Herb: Cinnamon Fern

Latin name: Osmunda cinnamomea

Family: Osmundaceae

Medicinal use of Cinnamon Fern:

A decoction of the root has been rubbed into affected joints as a treatment for rheumatism. The root has been chewed, a small portion swallowed and the remainder applied to a snakebite. The following reports do not state which part of the plant is being used, though it is most likely that the root is being referred to. The plant is analgesic, antirheumatic and galactogogue. A decoction is used internally in the treatment of headaches, joint pain, rheumatism, colds etc, and also to promote the flow of milk in a nursing mother.

Description of the plant:


60 cm
(2 feet)

Habitat of the herb:

Sandy or alluvial soils in swamps low woods and thickets in Eastern N. America.

Edible parts of Cinnamon Fern:

The young unexpanded fronds are eaten as a nibble or cooked in soups. The taste is said to resemble asparagus. The young shoots are seen as a "spring tonic" to cleanse the body with fresh green food after a long winter eating mainly stored foods. The latent buds can be eaten in early spring, they rival chestnuts in size and flavour.

Propagation of the herb:

Spores - they very quickly lose their viability (within 3 days) and are best sown as soon as they are ripe on the surface of a humus-rich sterilized soil in a lightly shaded place in a greenhouse. Keep the compost moist, preferably by putting a plastic bag over the pot. Plants develop very rapidly, pot on small clumps of plantlets as soon as they are large enough to handle and keep humid until they are well established. Do not plant outside until the ferns are at least 2 years old. Cultivars usually come true to type. Division of the rootstock in the dormant season. This is a very strenuous exercise due to the mass of wiry roots.

Cultivation of Cinnamon Fern:

Sandy or alluvial soils in swamps low woods and thickets in Eastern N. America.

Known hazards of Osmunda cinnamomea:

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.