Ostrich Fern

Last Editorial Review: 6/11/2021
Other Name(s):

Fiddlehead Fern, Fougère d'Allemagne, Fougère Autruche, Fougère à l'Autruche, Fougère de l'Autruche, Fougère Plume d'Autruche, Garden Fern, Hardy Fern, Helecho de Pluma de Avestruz, Matteuccia struthiopteris, Matteucie Fougère-à-l'Autruche, Osmunda struthiopteris, Ptérétide Noduleuse, Struthioptéride Germanique.


Ostrich fern is a plant. The young shoots of ostrich fern, known as fiddleheads, are used to make medicine.

People use ostrich fern as a gargle for sore throat.

Ostrich fern is sometimes applied directly to the skin for wounds and boils.

In foods, fiddleheads are regarded as a seasonal delicacy. They are available canned, frozen, or fresh. Fresh fiddleheads must be boiled at least 10 minutes before eating. Otherwise they can cause severe food poisoning.

How does it work?

Ostrich fern might act like a laxative. Otherwise, there isn't enough information to know how it might work.


Next to red peppers, you can get the most vitamin C from ________________. See Answer

Uses & Effectiveness

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Sore throat, when used as a gargle.
  • Wounds, when applied to the skin.
  • Boils, when applied to the skin.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of ostrich fern for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

Side Effects

Ostrich fern seems to be safe for most people when used as a food, as long as it is boiled for at least 10 minutes before eating. Eating ostrich fern that has not been properly boiled can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, headaches, and severe food poisoning.

There isn't enough information to know whether it's safe to use boiled ostrich fern as a medicine.


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Special Precautions & Warnings

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of ostrich fern during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.


The appropriate dose of ostrich fern depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for ostrich fern. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prev. Ostrich fern poisoning New York and western Canada, 1994. JAMA 1995;273:912-3.