Delicate perennial fern growing to a height of 1 ft (30 cm). Has slender knotty rhizomes and curving fronds that are dotted with brown spores (sori) on their lower surface.
Habitat & Cultivation
Native to Europe and northern Asia, polypody is commonly found growing in damp woodland and hedgerows, and on walls. The rhizome is unearthed in autumn.
Polypody rhizome contains saponins (based on polypodosapogenin), ecdysteroids, phloroglucins, volatile oil, fixed oil, and tannins.
History & Folklore
Polypody has been used medicinally in Europe since ancient times. Like mistletoe (Viscum album), polypody often grows on host trees, for example oak (Quercus robur). This was thought to impart great medicinal value to the plant. The Greek physician Dioscorides, writing in the 1st century CE, noted that polypody was used to purge phlegm and was an ingredient of a plaster applied to dislocated fingers and to sores that occur between the fingers.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Polypody stimulates bile secretion and has been used to treat such conditions as hepatitis, jaundice, and indigestion. A gentle laxative, polypody makes a safe treatment for constipation in children. The rhizome is also expectorant, having a supportive and mildly stimulating effect on the respiratory system. It may be taken for the relief of congestion, bronchitis, pleurisy, and dry irritable coughs.
Polypody may cause a skin rash when applied externally.