The Medicinal Herb Info site was created to help educate visitors about the often forgotten wisdom of the old ways of treating illnesses. Many of today's drugs and medicines were originally derived from natural ingredients, combinations of plants and other items found in nature.

We are not suggesting that you ignore the help of trained medical professionals, simply that you have additional options available for treating illnesses. Often the most effective treatment involves a responsible blend of both modern and traditional treatments.

We wish you peace and health!

Male Fern

Scientific Names

Male Fern

  • Dryopteris filix-mas L.
  • Aspidum filix-mas
  • Polypodiaceae
  • Fern family

Common Names

  • Aspidium
  • Bear’s paw root
  • Knotty brake
  • Sweet brake
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    Parts Usually Used

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    Description of Plant(s) and Culture

    Male Fern

    Male fern is a perennial semi-evergreen plant; the dark brown scaly rootstock produces a tuft of fronds which are curled spirally when new but open and mature to a height of 9-24 inches. The fronds are broadly oblong-lanceolate to oblong and pinnate, the lanceolate-acuminate to oblong-lanceolate pinnae themselves pinnatifid or lobed more than halfway to the midrib. Spore clusters appear as two rows of yellow dots on the bottom of each lobe from July to September.
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    Where Found

    Found in woods, ravines, and on rocky slopes all over the world. In the United States, most prevalent Maine, Vermont, New York to Michigan.
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    Medicinal Properties

    Anthelmintic, vermifuge, alterative, astringent
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    Biochemical Information

    Aspidinol, albasidine, phloraspine and filicinic acid.
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    Legends, Myths and Stories

    In the Middle Ages people made a good luck charm out of the rootstock of male fern. They cut off all but five of the curved finger-like fronds from the rootstock, so that it resembled a hand. Called Lucky Hand, Dead Man’s Hand, or St. John’s Hand, this charm was considered to be very strong against bad luck, devils, and witches. It was usually fashioned on June 23rd, St. John’s Eve, so that it would gain extra potency by being fumigated in the fires set that night. Genghis Khan is supposed to have carried one of these charms.
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    Male fern is an ancient tapeworm remedy, dating back to the Greeks and Romans, but it must be used with great care. Leaving a male fern medication in the body too long can cause poisoning, so that one to two hours after taking it a purgative (like castor oil) must be used to remove both the worms and the remaining active ingredients. No alcohol or oil may be taken while male fern is being used, as they would increase the absorption of the toxic principle.

    Source of oleoresin used to expel tapeworms. It stuns and paralyzes (without killing) tapeworms, round worms, and hook worms.

    Good for sores, boils, old wounds, swollen glands, diseases of the spleen, rickets, and epidemic flu.

    For external use, a decoction of the rootstock can be added to a footbath for varicose veins. In European folk medicine, a popular belief is that sewing the fronds into a linen bag and applying to affected parts will help rheumatism. At least, it does no harm.
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    Formulas or Dosages

    Since proper preparation and dosage are essential, use male fern for tapeworm only under medical supervision.

    Collect the rootstock in the fall.

    Decoction: boil 1 lb. rootstock in water and add the liquid to a footbath.
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    Toxic poison and skin irritant.

    No alcohol or oil should be taken during treatments; they increase the absorption of the toxic principle.

    Improper dosages taken internally can lead to blindness and death.

    Not for use during pregnancy.

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    Buy It! The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.

    Buy It! Planetary Herbology, by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., O.M.D., Lotus Press, PO Box 325, Twin Lakes. WI 53181., Copyright 1988, published 1992

    Buy It! Indian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens, Shambala Publications, Inc., Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, 1973

    Buy It! Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician: Updated With 117 Modern Herbs, by Nicholas Culpeper, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1990, (reprint of 1814)

    Buy It! Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke., Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10000

    Buy It! The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine, by Dr. David Frawley & Dr. Vasant Lad, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, Second edition, 1988.

    Buy It! Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023

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