- Family Polypodiaceae
- Adiantum capillus-veneris
- Maidenhair, Maiden fern, Venus Hair, Rock Fern, Hair of Venus, Five-finger Fern, Spanish: Culantrillo, Avenca, Adianto
- None listed.
Native to Europe and North America, the maidenhair fern is a type of perennial whose fronds grow to about a foot long. The leaves are not typically elongated but are rounded, toothed, and fan-shaped and covered with hairs at the base. Typically, it grows in moist, shady sites from the southern US to the Caribbean and tropical areas of Central and South America. It also produces brown, hairy rhizomes, slender roots, and erect stems that can grow to a height of ten inches.
Since ancient times, maidenhair ferns have been used as a remedy.
The 18th century herbalist, K’Eogh, stated that it would cure “asthma, coughs, and shortness of breath. It is good against jaundice, diarrhea, spitting of blood and the biting of mad dogs. It also provokes urination and menstruation and breaks up stone in the bladder, spleen and kidneys”.
- flavonoids (including rutin, isoquercitin)
- terpenoids (including adiantone)
In a 1989 Iraqi study, the plant demonstrated some antimicrobial properties invitro. Using leaf extracts, they proved that it was effective against E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus.
Belgian scientists determined that the leaf extract also had antihyperglycemic properties.
The herb is still taken as an infusion or syrup in Spain, Belgium, and the Canary Islands to treat bronchitis, coughs, and whooping cough, as well as for painful and excessive menstruation.
The plant also has a long-standing reputation as a remedy for conditions involving the hair and scalp.
In a number of areas of South America, particularly Colombia and Brazil, “avenca” is made into a decoction and used as an expectorant.
In Mexico and Argentina, a decoction of the fern is used to relieve sore throat and rheumatism.
In some parts of Latin America, it is used as an emmenagogue, a substance which can induce menstruation. It has also been used to hasten labour during childbirth.