Vegetable fern – proven medicinal benefits, uses


The scientific name of the vegetable fern is Diplazium esculentum (Retz.) Sw.

Scientific names Common names
Anisogonium esculentum (Retz.) C. Presl. Pako (Bik., Ilk., Pamp.,Bis., Tag.) 
Anisogonium serampurens C. Presl. Paco (Tag.)
Asplenium ambiguum Sw. Tagabas (Tag.) 
Asplenium esculentum (Retz.) C. Presl. Fiddlehead fern (Engl._
Asplenium malabaricum Mett. Fresh-lady fern (Engl.)
Asplenium moritzii Mett. Vegetable fern (Engl.)
Asplenium pubescens Mett.
Asplenium vitiense Baker
Athyrium esculentum (Retz.) Copel.
Calipteris ambigua (Sw.) T. Moore
Calipteris esculenta (Retz.) J. Sm. ex T. Moore & Houlston
Calipteris malabarica J. Sm.
Calipteris serampurens Fée
Diplazium ambiguum (Sw.) Hook.
Diplazium esculentum (Retz.) Sw.
Diplazium malabaricum Spreng.
Diplazium serampurens Spreng.
Diplazium vitiense Carruth.
Gymnogramma edulis Ces.
Hemionitis esculenta Retz.
Microstegia ambigua (Sw.) C.Presl.
Microstegia esculenta (Retz.) C.Presl.
Pako and its variations is a local name shared by many medicinal plants: (1) Pako – Athyrium esculentum (2) Pakong-alagdan – Blechnum orientale (3) Pakong-anuanag, pako, buhok-virgin, dila-dila – Onychium siliculosum (4) Pakong-gubat, pakong kalabao, Pityrogramma calomelanos (5) Pakong-parang – Pteris ensiformis (6) Pakong-roman – Ceratopteris thalictroides. (7) Pakong-tulog, pakong-cipres, Selaginella tamariscina (8) Pakong buwaya – Cyathea contaminans.
Athyrium esculentum (Retz.) Copel. is a synonym of Diplazium esculentum (Retz.) Sw. 
Diplazium esculentum (Retz.) Sw. is an accepted name.
Other vernacular names
BENGALI: Dhenkir shaak.
CHINESE: Guo gou cai jue.
FRENCH: Fougere a legume.
INDIA: Linguda, Kothira.
INDONESIA: Paku-sayur.
JAPANESE: Kuware-shida.
THAILAND: Phak kuut khaao.

Vegetable fern is a terrestrial fern with a creeping rhizome and stout black roots on the undersurface. Compactly situated leaves are borne spirally, reaching a height of 1 meter or more. Rhizome bears narrow, tapering toothed scales, about 1 centimeter long. Leaves are 2- or 3-pinnate; 50 to 80 centimeters long; the pinnules are lanceolate, 5 centimeters long, and rather coarsely toothed. Sori are superficial and elongate, arranged in pairs on the side of the veins or veinlets.


– Widely distributed, common on gravel bars and banks of streams.

– Found from India to Polynesia. Constituents

Rich in micronutrients, beta-carotene, folic acid, minerals (Ca, Fe, and P). Anti-nutritional factors like phytic acids, trypsin, and tannins are present, but in quite safe quantities. (see study)

– Study of fresh plant samples yielded

91.82% moisture,

1.42% ash,

0.28% crude fat,

0.87% crude protein, and

0.72% crude fiber.

Oven dried samples yielded 17.39% ash,3.40% crude fat, 0.87% crude protein, and 9.06% crude fiber. (see study)

– Qualitative analysis of ethanol and aqueous leaf extracts yielded alkaloids, reducing sugars, anthraquinones, anthranol glycosides, cyanidins, phenols, saponins, and proteins. Cardiac glycosides, leucoanthocyanins, phytosterols, diterpenes, and triterpenes were detected only in the ethanol extract. Total phenolic contents were 125.60 ± 13.44 and 11.65 ± 0.87 mg gallic acid equivalents and total flavonoid contents were 110.81 ± 11.16 and 16.21 ± 0.72 mg quercetin equivalents per 100 g air-dried sample for ethanol and aqueous extracts, respectively. (see study)



– Widely distributed around the world.

Parts utilized

Rhizomes and young leaves.


· Young fronds are eaten as a leafy vegetable, raw or cooked; or as an ingredient in salads or stews.

· A good source of calcium, phosphorus, iron and vitamin B.

Folkloric traditional medicinal uses

· Decoction of the rhizomes and young leaves, simple or sugared, used for hemoptysis and coughs.

· In India, boiled young fronds taken with boiled rice as vegetables for laxative effect.

· Leaves used for headache, pain, fever, wounds, dysentery, diarrhea, and various skin infections.

Other uses

· Gardening: Wiry roots sold as “osmunda roots” for growing orchids, esp. Cattleyas.

