Avenca - Adiantum capillus-veneris Avenca - Adiantum capillus-veneris

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(Adiantum capillus-veneris)

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Avenca - Adiantum capillus-veneris PLANT

Avenca - Adiantum capillus-veneris


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  • Family: Adiantaceae
    Genus: Adiantum
    Species: capillus-veneris
    Synonyms: Adiantum capillus, A. michelii, A. modestum, A. schaffneri, A. tenerum
    Common Names: avenca, maidenhair fern, adianto, alambrillo, barun, cabello de venus, capilera, capille e jenere, celantillo, centaurea, cilantrillo, culandrillo, culantrillo de pozo, culantrillo, fern karn dam, frauenhaar, hansraj, helecho culantrillo, herba capillorum veneris, ladies' hair, venus hair fern
    Part Used: Leaves, rhizome

    From The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs:

    Main Actions Other Actions Standard Dosage
  • suppresses coughs
  • dries secretions
  • Leaves or rhizome
  • reduces phlegm
  • protects liver
  • Infusion: 1/2 cup twice daily
  • kills viruses
  • reduces cholesterol
  • Tincture: 1-3 ml twice daily
  • kills bacteria
  • reduces blood pressure
  • Capsules: 2 g twice daily
  • detoxifies
  • stimulates
  • fights free radicals
  • supports gallbladder
  • supports heart
  • heals wounds
  • cleanses blood
  • increases urination
  • lowers blood sugar
  • stimulates menstruation

    Avenca is a small, slow-growing evergreen fern found throughout the world in moist forests. It reaches 35 cm tall, growing in stands from its creeping rhizome, and bears leaves up to 50 cm long. It can be found in the rainforests of the Amazon as well as in the more temperate, moist forests of Southern Europe and the United States (where it is commonly referred to as maidenhair fern). It is called culantrillo in Peru and avenca in Brazil. These days avenca can be found in many plant stores and nurseries where it is sold as an ornamental landscape fern for shade gardens.


    In the Peruvian Amazon, local people prepare the fronds of the plant as an infusion or syrup and use it as a diuretic, as an expectorant and to calm coughs, to promote perspiration and menstruation, and to treat urinary disorders, colds, rheumatism, heartburn, gallstones, alopecia (hair loss), and sour stomach. In the highlands of the Peruvian Andes, local shamans and healers decoct the rhizome and use it for alopecia, gallstones, and jaundice. In the Brazilian Amazon, it is recommended as a good expectorant and used for bronchitis, coughs, and other respiratory problems.

    Avenca has long held a place in herbal medicine systems worldwide. In European herbal medicine, its documented use predates the era of Dioscorides and Pliny (23-79 A.D.). Culpepper (1787 ed.) said, "This and all other Maiden Hair Ferns is a good remedy for coughs, asthmas, pleurisy, etc., and on account of its being a gentle diuretic also in jaundice, gravel and other impurities of the kidneys." In France, the fronds and rhizomes were once made into a syrup called "Sirop de Capillaire," which was a favorite medicine for upper respiratory problems such as coughs and excessive mucus. The plant is also used widely throughout the world for dandruff, hair loss, and menstrual difficulties.

    In Brazilian herbal medicine today, the frond and leaf are employed for hair loss, coughs, bronchitis, laryngitis and throat dryness, and to improve appetite and digestion, stimulate renal function, regulate menstruation, and facilitate childbirth. In Peruvian herbal medicine, the frond and rhizome are used for hair loss, gallstones, hepatic calculi, hydrophobia, asthma, coughs, catarrh, and to regulate menstruation. In India, the entire plant is used for its cooling effects, for diabetes, colds, bronchial disease, and for its menstrual promoting properties. Externally it is used for boils, eczema, and wounds.


    Chemical analysis of avenca reveals an array of compounds including triterpenes, flavonoids, phenylpropanoids, and carotenoids. Interestingly, despite its ancient use, there has been no specific research on avenca to isolate and test its chemicals for biological activities.

