Dryopteris filix-mas (male fern) is a common fern of the temperate Northern Hemisphere, native to much of Europe, Asia, and North America. It favours damp shaded areas in the understory of woodlands, but also shady places on hedge-banks, rocks, and screes. It is much less abundant in North America than in Europe. The plant is sometimes referred to in ancient literature as worm fern.
The root was used, until recent times, as an anthelmintic to expel tapeworms, but has been replaced by less toxic and more effective drugs. The anthelmintic activity has been claimed to be due to flavaspidic acid, a phloroglucinol derivative.
The roots were thought to be useful for ridding the digestive system of worms both “broade and long”, with the treatment recommended to be half an ounce of roots “bruised and boyled in medde [mead] or honyed water, and drunke”, which, as a side effect, also lessened “the swelling and hardnesse of the spleene”. Roots could also be used to heal that most terrifying of wounds, “the pricking of the reed”. The basis for this is entirely logical: reeds and ferns will not grow in the same place – where one flourishes the other suffers – and so the wound caused by the reed will diminish when fern roots are applied.
The leaves were also used as a remedy for ill health. According to the apothecary John Parkinson, eating them is “sayd to open the belly and moveth it downewards, yet it troubleth the stomacke, and purgeth chollericke”. John Gerard also said of Dryopteris, “it killeth the childe in the mothers wombe”; Parkinson shared his views on this matter, but felt the need to clarify a misunderstanding that had arisen from a mistranslation from Greek to English, saying “yet is it but a fable to be any danger unto them to goe or stride over it”.
Please consult your doctor for more information on side effects.
- None are recorded.
- male fern
Source: Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dryopteris_filix-mas#Cultivation_and_uses