049. Polypodium filix mas. Male polypody, or, Common male fern.
Synonyma. Filix. Pharm. Lond. & Edinb.
Filix non ramosa dentata. Bauh. Pin. p. 358.
Filix vulgo mas dicta, sive non ramosa. J. Bauh. Hist. vol. iii. p. 737.
Filix mas non ramosa pinnulis latis densis minutim dentatis. Gerard. Emac. p. 1129.
Filix mas vulgaris. Park. Theat. p. 1036. Raii. Hist. p. 143. Synop. p. 120.
Polypodium, pinnis pinnatis, obtusis, dentatis. Hal. Stirp. Helv. n. 1701. Bolton. Filices. Brit. p. 44.
Creditur effe (greek) Dioscorid. et Theophr.
Class Cryptogamia. Ord. Filices. Lin. Gen. Plant. 1179.
Ess. Gen. Ch. Fructific. in punctis subrotundis sparsis per discum frondis.
Spec. Char. P. frondibus bipinnatis: pinnis obtusis crenulatis, stipite paleaceo.
The root is large, long, firm, and covered with thick brown scales, placed in an imbricated order, and furnished with many long black tough fibres: the general leaves are from one to four feet in length, the ribs of which when young are thickly beset with brown tough transparent scales: the figure of the whole leaf is lance-shaped, broadest in the middle, and gradually decreases to each extremity, terminating above in an acute point; the partial, or second leaves, are from fifteen to forty pairs, remote on the lower part, growing gradually nearer upwards, and running together at the top: the lobes are from seven to fifteen pairs, which are largest at the bottom, and regularly decrease towards the top, where they unite into a point; each lobe is of an oval shape, and a little indented at its upper extremity: the seed-vessels are placed in two rows on the back of the lobes, in number from three to six, of a kidney-shape, and covered with a pellicle; they are at first white, and afterwards change to a bluish or ash-colour; when the seeds are ripe, the pellicle bursts, and after the discharge of the seeds the vessels become brown, and appear as if covered with dust. It is a native of Britain, and grows about the borders of woods near rivulets, and in stony rocky places.
The root of the male fern has lately been greatly celebrated for its effects upon the tape-worm, or Taenia lata, of Linnaeus; and this vermifuge power of fern-root seems to have been known to the ancients; [Dioscorid. M. M. lib. 4. cap. 186. Theophrast. Hist. Plant, lib. 9. Galen de Simp. Med. lib. 8. Pliny, lib. 28. cap. 9.] and is since commended by different practical writers. [F. Hoffman, and others.] Yet notwithstanding the virtues of this root are thus recorded, its use was very generally neglected till some years ago. Madame Nouser, a surgeon's widow, in Switzerland, acquired great celebrity, by employing a secret remedy as a specific in the cure of the tapeworm. This secret was thought of such importance by some of the principal physicians in Paris, [Lassone, Macquer, De La Motte, Jussieu, Carburi, and Cadet.] who were deputed to make a complete trial of its efficacy, that it was purchased by the French king, and afterwards published by his order. [Precis du Traitement contre le Taenias ou Vers solitaires, pratique a Morat en Suisse, examine et approve a Paris. Publie par ordre du Roj; a Paris, 1775.] The method of cure has been stated as follows: After the patient has been prepared by an emollient clyster, and a supper of panada, with butter and salt, he is directed to take in the morning, while in bed, a dose of two or three drams of the powdered root of male fern. (The dose for infants is one dram.) The powder must be washed down with a draught of water, and two hours after a strong cathartic, composed of calomel and scammony, is to be given, proportioned to the strength of the patient. If this does not operate in due time, it is to be followed by a dose of purging salts, and if the worm be not expelled in a few hours, this process is to be repeated at proper intervals. Of the success of this, or a similar mode of treatment, in cases of taenia, there can be no doubt, as many proofs of it in this country afford sufficient testimony; [See Dr. Simmons's "Account of the Taenia," &c.] but whether the fern root or the strong cathartic is the principal agent in the destruction of the worm, may admit of a question, and the latter opinion we believe is the more generally adopted by physicians. [Dr. Cullen has published this opinion. See Mat, Med. art. Filix. See also Dr. Simmons's l. c. pref. p. 7.] It appears, however, from some experiments made in Germany, that the taenia has in several instances been expelled by the repeated exhibition of the root, without the assistance of any purgative. [Vide C. C. Gmelin. Confid. gen. filicum. p. 34. Wendt. Nachricht vom. clin. Inst. Zu Erlangen, Pens. 5. et 6. p. 44. 46.]