Aspidium filix mas. Male Fern.

Botanical name: 

Nat. Ord. — Filices or Filicaceae. — Polypodiaceae. Sex. Syst. — Cryptogamia Filices.


Description. — Male fern has a large, perennial, horizontal, scaly root or rhizoma, from which numerous fronds or leaves arise, forming tufts from a foot to four feet in hight. The fronds are erect, disposed in a circle, oval, lanceolate, acute, pinnate, bright-green, and leafy nearly to the bottom ; their stalks and midribs having tough, brown, transparent scales throughout; divisions alternate, taper-pointed, pinnate ; the pinnae or leaflets numerous, crowded, sessile, for the most part distinct, occasionally somewhat combined at the base, oblong, obtuse, crenate throughout, the lateral notches broadest and most shallow, the terminal ones more crowded and acute, without any terminal bristles ; both sides smooth, and, destitute of glandular globules, but a depression on the upper one over the insertion of each sorus. Sori circular, tawny, ranged in simple, close, short rows, near the partial midrib, and scarcely occupying more than the lower half of each leaflet. Indusium circular, durable, crenate, tumid, with a cleft terminating in the central depression. Thecae numerous, shining-brown, prominent all round for a little beyond the indusium.

History. — Found growing in all parts of Europe, and indigenous, growing in shady pine forests, from New York to Virginia. The root or rhizoma is the officinal part ; the best are about six inches long, and an inch broad ; externally it is of a brown color, internally yellowish or reddish-white, with a peculiar, but not very strong odor, and a sweetish, bitter, nauseous and astringent taste. It should be collected between the end of May and middle of September ; cleansed, without being washed ; then dried quickly in the shade and open air without heat, those parts selected which are greenish, internally, immediately pulverized, and then kept in well-closed bottles. The powder is of a pale greenish-yellow color, and has a peculiar, earthy, disagreeable odor, and a nauseously sweet taste, followed by some bitterness and astringency. It loses its virtues in two years. An ethereal oil is obtained by evaporating or distilling off the ether from an ethereal tincture.

It is a thick, dark, liquid, with the odor and taste of the root, though somewhat acrid, and contains volatile oil, resin, coloring matter, etc. The purer the ether used, the less resin is taken up. Male fern root contains a volatile oil, a fixed oil, resin, gallic and acetic acids, uncrystallizable sugar, tannin, starch, a gelatinous matter insoluble in water and alcohol, lignin, and various earthy and saline matters.

Properties and Uses. — Anthelmintic. Used solely for the removal of worms, especially the tapeworm. It is said to be more effectual in removing the tapeworm of Switzerland (Bothriocephalus latus) than the Taenia solium, the most frequent variety in France and England. The best mode of administration is the ethereal oil or extract, of which eighteen grains, or from twelve to twenty-four drops may be given in the form of pill or emulsion, at night, and again in the morning ; two hours after the administration of the last dose, a purgative dose of castor oil is to be taken, and the worm is discharged dead, without any severe or unpleasant symptoms. Dose of the powder, one to four drachms; of the ethereal tincture of the buds, eight to thirty drops, and which is made by digesting one part of the buds, in eight parts of ether.

The American Eclectic Dispensatory, 1854, was written by John King, M. D.