Herb: Northern Maidenhair

Latin name: Adiantum pedatum

Family: Polypodiaceae (Polypody Fern Family)

Medicinal use of Northern Maidenhair:

The whole plant is considered to be antirheumatic, astringent, demulcent, emmenagogue, expectorant, febrifuge, haemostatic, pectoral and tonic. A tea or syrup is used in the treatment of nasal congestion, asthma, sore throats etc. A decoction of the root was massaged into rheumatic joints. The N. American Indians chewed the fronds and then applied them to wounds to stop bleeding. A strong infusion of the whole plant was has been used as an emetic in the treatment of ague and fevers. This plant was highly valued as a medicinal plant in the 19th century and merits scientific investigation.

Description of the plant:


45 cm
(1 foot)

Habitat of the herb:

Moist woods from lowland to middle altitudes in the mountains of Western N. America.

Other uses of Northern Maidenhair:

The stipe of the plant is used as an ornament in basketry. The leaves can be used as a lining for carrying or storing fruits in baskets and on racks. The plant is used as a hair conditioner. The stems have been used as a hair wash to make the hair shiny. Plants can be used for ground cover when planted about 30cm apart either way, they form a slowly spreading clump.

Propagation of the herb:

Spores - best sown as soon as ripe on the surface of a humus-rich sterilized soil. Keep the compost moist, preferably by putting a plastic bag over the pot. Pot on small clumps of plantlets as soon as they are large enough to handle and keep them humid until they are well established. Do not plant outside until the ferns are at least 2 years old and then only in a very well sheltered position. Division in spring or autumn.

Cultivation of Northern Maidenhair:

Moist woods from lowland to middle altitudes in the mountains of Western N. America.

Known hazards of Adiantum pedatum:

Although we have found no reports of toxicity for this species, a number of ferns contain carcinogens so some caution is advisable. Many ferns also contain thiaminase, an enzyme that robs the body of its vitamin B complex. In small quantities this enzyme will do no harm to people eating an adequate diet that is rich in vitamin B, though large quantities can cause severe health problems. The enzyme is destroyed by heat or thorough drying, so cooking the plant will remove the thiaminase.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.