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Buckhorn Brake

  • Osmunda regalis L.
  • Fern family

Common Names

herbsBog onion
herbsBuckhorn male fern
herbsFern brake
herbsFlowering brake
herbsFlowering fern
herbsHartshorn bush
herbsHerb Christopher
herbsKing's fern
herbsRoyal fern
herbsRoyal flowering fern
herbsSt. Christopher's herb
herbsWater fern

Parts Usually Used


Description of Plant(s) and Culture

Buckhorn brake is a perennial plant; the large, scaly rootstock is covered with matted fibers and often rises like a trunk up to a foot out of the ground. The pale green, bipinnate fronds have brown stalks and are ovate in outline; the oblong-elliptic pinnules are finely toothed. Sterile fronds are leafy only: fertile ones are topped by a tripinnate panicle of fertile pinnae which turn brownish in maturity and bear green spores. The fruiting axis bears black hairs. Fruiting time is from April to June.

Another variety: Cinnamon-colored fern or Cinnamon fern (O. cinnamomea) is a native North American fern which grows from Newfoundland to Minnesota and Florida, and west to New Mexico, from Mexico into South America, and also in Asia. Its pinnate sterile fronds, lanceolate to oblong-lanceolate in outline, grow on the outside, reaching 2-5 feet in height. The bipinnate fertile fronds, 1-3 feet high, grow in the center, their pinnae contracted and bearing cinnamon-brown spore cases. This fern can be used like buckhorn brake, although it is said to be less effective. It can be boiled in milk to produce mucilage which is helpful for diarrhea.

Where Found

Grows in meadows and other moist areas, mostly in Europe, Great Britain, and Africa; a variety without hairs on the fruiting parts of the fronds grows in eastern North America.

Medicinal Properties

Mucilaginous, tonic

Legends, Myths and Stories

The mucilaginous extract from the rhizomes have in the past been a part of the druggists' supply, but is now of doubtful value.


A decoction useful for coughs, jaundice if taken early, a tonic for convalescents. The mucilage makes a good ointment for sprains, bruises, and wounds; mixed with brandy it was once popular as a rub for backache.

Formulas or Dosages

Collect rootstock in late spring or late summer, and dry carefully.

Infusion or decoction: use 1 heaping tsp. cut-up rootstock with 1 cup water; for infusion, steep for 30 minutes. Take 1 tbsp. per hour, or as required. To get a more gelatinous consistency, use more of the rootstock.

Tincture: a dose is from 20-40 drops.

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