Worm fern leaf close up
Worm fern
[Dryopteris filix-mas]

Worm fern: one of the oldest medicinal plants

The worm fern is the dinosaur among plants. And this in the truest sense of the word, because it is one of the oldest plants in the world. Since time immemorial, it has been used against various diseases, some with more, some with less success. But it made its name as a remedy against worm infestation. For centuries it has been successfully used to combat parasitic tapeworm diseases. Although its use has declined in recent decades for various reasons in our culture, but the fixed place in the repertoire of naturopaths is safe.

Worm fern facts

Did you know that...

... worm fern used to be the remedy for tapeworms?

... ferns are among the oldest plants and grew as tall as trees?

... ferns used to be divided into "male" and "female" ferns, which is still reflected in botanical names today?

What is worm fern?

The worm fern is one of the oldest plants in the world. It is assumed that worm fern forests existed 360 million years ago. The plants were as tall as trees and benefited from finding high amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere. Through photosynthesis they converted the CO2 into oxygen and created our present atmosphere. The worm fern grows up to 140cm high and loves wooded, humid areas. Up to 2600m you can find the worm fern in our latitudes. It forms long stalks, on which rhythmically built up towards the tip smaller, strongly serrated leaflets sit. This stem is curled up as a young shoot and stretches out only in the course of time. For reproduction, a spore-forming generation alternates with a sexual generation in the fern. The latter then forms fertilized new spore-formers. This is how the fern ensures its continued existence, which has been very successful to this day.

General and medicinal properties of Dryopteris filix-mas

The basic knowledge


Worm fern is anthelmintic. It kills parasites and helps the body to eliminate them. Thus, the whole organism is relieved and can recover from the uninvited blackheads.


Worm fern is anti-rheumatic. Its expelling effect relieves the immune system. Inflammatory processes such as rheumatic inflammation can calm down again and subside.

Wound healing

Worm fern is wound healing. Especially externally, the worm fern is used to bring poorly healing wounds to close. Wounds that remain open for a long time and do not heal increase the chance of a secondary infection. The worm fern helps twice: the wound closes and an infection can no longer penetrate.

Dryopteris filix-mas: Ingredients

The worm fern contains several, well-studied chemical compounds, some with potent effects.
  • Phloroglucins such as butanophloroglucin
  • Filicin
  • Aspidine
  • Essential oils
  • Bitters
  • Tanine

Worm fern: effect for body and mind

The worm fern has quite a wide applicability for the therapy of diseases. It contains a variety of highly effective ingredients that open up different treatment options. Phloroglucins have a strong antispasmodic and analgesic effect, which is why they are used for menstrual pain or intestinal cramps. Filicin, on the other hand, has given the worm fern its name, as it has a strong anthelmintic effect. However, the worm fern is also said to have a strong wound-healing effect, as it stimulates the tissue to regenerate, and at the same time kills pathogens that could infect the wound. Even if they are not in the foreground, but the fern also contains essential oils. These support the anti-infective power of the plant. Together with the astringent bitter substances, the skin thus becomes an unbridgeable barrier. On the body, the plant thus has an overall purifying character. Externally, it strengthens our barriers and prevents intruders from succeeding. Due to this relief of the body, many perceive an improvement in mental state and feel more usable vitality.

Properties ofDryopteris filix-mas

  • Antiviral
  • Antifungal
  • Purifying
  • Skin care
  • Antibacterial
  • Anti-worm
  • Antispasmodic
  • Analgesic

Fields of application in naturopathy

[Dryopteris filix-mas]
Worm fern is used in naturopathy for many different diseases, usually in mixtures and combinations with other plants.

Worm fern for limb & back pain

Limb and back pain can have many causes. Tense muscles, spasms of the internal organs, but also milieu disturbances due to parasitic causes. The worm fern relaxes the muscular structures and expels parasites from the body. Thus, it reduces the rheumatic events that went back to the parasites and the complaints weaken.

Dryopteris filix-mas for headaches

Some headaches are caused by spasmodic tension. The worm fern has a relaxing effect on muscular structures and helps them to become and remain loose. The tendency to cramp goes down and with it the tension. Thus the headache is deprived of its basis and slowly disappears.

Dryopteris filix-mas for skin infections & inflammations.

Worm fern contains a whole mixture of active ingredients that qualify it for the treatment of skin problems. It has disinfectant and antimicrobial properties to keep infections away from the wound. In addition, bitter substances such as tannin help blood vessels and tissues to contract and thus seal. The substance aspidine positively influences the formation of scar tissue and thus ensures that no scar growths occur.

Worm fern for irritable cough & hoarseness

Irritative cough and hoarseness may be due to excessive tension of muscular structures. This tension irritates the lung tissue and triggers an itch, which makes you cough. This circumstance is well known in asthma. Worm fern relaxes the muscular structures, thus causing blood and air to flow normally through the lungs again. The mucous membranes calm down and swell, as well as the irritation of the cough.
Man with pink sweater in front of pink wall grabs his chest and is relieved that his soda burning is gone by herbal help from Zimply Natural

Dryopteris filix-mas for heartburn

Heartburn can be caused by excessive gastric tone. In this case, the musculature is excessively tense. Stress is a common cause of this, so functionally the nervous system. The fern has a calming and relaxing effect on the stomach muscles and calms the nervous system. The overstimulation decreases and with it the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Heartburn subsides and the irritated mucous membrane can regenerate.

Dryopteris filix-mas for cramps

The worm fern contains active substances that have a markedly reliable effect on cramps. These phloroglucides relax both the skeletal muscles and the muscular parts of internal organs. The worm fern is therefore used equally for calf cramps, biliary colic or intestinal spasms.

Worm fern for rheumatism

In rheumatism, the immune system is fundamentally misfocused and causes inflammation of structures that are actually healthy. Worm diseases are often responsible for this, overstimulating the immune system and thus triggering autoimmune reactions. The result is rheumatism. Worm fern is a plant that can be used in worm infestations to kill the parasites. As a result, the immune system calms down again and the rheumatic problem subsides.

Notes on the use of Dryopteris filix-mas

Fern can be used as a drug externally on wounds. Clean wound dressings made of fern are recommended for this purpose. Internally, the application should be made exclusively by means of finished preparations. This ensures that no incorrect dosage takes place. Especially the active ingredient filicin can cause severe side effects in case of overdose.

Worm fern during pregnancy & lactation

During pregnancy and lactation should refrain from using worm fern.

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Worm fern close up


Worm fern

Botanical name

Dryopteris filix-mas

Plant family

Worm ferns

Other designations

Man fern


k. A.

Harvest time

in spring


off-sun to shady


Central Europea

Flower color


Flower shape


Leaf color


Leaf shape

simple pinnate, sawed

Sheet properties


Soil type

sandy to loamy

Soil moisture

moderately dry to fresh


neutral to slightly acidic

Lime compatibility

lime tolerant to lime sensitive

Nutrient requirements

moderately nutritious



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