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Maidenhair Fern

Maidenhair Fern

Botanical Description & Habitat

Adiantum capillus-veneris, A. pedatum, and A. trichomanes


Common Names

five-finger fernmaiden fern
rock fernVenus hair

Moist, cool places, like walls and caves with humid rock faces, in North America, Europe and Asia.

Medicinal Part
Leaves, and/or the entire aerial plant, collected from May to October

Historical Properties & Uses

Maidenhair, a fern, is one of the oldest hair rinses known. Dioscorides called it adianton and prescribed it for asthma. It is used internally as an expectorant, bechic, pectoral, refrigerant and tonic.

The tea is used to treat coughs, sore throat and hoarseness due to the common cold, and to relieve chronic and acute congestion. Dry coughs and catarrh in the respiratory tract are particular indicated. Maidenhair is also considered a diaphoretic and emmenagogue.

Maidenhair fern is used homeopathically.

Method of Action

Maidenhair fern contains a mucilaginous substance, which accounts for its use in respiratory ailments, as an expectorant, bechic, pectoral and tonic. Mucilaginous plants are often used to treat asthma, bronchitis, coughs and sore throats.

Maidenhair also contains quite a bit of tannic acid. This would explain some of its indications, such as a refrigerant, diaphoretic and emmenagogue. Bitter substances are also present, but their action has not been studied.

Finally, maidenhair fern is a rich source of flavonoids, including rutin, isoquercetrin, and astragelin. These components probably account for the use of maidenhair as an occasional tonic, and impart vascular healing properties to the mucilage.

In the British Pharmacopoeia, maidenhair is listed as an antitussive, expectorant, demulcent and mild astringent, for use in bronchitis, nasal catarrh, pharyngitis and chest disorders. The plant is often combined with other herbs, including lobelia, senega, primula and gum weed.

Drug Interactions & Precautions

Possible Interactions
Any one or all of the following drugs may be imperfectly absorbed if this herb is being used on a daily basis: tetracycline derivatives, oral anticholinergics, phenothiazines, digoxin, isoniazid, phenytoin, warfarin.

Certain antipsychotic drugs, such as the phenothiazines, as well as other psychoactive agents which are poorly absorbed in the G.I. Tract, may be even more poorly absorbed if this herb is being used.

The use of large amounts of this herb on a continuous basis may partially block the digestion, absorption or reabsorption of a wide variety of drugs and fat-soluble vitamins.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

Maidenhair fern is non-toxic and generally regarded as safe.

Preparation & Administration

Dried herb
0.5 - 2 grams as infusion three times daily

Liquid Extract
1:1 in 25% alcohol. Dose 0.5 - 2 ml

Note: This Herbal Preparation information is a summary of data from books and articles by various authors. It is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals.


Braun, H. & Frohne, D. Heilplanzen-Lexikon Fuer Aerzte und Apotheker. Gustav Fisher Verlag, Stuttgart, New York, 1987.

British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, British Herbal Medicine Association, 1983.

Mowrey, Daniel B., Ph.D. Exper. Psych., Brigham Young University. Director of Nebo Institute of Herbal Sciences. Director of Behavior Change Agent Training Institute. Director of Research, Nova Corp.

Schauenberg, P. & Paris, F. Guide to Medicinal Plants, Keats Publishing, Inc., New Canaan, Connecticut, 1977.

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