Thursday, March 4, 2010

Dryopteris Filix-mas

. . . also known as Male Fern, Knotty Brake, Male Shielf-fern, Sweet Brake, Shield Root, Marginal Shield-fern and European Aspidium. One of those ferns that grow in the woods around here.
This plant has definite medicinal value which has been recognized for centuries and which entitles it to its present place in the United States Pharmacopoeia. Properties found in the rhizome of this fern are definitely deadly to intestinal worms, and it is therefore valuable as an anthelmintic, teniacide, or worm medicine. Containing a poison, the drug must be used with certain cautions.
The Male Fern is found growing everywhere in the United States and Europe. Mor medicinal purposes the useful species include not only D. Filix-mas, but also the similar marginal shield-fern or evergreen wood-fern, D. marginalis.

The roots of the fern are dug in the autumn and carefully cleaned of all root hairs, old leaf bases, and dirt, and then split and dried carefully at a temperature of 70 degrees F. The best extraction of the oleoresin is obtained through the use of ether. (Not exactly a home remedy, this one)
The seeds (spores) of this fern are so tiny as to be almost invisible, and the "Doctrine of Signatures" states that use of the fern will confer invisibility. Hence, in Henry IV act 2, scene 1, "We have the receipt of fern seed; we walk invisible." There you have your literary/botany lesson for the day.
Like most ferns, this one likes shady, woodsy places and seems otherwise not very particular about where it lives. It is quite common here along with Christmas Ferns and Maidenhair Ferns. It seems to prefer adequate moisture or even places that are a little wet in the spring.

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