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Fern | Plant Lexica


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  • Botanical: Dryopteris filix
  • Family: Dryopteridaceae
  • Hits: 2045


Dryopteris filix



Known as

Dryopteris filix-mas

Collection Times

Leaves: Summer Roots: Late Summer

Parts Used

leaves, roots


abdominal pain, bleeding, circulation, cramps, cramps stomach, gum bleeding, hemorrhoids, intestinal parasites, menstrual cramps, menstruation promotion, menstrual problems

Heart & Circulation

bleeding, circulation, hemostatic, hemorrhoids, varicose veins

Hormone & Sexual Organs

cramps, menstrual cramps, menstruation promotion, menstrual problems, uterine cramps

Infection & Inflammation

fever, gum bleeding

Muscle & Joints

gout, rheumatism

Mind & Nerves


Stomach & Intestinal

abdominal pain, intestinal parasites, tapeworms, urinary infections, worm

Skin & Hair

abscess, bruises


antibacterial, antispasmodic, antirheumatic, antiviral, anti inflammatory, astringent, febrifuge, vermifuge


The semi-evergreen leaves have an upright habit and reach a maximum length of 150 cm (59 in), with a single crown on each rootstock. The bipinnate leaves consist of 20-35 pinnae on each side of the rachis. The leaves taper at both ends, with the basal pinnae about half the length of the middle pinnae.

The pinules are rather blunt and equally lobed all around. The stalks are covered with orange-brown scales. On the abaxial surface of the mature blade 5 to 6 sori develop in two rows. When the spores ripen in August to November, the indusium starts to shrivel, leading to the release of the spores.

This species hybridises easily with Dryopteris affinis (scaly male fern) and Dryopteris oreades (mountain male fern).

Properties & Uses

The male fern is one of the most popular and effective treatments for tape worms. The root stalks are anodyne, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, astringent, febrifuge, vermifuge and vulnerary. The root contains an oleoresin that paralyses tapeworms and other internal parasites and has been used as a worm expellent. The active ingredient in this oleo-resin is 'filicin', roots of this species contain about 1.5 - 2.5% filicin. It is one of the most effective treatments known for tapeworms - its use should be immediately followed by a non-oily purgative such as magnesium sulphate, Convolvulus scammonia or Helleborus niger in order to expel the worms from the body. An oily purge, such as caster oil, increases the absorption of the fern root and can be dangerous. The root is also taken internally in the treatment of internal haemorrhage, uterine bleeding, mumps and feverish illnesses. The root is harvested in the autumn and can be dried for later use. This remedy should be used with caution and only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. The root is toxic and the dosage is critical. Pregnant women and people with heart complaints should not be prescribed this plant. See also notes above on toxicity. Externally, the root is used as a poultice in the treatment of abscesses, boils, carbuncles and sores. 

Other Uses

A compost of fern leaves is very beneficial on tree seed beds, aiding germination. The ashes of the plant are rich in potash and has been used in making soap and glass. An effective ground cover plant. Although it is usually deciduous, its decaying fronds make a good weed-suppressing mulch in the winter. Space the plants about 60 cm apart each way. The roots contain about 10% tannin.


A number of ferns contain carcinogens so some caution is advisable. The fresh plant contains thiaminase, an enzyme that robs the body of its vitamin B complex. In small quantities this enzyme will do no harm to people eating an adequate diet that is rich in vitamin B, though large quantities can cause severe health problems. The enzyme is destroyed by heat or thorough drying, so cooking the plant will remove the thiaminase. However, there have been reports for other species of ferns suggesting that even cooked fronds can have a long term harmful effect. Some caution is therefore advised.


Throughout Europe, including Britain, and temperate Asia.


Filmaron, Filicin, phloroglucinol, essential oils

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