Male Fern

Dryopteris filix-mas syn. Aspidium filix-mas

Herbs gallery - Male Fern

Common names

  • Apsidium
  • Bear's-paw
  • Knotty Brake
  • Male Fern
  • Shield Fern
  • Sweet Brake

The male fern is one of the most powerful medications for tapeworm ever documented in the records of medicine. Normally this useful herb grows up to two to four feet in height and bears insipid green leaves also known as fronds. These fronds are narrow and tasseled and grow closely packed all the way up to the fleshy stem. On the underside of the fronds, there are two rows of dark brown spores. The rhizome or tuber of the male fern is reddish brown in color and is usually small, bulky and scaled.

As mentioned earlier, the male fern is among the best remedies for tapeworm ever. Despite its medical utility, the U.S. Pharmacopeia listed the male fern for medical use quite late - 1965. This view is owing to the fact that right from the days of the ancient Greek civilization to the present day, male fern has been recommended by most physicians to expel worms from the body. It is interesting to note that even Louis XVI of France coughed up a hefty sum to obtain a remedy containing the male fern.

The male fern is also known as the 'bear's paw' and it probably earned this nickname owing to the look of its rhizomes or tubers that are hairy and dark brown. Scientifically, the male fern is called Dryopteris meaning 'oak fern' in Greek. It acquired this name because the male fern is habitually found to grow in oak woods. On the other hand, botanists call this species 'filix-mas' meaning the 'male fern'. Interestingly, another species called the Athyriumfilix-femina or the 'lady fern' has been named so owing to its fragile appearance. Significantly, till the middle of 1800 botanists were in the dark regarding the fact that the ferns do not have any gender and there is nothing like male or lady fern in reality. In fact, the spores found in the underneath of the fern leaves or fronds produce both male as well as female cells. These spores are not visible to the naked eyes and hence long back people thought that these spores granted invisibility. Even Shakespeare refers to this belief indirectly in his play Henry IV, where he writes "We have the receipt of fern seed, we walk invisible."

As mentioned earlier, the spores found underneath the fern leaves or fronds produce both male and female cells. Thus, the ferns reproduce from these spores. In many cultures across the globe, people think that the ferns have the capability to transform poor people rich. For instance, a Russian myth says that if a person finds a fern blossoming during the Midsummer Eve and throws the fern in the air, he will find a fortune where the fern lands. On the other hand, a fable in Syria says that collecting fern spores on the Christmas night will compel the devil to part with his money. The strange renewal of ferns at times has given rise to an antique faith that the spores found in the underneath of the fern leaves or fronds bestows invisibility to people on whom it is showered. Significantly, the fern leaves or fronds may also be boiled and consumed as a vegetable. For instance, during the famine period in Norway, people mixed the fronds with bread and brewed them for beer!

Parts used

Frond, rhizome.


The male fern has multiple medicinal values. Over the centuries people have been making use of oil taken out from the tuber or rhizome of the herb to cure problems arising owing to tapeworms and also liver flukes or barbs. Researches have discovered that compounds like filicin and filmarone present in the oil extracted from the male fern rhizome are harmful for the worms. Studies have also established that the oleo-resin (a mixture of a resin and an essential oil, either obtained naturally from plants or produced synthetically) in the oil render the worms incapable of movement and thus restrain the maggots or larvae from sticking themselves to the intestine walls. Here is a word of caution. It must always be borne in mind that excessive dosage of the male fern is highly noxious and one should never use the herb without consulting qualified physicians. If taken in high doses, medicines prepared from the male fern may prove to be fatal too.

The male fern root or the oleo-resin obtained from the herb is considered to be among the best effective remedies to get rid of all kind of worms. It is also considered to be the best 'worm herb' and is especially very useful in getting the body rid of tapeworms. As mentioned earlier, the herb renders the worms immovable compelling them to relax their hold on the intestinal walls. And when the root of the male fern is consumed without any oily purgative (a substance for purging bowels), it can be recommended for flushing out parasites from the body.

Habitat and cultivation

Male fern plants are a natural habitat in the temperate climate. It is found in abundance all over the European continent as well as in Asia and North America where the climate is temperate. Male fern plants are very adjustable and can thrive in arid regions as well as in fertile soils. They grow best in the luxuriant soils of the woodlands and on rock-strewn gradients or slopes.


Chemical analysis of the male fern plant has showed that it contains following elements: filicin, filixid acid, tannins, phloroglucin derivatives as well as traces of some necessary oils.

Collection and harvesting

The rhizome or the tuber of the male fern is normally dug out of the ground in autumn. It is cleaned, dried and then stored for later use.

Father kunzle's oil

  • 5 fern fronds, well dried
  • 4/5 (200 ml) cup olive oil

Detach the dried leaflets from the stems and macerate in the oil for 1 month. Carefully strain. This oil can be kept for 6 months away from light. This is an ideal massage oil for muscular pain.


From Arnold S. - May-14-2015
I've tried this oil and it helped me reduce my muscle pains.
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