    Adiantone, adiantoxide, astragalin, beta-sitosterol, caffeic acids, caffeylgalactose, caffeylglucose, campesterol, carotenes, coumaric acids, coumarylglucoses, diplopterol, (E)-2-decenal, epoxyfilicane, fernadiene, fernene, filicanes, hopanone, hydroxy-adiantone, hydroxy-cinnamic acid, isoadiantone, isoquercetin, kaempferols, lutein, mutatoxanthin, naringin, neoxanthin, nicotiflorin, oleananes, populnin, procyanidin, prodelphinidin, quercetins, querciturone, quinic acid, rhodoxanthin, rutin, shikimic acid, violaxanthin, and zeaxanthin are chemicals found in avenca.


    The plant has demonstrated little toxicity. However, in animal studies, it has been shown to have an antifertility effect. In the 1980s, two separate researchers in India found that a pet ether extract of the plant had an anti-implantation effect in rats, preventing conception.

    In 1989 scientists in Iraq demonstrated avenca's antimicrobial properties. A methanol extract of the aerial parts was reported to have in vitro antimicrobial actions against Bacillus, E. coli, Staphylococcus, Proteus, Pseudomonas, and Candida. French scientists demonstrated that an ethanol extract of the rhizome evidenced antiviral properties in vitro against Vesicular stomatitis virus. Other early (1967) research showed that a water extract of the entire plant had hypoglycemic activity when given to mice (10 mg/kg) orally. Much later (in 1993), Belgium scientists confirmed that avenca leaves had in vivo hypoglycemic properties in mice. In one study, a water extract of the aerial parts was given to mice (25 mg/kg) orally and found to reduce glucose-induced hyperglycemia. An ethanol extract, however, showed no activity. They reconfirmed these findings in 1995 by demonstrating that a water extract reduced glucose-induced hyperglycemia.

    Leslie Taylor's 2013 Update on Avenca

    Researchers in India prepared a crude ethanol extract of avenca and tested it in mice in 2011. They reported that it provided anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects comparable to ibuprofen and indomethacin without ulceration. Another closely related species of fern growing in Brazil, Adiantum latifolium, was also reported with the same anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving actions in a different study published in 2011 in Brazil.

    In 2008, researchers prepared crude methanol extracts of four ferns traditionally used in Aruyedic medicine systems in India to test them for their antimicrobial actions. The extracts were tested against five gram positive, six gram negative (including multi drug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacterial strains and eight fungal strains using standard test tube (in vitro) methods. Avenca evidenced the second to highest activity against all strains tested. These Indian researchers theorized that these effects might be related to phenolic chemicals in the plants which they measured in each species (with avenca having the second highest phenolic content).


    Despite the plant's ancient history of use for respiratory disorders, no clinical research has been done to validate these traditional uses. In spite of the lack of scientific research done on avenca, herbalists and healthcare practitioners throughout the world continue to use the plant based on its traditional uses (for literally thousands of years): for respiratory disorders and hair loss, and to regulate menstruation.

    Main Preparation Method: fluid extract or infusion

    Main Actions (in order):
    cough suppressant, decongestant, expectorant, menstrual stimulant, antimicrobial

    Main Uses:

    1. for respiratory problems (coughs, bronchitis, colds, flu, pneumonia, excessive mucous/phlegm)
    2. for hair loss
    3. for gallstones
    4. for menstrual disorders (interruption or absence of menstrual cycle)
    5. as a blood cleanser and liver detoxifier
    Properties/Actions Documented by Research:
    anti-fertility, antibacterial, anticandidal, antiviral, contraceptive, hypoglycemic

    Other Properties/Actions Documented by Traditional Use:
    antioxidant, cough suppressant, astringent, liver bile stimulator, blood cleanser, cardiotonic (tones, balances, strengthens the heart), decongestant, detoxifier, diaphoretic (promotes sweating), diuretic, expectorant, hepatoprotective (liver protector), hypocholesterolemic (lowers cholesterol), hypoglycemic, hypotensive (lowers blood pressure), menstrual stimulant, stimulant, tonic (tones, balances, strengthens), wound healer

    Cautions: It has been documented in animals to have contraceptive and anti-fertility effects. It may lower blood sugar levels.

