Male Fern

Scientific Name(s): Dryopteris filix-mas (L.) Schott Family: Polypodiaceae

Common Name(s): Aspidium , male fern , bear's paw , knotty brake , shield fern

Uses

A traditional vermifuge.

Dosing

There is no clinical evidence to support specific doses of male fern. Classical use of the plant as an anthelmintic included 5 to 8 g doses of the oleoresin extract.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been identified.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Avoid use.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Male fern can produce adverse reactions, from headache to cardiac and respiratory failure.

Toxicology

Large doses of the extract potentially are toxic.

Botany

D. filix-mas is a hardy ornamental fern. 1 It grows in dry terrain in rich woods and on rocky slopes. It is found throughout many areas of the United States.

History

The fern has been used in traditional medicine for the treatment of worm infections. The early physician, Theophrastus, recognized the value of the fern for treating tinea (ringworm) infections. 1 In Chinese medicine, extracts are used to treat recurrent bloody nose, heavy menstrual bleeding, and wounds. The components of the plant have been used as veterinary vermifuges.

Chemistry

The fern contains approximately 6% of an oleoresin. In addition, the plant is the source of albaspidin, filicic (filixic) acid, filicin, margaspidin, filmarone, and more than two dozen additional chemically unique compounds. 1

Uses and Pharmacology

Vermifuge

Filicin and filmarone are active vermifuges and are particularly toxic to tapeworms. 1 , 2 Following ingestion of the drugs, tinea are expelled within hours; however, a purgative typically is ingested concomitantly with the vermifuge to aid expulsion. 3

The oleoresin paralyzes intestinal voluntary muscle and the analogous muscles of the tapeworm, which is then readily eliminated by the action of the purgative. 1

Animal/clinical data

Research reveals no animal or clinical data regarding the use of male fern as a vermifuge.

Dosage

There is no clinical evidence to support specific doses of male fern. Classical use of the plant as an anthelmintic included 5 to 8 g doses of the oleoresin extract. 4

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Avoid use.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Therapeutic doses are associated with adverse events. 2 Symptoms include headache, dyspnea, nausea, diarrhea, vertigo, tremors, convulsions, and cardiac and respiratory failure. 1 , 2

Toxicology

Large doses of the extracts potentially are toxic, resulting in muscular weakness, coma, and temporary or permanent blindness. 1

Bibliography

1. Duke JA. Handbook of Medicinal Herbs . Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1985.
2. Spoerke DG. Herbal Medications . Santa Barbara CA: Woodbridge Press; 1980.
3. Schauenberg P, Paris F. Guide to Medicinal Plants . New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing; 1977.
4. Gruenwald J, ed. PDR for Herbal Medicines . 2nd ed. Montvale, NJ: Thomson Healthcare Inc.; 2007:493.

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