Aspidium - Uses & Side Effects

Scientific Name(S): Dryopteris filix-mas (L.) Schott Family: Polypodiaceae

Common Name(S): Aspidium, male fern, bear's paw, knotty brake, shield fern

Botany: D. filix-mas is a hardy ornamental fern. It grows in dry terrain in rich woods and on rocky slopes. It is found throughout many areas of the United States.

History: The fern has been used in traditional medicine for the treatment of worm infections. The early physician Theophrastus recognized the value of the fern for treating tinea (ringworm) infections. In Chinese medicine, extracts are used to treat recurrent bloody nose, heavy menstrual bleeding and wounds. The components of the plant have been used as veterinary vermifuges.

Uses of Aspidium

A traditional vermifuge.

Side Effects of Aspidium

Aspidium can produce adverse reactions, from headache to cardiac and respiratory failure.

Toxicology: Large doses of the extracts are potentially toxic resulting in muscular weakness, coma and temporary or permanent blindness. Even therapeutic doses are associated with adverse events. Symptoms include headache, dyspnea, nausea, diarrhea, vertigo, tremors, convulsions and cardiac and respiratory failure.

Summary: Aspidium is no longer commonly used in the United States, although it had been listed in the US Pharmacopeia as late as 1965. Some herbal enthusiasts may continue to find access to the extracts. While the evidence from traditional uses strongly indicates that extracts are potent vermifuges, their potential toxicity precludes any recommendation of their use.

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