    Traditional Preparation: One-half cup leaf infusion twice daily or 1-3 ml of a 4:1 root tincture used twice daily. If desired, 1 - 2 g of powdered leaf or root in tablets or capsules twice daily can be substituted. See Traditional Herbal Remedies Preparation Methods page if necessary for definitions.


    • Avenca has been documented to lower blood sugar levels in animal studies. People with diabetes and people with hypoglycemia should use this plant with caution and monitor their blood sugar levels accordingly.
    • Avenca has a long history of use in herbal medicine systems to stimulate the uterus and promote menstruation; it is contraindicated in pregnancy.
    • The plant has shown to have an anti-implantation effect in animal studies and may prevent conception. Couples seeking fertility treatment or pregnancy should not take avenca.
    • Due to its effect on fertility and menstruation, avenca may have estrogen-like effects and should probably be avoided by women with estrogen-positive cancers.
    Drug Interactions: Avenca may potentiate insulin and antidiabetic drugs.

    Amazonia for blood cleansing, coughs, excessive mucous, menstrual problems, respiratory problems, urinary disorders, urinary insufficiency, and to increase perspiration
    Brazil for asthma, bronchitis, childbirth, cough, digestion, excessive mucous, flu, hair loss, kidney problems, laryngitis, menstrual disorders, respiratory problems, rheumatism, throat (sore) urinary insufficiency, and to stimulate the appetite
    Egypt for asthma, chest colds, cough, edema, flu, hepatitis, snakebite, spider bite, splenitis, urinary insufficiency, and to increase perspiration
    England for asthma, cough, hair loss, jaundice, kidney stones, menstrual disorders, pleurisy, shortness of breath, swellings, urinary insufficiency, yellow jaundice
    Europe for alcoholism, bronchitis, bronchial diseases, cough, dandruff, detoxification, diabetes, excessive mucous, flu, hair loss, menstrual problems and to sooth mucous membranes
    India for boils, bronchial diseases, colds, diabetes, eczema, fever, menstrual problems, skin diseases, wounds
    Iraq for bronchitis, colds, cough, excessive mucous, flu, menstrual disorders, respiratory difficulty, reducing secretions, urinary insufficiency and to increase perspiration
    Mexico for birth control, bladder problems, blood cleansing, constipation, hair loss, kidney stones, liver function, menstrual disorders, respiratory distress
    Peru for asthma, colds, cough, congestion, excessive mucous, flu, gallstones, hair loss, heartburn, hydrophobia, liver problems, menstrual disorders, respiratory problems, sore throat, stomach problems, urinary insufficiency, and to increase perspiration
    U.S. for chills, coughs, excessive mucous, fever, flu, lung problems, menstrual disorders, menstrual pain, respiratory ailments, sclerosis (spleen), sores, urinary insufficiency and to sooth membranes and increase perspiration

    The above text has been printed from The Healing Power of Rainforest Herbs by Leslie Taylor, copyrighted © 2005
    All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, including websites, without written permission.

    Referenced Quotes on Avenca

    8. Adiantum capillus-veneris L. Adiantaceae. "Culantrillo", "Cebolla de venus". Shopumbillo", Maidenhair fern". Cultivated ornamental. Fronds diaphoretic, emollient, pectoral: to treat certain urinary disorders. Once used to treat cough. Now used as mosquito repellent. Emmenagogue, expectorant, and emollient when made into infusion or syrup; also used as aperitive and diuretic. A 10% infusion mixed with honey is expectorant, for rheumatism, and colds, heartburn, and sour stomach (RVM). Considered diuretic, pectoral, sudorific (FEO); decoction used for alopecia, gallstones, icteria (FEO).

