Herb: Black Spleenwort

Latin name: Asplenium adiantum-nigrum

Family: Polypodiaceae (Polypody Fern Family)

Medicinal use of Black Spleenwort:

The plant is bitter, diuretic, laxative and ophthalmic. It is taken internally to treat diseases of the spleen, jaundice and ophthalmia. It is said to produce sterility in women. A decoction or syrup made from the fronds is emmenagogue, expectorant and pectoral. It is used to relieve troublesome coughs.

Description of the plant:


50 cm
(1 foot)

Habitat of the herb:

Rocky woods, hedgebanks, shady walls and rocks.

Other uses of Black Spleenwort:

A decoction of the herb is a good hair wash.

Propagation of the herb:

Spores - best sown as soon as they are ripe on the surface of a humus-rich sterilized soil. Keep the compost moist, preferably by putting a plastic bag over the pot. Germinates in spring. Spring sown spores germinate in 1 - 3 months at 15C. Pot on small clumps of plantlets as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse. Keep them humid until they are well established. When they are at least 15cm tall, plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer.

Cultivation of Black Spleenwort:

Rocky woods, hedgebanks, shady walls and rocks.

Known hazards of Asplenium adiantum-nigrum:

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.