Male Fern (Filicis maris folium, herba, rhizoma)

Published September 24, 1993.
List of German Commission E Monographs (Phytotherapy)


Name of Drug

Filicis maris folium, male fern leaf.
Filicis maris herba, male fern herb.
Filicis maris rhizoma, male fern rhizome.

Composition of Drug

Male fern leaf consists of the fresh or dried leaf of Dryopteris filix-mas (L.) Schott [Fam. Aspleniaceae], as well as preparations thereof.

Male fern herb consists of the fresh or dried above-ground parts of D. filix-mas (L.) Schott, as well as preparations thereof.

Male fern rhizome consists of the fresh or dried rhizomes with leaf scars freed from attached roots, harvested in autumn, of D. filix-mas (L.) Schott, as well as preparations thereof.

Pharmacological Properties, Pharmacokinetics, Toxicology

Male fern rhizome has an anthelmintic effect and is strongly cytotoxic.

Clinical Data 1. Uses Uses as a result of evaluation:
None Claimed uses which have been negatively evaluated:
Preparations of male fern herb are used externally for rheumatism, sciatica, muscle pain, neuralgia, earache and toothache, for teething in infants and sleep disorders, as well as internally for tapeworms and flukes. In combinations, preparations of male fern are used externally for inflamed hallux valgus, painful bunion, pains in the feet and legs, cracks (fissures) of the soles of the feet, paresthesia, frostbite, circulatory disturbances, venectasia, minor ulcers, discogenic consecutive symptoms, lumbar syndrome, cervical syndrome, spondylarthritis, acute and chronic inflammations of the joints, ischialgia, lumbago, rheumatic diseases, arthritis deformans, arthritis, cicatricial keloid, scar tissue contraction, and neuralgia.

For treatment of worm diseases, safer and more effective therapeutic alternatives are available.

The effectiveness for the claimed applications is not documented.

2. Risks

Numerous poisonings, some with fatal consequences, have been reported regarding ingestion of preparations of male fern rhizome in therapeutic dosage. Observed symptoms of poisoning include visual disturbances including blindness, headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, diarrhea, severe abdominal spasms, dyspnea, respiratory and cardiac insufficiency, arrhythmia, tremor, convulsions, stimulation of the uterus muscle, albuminuria and bilirubinuria. Side effects are supposedly increased by simultaneous intake of fats and oils, as well as of alcohol. A case of poisoning of a child with a decoction of male fern herb has been reported.

Internal use of male fern is obsolete.


Oral administration cannot be justified because of the high risks involved. External application cannot be recommended, since the effectiveness for the claimed uses is not documented.