· Livestock: Mature fronds used as fodder.

Scientific studies on health benefits and uses of vegetable fern


In a study of ethanol extracts of 19 Malaysian traditional vegetables, six extracts, including Diplazium esculentum, showed antimicrobial activity.


In a study of the antioxidant activity of shoots of three selected local vegetables, results showed significant differences in the boiled and fresh samples of the vegetables. D. esculentum rated 2nd (fresh) and 5th (boiled).


In a study of the methanolic extracts of leaves, stems and roots of four ferns for activity against A. niger, R stolonifer and Candida albicans, results showed a broad spectrum of antifungal activity for D. esculentum leaves.


Study of aqueous and alcoholic extracts of DE showed activity against human and plant pathogenic bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella arizonae, S. typhi, Staph aureus. Tetracycline was the reference standard antibiotic. All extracts mixed in equal proportion with the antibiotic were more effective against the bacteria than the antibiotic alone.

Fern Toxin / Ptaquiloside (Pta):

Pta, a nor-sesquiterpenoid glycoside is considered clastogenic, mutagenic, and carcinogenic. A few samples of Diplazium esculentum showed moderate levels, while most samples had no detectable Pta presence.

Anti-Anaphylactic / Mast Cell Stabilizing Activity:

Study evaluated the anti-anaphylactic and mast cell stabilizing activity of Diplazium esculentum in sensitized rats. Aqueous and ethanol extract showed protective activity in in vitro passive anaphylaxis. Both also showed marked protection against induced mast cell degranulation. Results clearly substantiated the beneficial effects of the vegetable fern.


Ethanolic, aqueous, and petroleum ether extracts of rhizome were studied for anthelmintic activity against Pheretima posthuma. All extracts showed significant anthelmintic activity. The ethanolic extract showed more potent anthelmintic activity.

Anti-Thiamine Factors:

Twenty-six kinds of raw vegetables were studied for antithiamine factors. Two of the twenty-six tested vegetables, Pak Good (Athyrium esculentum) and Pak Van (Marsilea crenata) showed thiaminase activity. Pak Good also showed a thermostable factor, together with eighteen other vegetables.

Pathological Effects in Lab Rats and Guinea Pigs:

Study showed linguda (Diplazium esculentum) caused mild pathologic effects in rats while feeding of frozen linguda induced mortality and moderate type of clinico-pathologic effects in guinea pigs.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects:

Study evaluated the anti-inflammatory effect of different extracts of leaves of Diplazium esculentum in rats using carrageenan hind paw edema assay. Results showed all extracts exhibited anti-inflammatory activity, more in the chloroform extract group than other treated groups. Ibuprofen was used as standard drug.

Antioxidant / Antimicrobial / Cytotoxic:

Study evaluated the antioxidant, antimicrobial, and cytotoxic properties of the leaf of D. esculentum in different in vitro experimental models. Chloroform and methanol extracts showed strong antioxidant activity in cupric ion reducing capacity assay. Extracts showed strong antimicrobial activity, with the chloroform extract showing zones of inhibition of S. lutea > S. typhimurium > B. subtilis > K. pneumonia > S. boydii > E. coli > S. aureus > V. cholera. Cytotoxic activity was evaluated by brine shrimp lethality bioassay.

Immunosuppressive and Hemolytic Effects:

Study evaluated the immunosuppressive and hemolytic activities of boiled D. esculentum in Swiss albino mice. BDE fed mice showed a significant decrease in body weight and relative spleen weight. There was significant dose-dependent decrease in the number of cultured splenocytes and dose dependent increases in percentage inhibition of splenocyte proliferation as well as percentage hemolysis by in vitro assays. Results suggest consumption of D. esculentum is alarming and may act as an immunosuppressive agent.

Analgesic / Leaves:

Study evaluated the analgesic activity of various leaf extracts of D. esculentum using acetic acid induced writhing in a mice model. An aqueous extract showed potent analgesic activity with marked beneficial effects against central and peripheral inflammatory pain models. The protective action may be attributed to the presence of flavanoid and sterols.

Silver Nanoparticles / Photocatalytic and Anticoagulative:

Study describes the biosynthesis of silver nanoparticles with the leaf powder used as both reductant and stabilizer. Study also studied the NP as catalyst in degradation of methylene blue and rhodamine dyes and investigated the ability of AgNPs to inhibit coagulation of human blood plasma.

Glucosidase Inhibitory Activity / Cytotoxicity / Antidiabetic:

Study evaluated the glucosidase inhibitory activity of five selected edible and medicinal ferns, viz. Blechnum orientale, Davalia denticulata, Diplazium esculentum, Nephrolepis biserrata, and Pteris vittata. Diplazium esculentum a-glucosidase inhibitory activity was considerably stronger than myricetin and the four other medicinal ferns. D. esculentum also showed dose-dependent cytotoxicity against K562 cells.



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