The maidenhair fern has a long history of medicinal use and was the main ingredient of a popular cough syrup which remained in use until the nineteenth century but the plant is little used in modern medicine.
The fresh or dried leafy fronds can be used as an anti-dandruff medicine. A tea or syrup is used in the treatment of coughs, throat afflictions, and bronchitis. It is also used as a detoxicant in alcoholism and to treat worms.
Externally, it is used as a poultice on snake bites, bee stings, etc. A paste made from the fronds is applied to the forehead to relieve headaches and to the chest to relieve chest pains. The plant is best used fresh, though it can also be harvested in the summer and dried for later use.
The fronds are used as a garnish on sweet dishes. The dried fronds are used to make tea. A syrup is made from the plant and it makes a refreshing summer drink. The fern is simmered in water for several hours and the liquid made into a thick syrup with sugar. It is then mixed with fruit juices to make a refreshing drink.
You can find maidenhair ferns just about anywhere on the coast. It grows wild in my gardens. Look along stream banks and on moist rocky outcrops.