16 December 2008

Male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas)

Some of the evergreen or semi-evergreen ferns are much more obvious at this time of year.  This is a male fern, a species common throughout Brede High Woods.

20081215 BHW Cpt 6c & 7a 005

An extract from the rhizomes of male fern was regarded as "one of the most potent remedies for tapeworm ever recorded in the annals of medicine."  The active ingredient was thought to be piperazine, but properly conducted experiments with this showed that, while it did expel tapeworms it did not expel all of them and was therefore nowhere near as good as other antihelminthics.

Another use for male fern was in Father Künzle's Oil.  This was used as a rubbing oil for muscular pain.  Five fronds were dried, the leaflets stripped off and macerated for a month in 200ml of olive oil.

Father Johann Künzle (1857-1945), a Swiss, was one of the pioneering modern herbalists famed for his book Herbs and Weeds (Chrut und Uchrut).  Some consider his work to be of great value, others that he was a charlatan - so often the way with alternative medicine.


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