The male fern is a cryptogamous plant, that is to say, without flowers. It has roots, stems, and leaves through which sap vessels go. Dioscorides noted in the 1st century B.C. that “wise nature gave ferns their seeds (spores) in their leaves.” This fern is called male fern because of the vibrant appearance of its fronds, which make it different from the female fern (Athyrium filix Femina (L.) Roth), finger and more delicate. However, their reproduction system is similar. Common fern (Pteris aquilina L.) is toxic.
Male Fern Scientific Facts
- Scientific Name: Dryopteris filix-mas Schott.
- French: Fougére mâle.
- Spanish: Helecho macho.
- Environment: The male fern grows in shady and damp forests throughout Europe and America.
- Description: The fern is a vibrant plant of the Polypodiaceae family that grows from 1 to 1.5 m high. Its long, lanceolate fronds (fern leaves) grow from the rhizome (underground stem).
- Parts of the plant used medicinally: The rhizome and the root.
The rhizome of the male fern contains, among other substances, philicine, which can paralyze the muscles of taenia and other intestinal parasites. Thus, the worm is detached from the intestine walls and paralyzed. Then, a purgative substance is required to complete the action, expelling the worm.
The vermifuge properties of the male fern have been proven for the following intestinal parasites:
- All taeniae species.
- Duodenal anchislostoma.
As indicated below, a purgative substance must always be taken when the male fern is used as a vermifuge. When taking the fern, alcoholic beverages or oil must not be consumed during the whole day. Never exceed the dose of 10 grams of extract. In higher doses, it produces nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Toxicity can occur when used in large doses and can cause albuminuria, muscle weakness, convulsions, and jaundice. The use of this plant requires medical supervision. People suffering from anemia, gastritis, gastro-duodenal ulcer, or heart disorders must abstain from using this fern.
How to use Male Fern
- Powder of rhizome and the root. The recommended dose is 5 grams in the morning and five at night (half this dose for children). Fifteen minutes after, take two spoonfuls of any saline purgative (sodium or magnesium sulfate). Castor bean oil is not recommended in this case.
- Ether extract (obtained with ether). Take 3-5 grams of this fern-root extract with an empty stomach, prepared in pharmacies, and usually presented in the form of capsules of 0.5 grams (six to ten capsules). These capsules typically contain a small dose of a purgative substance, so taking another dose is unnecessary.
George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Ed. Francesc X. Gelabert. vols. 2 San Fernando de Henares: Editorial Safeliz, 2000. 500. Print.