that serves as a reference for insects used for pollination (l 'insect, imprisoned in the labellum, collects the pollen favoring its dispersion).

Active principles

As we have seen, the beauty of the flower hides deeper virtues: the wonderful shoe of Venus can also be exploited for its precious medicinal properties. Tannins, bitter glycosides, non-terpenoid phenantrachinones and essential oil (extracted in particular from roots and rhizome) give the plant antispasmodic, tonic and eupeptic functions, as well as making it useful as a mild sedative. So much so that the sedative action conferred seems to be comparable to that of the valerian: in this regard, the root and rhizome extract of the Venus slipper is recommended in particular for the treatment of some forms of hysteria and anxiety in infants.

In homeopathy, the shoe of Venus is used to induce sleep.

Furthermore, it seems that the plant is useful to counter gastric irritation and heartburn due to the abuse of pseudo-irritating substances, such as coffee or tea. [from E. Campanini's Dictionary of herbal medicine and medicinal plants ]

Contraindications and toxic effects

The extract obtained from the root of the Venus slipper, in excessive doses, can induce optical hallucinations, mental excitement and psychedelic reactions [taken from Dizionario ragionato of herbal medicine and phytotherapy, by A. Bruni, M, Nicoletti]; furthermore, the glandular hairs of the stem of the Venus shoe may cause skin irritation.


Scarpetta di Venere: to fix the concepts

Venus shoe Orchid with very special flowers → “slipper” shape

Rare rare plant → flowery jewel of Italy

Scarpetta di Venere: etymology of the term Botanical name: Cypripedium calceolus or Cypripedium pubescens

Root of the genus → Greek derivation (Cupris = Cypris, nickname of Venus)

Desinence of the genus → - pedilon means footwear

Scarpetta di Venere: uses Ornamental, homeopathic, phytotherapic
Scarpetta di Venere: general description
  • Aesthetic characters: charm, elegance, splendor
  • Problem: the charm of the flower attracts tourists → indiscriminate collection
  • Origin of the flower: North America
  • Diffusion: it can grow in every area of ​​the northern hemisphere, but its growth is hindered by indiscriminate harvesting
  • Land: preferentially calcareous and wet soils → lives near conifers, beeches and broad-leaved trees
Scarpetta di Venere: botanical description Botanical name: Cypripedium calceolus or Cypripedium pubescens

Family: Orchidaceae

Description: herbaceous plant

Height: 50 cm

Root: typically horizontal rhizome

Leaves: 3 or 4 oblong leaves bright green, enveloping the stem

Flowers: 2 large and magnificent flowers

Sepals: 2 brownish-colored sepals located at the same height

Petals: hazel color, ending with a distinctive labellum → the labellum gives the name to the plant, shaped like a mushroom (or shoe)

Venus shoe:


Especially roots and rhizome
Venus scarpetta: main constituents Tannins

Bitter glucosides

Non terpenoid phenantrachinones

Essential oil

Scarpetta di Venere: property sedative

Root notes



Scarpetta di Venere: phytotherapic and homeopathic uses Particularly recommended for:
  • Treatment of some forms of hysteria
  • Combat anxiety in infants
  • Counteract gastric irritation or heartburn due to the abuse of pseudo-irritant substances
  • Induce sleep (homeopathy)
Venus shoe: toxic effects Abuse of Venus slipper extracts can cause:
  • Optical hallucinations
  • Mental excitement
  • Psychedelic reactions
  • Skin irritation