    Botanical: Adiantum Capillus-veneris
    Medicinal Action and Uses---Has been used from ancient times medicinally, being mentioned by Dioscorides. Its chief use has been as a remedy in pectoral complaints. A pleasant syrup is made in France from its fronds and rhizomes, called Sirop de Capillaire, which is given as a favourite medicine in pulmonary catarrhs. It is flavoured with orange flowers and acts as a demulcent with slightly stimulating effects. Narbonne Honey is generally added to the syrup.
    Culpepper tells us:
    'This and all other Maiden Hairs is a good remedy for coughs, asthmas, pleurisy, etc., and on account of its being a gentle diuretic also in jaundice, gravel and other impurities of the kidneys. All the Maidenhairs should be used green and in conjunction with other ingredients because their virtues are weak.'
    Gerard writes of it:
    ‘It consumeth and wasteth away the King's Evil and other hard swellings, and it maketh the haire of the head or beard to grow that is fallen and pulled off.'

    Third-Party Published Research on Avenca

    All available third-party research on avenca can be found at PubMed. A partial listing of the published research on avenca is shown below:

    Antimicrobial Actions:
    Singh, M., et al. "Antimicrobial activity of some important Adiantum species used traditionally in indigenous systems of medicine. J. Ethnopharmacol. 2008 Jan 17; 115(2): 327-9.
    Mahmoud, M. J., et al. “In vitro antimicrobial activity of Salsola rosmarinus and Adiantum capillus-veneris.” Int. J. Crude Drug Res. 1989; 27(1): 14–16.
    Husson, G. P., et al. “Research into antiviral properties of a few natural extracts.” Ann. Pharm. Fr. 1986; 44(1): 41–8.

    Anti-inflammatory & Pain-relieving Actions
    Haider, S., et al. "Anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive activities of ethanolic extract and its various fractions from Adiantum capillus veneris Linn." J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Dec 8;138(3):741-7.
    Nonato, F., et al. "Antinociceptive and antiinflammatory activities of Adiantum latifolium Lam.: evidence for a role of IL-1? inhibition." J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Jul 14;136(3):518-24.

    Anti-fertility Actions:
    Murthy, R. S. R., et al. “Anti-implantation activity of isoadiantone.” Indian Drugs 1984; 21(4): 141–44.
    Murti, S. “Post coital anti-implantation activity of Indian medicinal plants.” Abstr. 32nd Indian Pharmaceutical Cong. Nagpur. 1981; Abstract D14: 23–5.

    Hypoglycemic Actions:
    Neef, H., et al. “Hypoglycaemic activity of selected European plants.” Phytother. Res. 1995; 9(1): 45–8.
    Neef, H., et al. “Hypoglycemic activity of selected European plants.” Pharm. World & Sci. 1993; 15(6): H11.
    Jain, S. R., et al. “Hypoglycaemic drugs of Indian indigenous origin.” Planta Med. 1967; 15(4): 439–42.

    Phototropic Actions:
    Iwata, T., et al. "Identification of the C=O Stretching Vibrations of FMN and Peptide Backbone by (13)C-Labeling of the LOV2 Domain of Adiantum Phytochrome3." Biochemistry. 2006 Dec; 45(51): 15384-15391.
    Tsuboi, H., et al. "Negative phototropic response of rhizoid cells in the fern Adiantum capillus-veneris." J. Plant Res. 2006 Sep; 119(5): 505-12.
    Doi, M., et al. "The fern Adiantum capillus-veneris lacks stomatal responses to blue light." Plant Cell Physiol. 2006; 47(6): 748-55.
    Suetsugu, N., et al. "A chimeric photoreceptor gene, NEOCHROME, has arisen twice during plant evolution." Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 2005 Sep; 102(38): 13705-9.

    * The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information contained in this plant database file is intended for education, entertainment and information purposes only. This information is not intended to be used to diagnose, prescribe or replace proper medical care. The plant described herein is not intended to treat, cure, diagnose, mitigate or prevent any disease. Please refer to our Conditions of Use for using this plant database file and web site.

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    Last updated 2-11-2013