Maiden Hair/Fern

Nicholas Culpepper (1616-1654) wrote in The English Physician "This and all other Maiden Hairs is a good remedy for coughs, asthmas, pleurisy, etc. and on account of its being a gentle diuretic also in jaundice, gravel and other impurities of the kidneys. All the Maidenhairs should be used green and in conjunction with other ingredients because their virtues are weak."

The Maidenhair fern is widely used in modern herbal medicine as a holistic alternative to the standard allopathic remedies. These are generally in keeping with those extrapolated from the original treatment for baldness. There may be some veracity to the claims, as the fern contains tannin and mucilage that are often of medicinal benefit. Its primary historical use in Western medicine has been in the treatment of pectoral complaints. An elixir known as Sirop do Capillaire is made in France from the fronds and used to treat pulmonary catarrhs and other throat afflictions such as coughs. Dried Maidenhair fronds and rhizomes are dried to make a variety of medicines, including a detoxicant for alcoholism, a decoction to expel worms from the body (particularly the ringworm that causes bald spots) and a composition called Elixir of Garus that is taken as an emmenagogue (menstrual flow stimulation) in Europe under the names of polytrichon or kalliphyllon.

Native Americans created a poultice form the chewed fronds of Maidenhair ferns that was applied topically as a styptic to arrest the bleeding from a wound. They may also have applied it to aching joints as a means of easing the pain. The stalks of the Maidenhair fern retain their dark color and pliability after drying. They were thus used by numerous Indian tribes including the Makah, Quinault, Karok and Yurok as a contrasting material in the manufacture of baskets, the dark Maidenhair stalks providing the darker color for the creation of geometrical patterns. - Hiker's Notebook: Maidenhair Fern

Maiden Fern


The biggest problem encountered with growing these ferns indoors is when they are placed into a situation where the conditions fluctuate. The most common is the bathroom where it is warm and humid after a shower but cold dry for the rest of the time. Maidenhairs prefer a situation that has stable temperature and humidity levels. Kitchen windowsills, sunrooms and warm laundries for example. They do not like being moved as this sets them back until they can adjust to the new set of conditions. Provide humidity indoors by standing the pots on top of pebble filled trays or saucers, keep the saucers filled with water to JUST BELOW the bottom of the pot. In this way the evaporating water provides humidity but the pot and potting mix does not become waterlogged from standing in the water.