Male Fern

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Chapter: Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry : Drugs Containing Resins

Male fern consists of the dried rhizomes and its surrounding frond bases of Dryopteris filix-mas (Linn.) Schoot, belonging to family Polypodiaceae.






Filix Mass, Rhizoma Filicis Maris.


Biological Source


Male fern consists of the dried rhizomes and its surrounding frond bases of Dryopteris filix-mas (Linn.) Schoot, belonging to family Polypodiaceae.


Geographical Source


D. filix-mas is a fern that grows abundantly in Europe especially in England and Germany. In India it grows in Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Sikkim at the altitude of 5,000–10,000 feet in the Himalayas.


Collection and Preparation


The male fern plant is identified on the basis of its oblique rhizomes surrounded by numerous frond bases. The fronds bear numerous long pinnae containing several pairs of pinnules. The plant is dug up in the late autumn. It is washed thoroughly with water. The roots, fronds and the other dead parts are removed, and the trimmed rhizomes are dried. Longer rhizomes are longitudinally cut into two halves for faster and efficient drying.




The dried male fern rhizomes are ovoid or cylindrical pieces, about 7–25 cm long and 3–4 cm thick. The outer surface is mostly covered by fronds which are directed towards the apex. Each frond base is about 45 cm long and is thickly covered with numerous brownish seals called as ramenta. The rhizomes break with a short fracture showing green surface. The rhizomes are brownish black in colour with little odour but sweet, bitter and extremely nauseating taste. The drug should be stored in dry places protected from light.


                           Dryopteris filix-mas



The transverse section of male fern rhizome with frond bases shows the presence of ground tissue consisting polygonal parenchyma along with abundant starch grains. The hypodermis consists of two to three rows of brownish nonlignified sclerenchymatous fibres. Meristemes possesses large tracheids. The ramenta are made up of twin-cell marginal projections.


Chemical Constituents


Male fern rhizomes contain about 5% of yellow resin-ous substances responsible for its anthelmintic activity. The major constituents of oleoresin are phloroglucinol derivatives of mono- to tetracyclic compounds. The mono-cyclic derivatives are butyryl phloroglucinol, aspidinol and acylfilicinic acids. These compounds may condense with each other to produce bicyclic compounds such as albaspidin and flavaspidic acid or tricyclic compounds like filicic acid.





Male fern extract and the resin are used as a potent taenicide. It kills the worm and expels it out. Considerable care has to be undertaken during its use. Large doses acts as irritant poison. Its absorption from gastrointestinal tract may cause blindness.


Marketed Products


It is one of the ingredients of the preparation known as Paratrex (Global Healing Centre).


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