Ethnopharmacological properties of the fern Adiantum lunulatum: A Review


T Sravani1*, K. Sunitha2

1,2Department of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, Gitam Institute of Pharmacy,

Gitam University, Rushikonda, Vishakapatnam - 530045, Andhra Pradesh, India.

*Corresponding Author E-mail:



Adiantum lunulatum (Hamsapadhi) is a cosmopolitan tropical fern that is traditionally employed in folklore medicine to address various maladies.  The fern is a reservoir for major plant secondary metabolites like tannins, saponins, alkaloids, phenolics flavonoids, etc. Accredited the presence of phytochemicals the fern portrays pharmacological properties like antimicrobial, antifertility, hepatoprotective, anti-ulcerative, antipyretic, gastroprotective properties, etc. Despite numerous evidences of pharmacological applications in traditional medicines, there are very few in vitro and in vivo studies on the fern to corroborate its pharmacological properties and to appraise it as a prospective therapeutic agent, thus necessitating more research in this fern. The current review circumscribes the phytochemistry of the fern and its concomitant pharmacological properties.


KEYWORDS: Adiantum lunulatum, Traditional medicine, Phytocompounds, Hamsapadhi, Secondary metabolites.




The herbal plant remedies feature potential therapeutic elements; therefore these are exploited for next generations as therapies for various disorders in humans and organisms. Throughout the planet, traditional medicines are a major contributor for commercial benefit1. Organic plant-based commodities may emerge as the world's most abundant reservoir of medications for both contemporary and alternative medicines as health supplements, nutritional supplements, traditional remedies, biopharmaceuticals, and biochemical structural components for synthetic drugs2,3. The principal plant bioactive components are flavonoids, polyphenolic compounds, and alkaloids that could be utilized for medical applications or serve as progenitor for the manufacturing of therapeutic drugs.


The therapeutic value of plants relies on its secondary metabolites that generates a palpable physiological operation in the body. In contradiction to synthetic drugs, which are perceived as hazardous to human health and the environment, natural compounds represent sustainability and safety parameters4. Natural products are a substantial source of cost-effective and efficacious remedies for individuals around the globe5,6. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that the plants are the predominant source of medications. People in advanced economies adopt traditional treatment in around 80% of cases. Further, more research into these botanicals is needed to better comprehend their characteristics, tolerability, and effectiveness7,8. Consequently, pharmacognosist have increasingly become intrigued in several plant products to find the potential usage of the bioactive phytocompounds as therapeutics as these natural compounds are beneficial to human health and are biodegradable in nature4. Nevertheless, there are many herbal plants that are less explored. A study focusing on less explored plants may uncover new compounds or may have effective pharmacological properties9,10. In the current review the plant Adiantum lunulatum is explored for its pharmacological properties and bioactive phytocompounds and their possible therapeutic efficacy.


Pteridophytes (Ferns and fern allies):

Pteridophytes are among the earliest and most primitive plant families, include upright stems, rhizome, and leaflets termed as fronds. They lack seeds and blossoms, andreproduce through spores. Pteridophytes encompass 204 genera and more than 1200 taxa globally11,12. They significantly promote the heterogeneity of plant species on the planet and are a prevailing part of several plant ecosystems, particularly in tropical and temperate regions. There are 85 plant genera in the Pteridaceaefamily13, and these species are understudied group of plants in the plant kingdom and are viewed as having lower economic importance14,15. Although this species thrives in a moist condition, the genus name "Adiantum" is derived from the ancient Greek word "Adiantos, " which means "unwetted, " because the fronds oppose moisture/water and the term “lunulatum” means moon-shaped to describe the half-moon shape of the pinnae. Adiantum lunulatum (commonly referred as Walking Maiden Hair) is an intercontinentally thriving tropical fern of the genus Adiantum and family Adiantaceae. It bourgeons frequently in Indian southern peninsular region, on the mountain slopes as well as in the northeast alongside the Himalyan valley at an elevation of 1000–3000 feet. Depending on their receptivity to climate factors including altitude, precipitation, soil profile, and sunshine, prominent representatives of this family are distributed in various regions16,17. The frequency of distribution of the fern Adiantum lunulatum as per the area is illustrated in Figure No.1 and the scientific classification of the plant is given in Table No.1.


Figure 1: Distribution of the fern Adiantum lunulatum as per area


Table1: Scientific classification of Adiantum lunulatum
















A. lunulatum


Plant description:

The short and fragile fern Adiantum lunulatum possesses slender, sub-erect root with a linear scaled apical region that is wider at the base (Figure 2). Stipes range in length from 5 to 21 centimetres and are tufted, thin, dark brown in nature. Fronds are tufted, herbaceous, arching, and the stipes grow up to 20cm long. The fern's root is extremely thin and delicate, has a dark reddish-brown hue and it is branched and fibrous. It averages approximately 10-15 cm in length. The rhizome of the fern is large, hairless, approximately 2.5mm in thickness, upright, and deep red in color. Rachis are generally pigmented in black; leaves are lunulate and exhibit basic pinnation, the upper end roughly curved and orbicular.


Adiantum lunulatum, also known as Hamsapadi in Sanskrit, is a species that harbours advantageous properties to address various disorders. Adiantum lunulatum according to Ayurveda, decreases aggravated Pitta and Kapha dosh and is potentially cold owing to its astringent taste18. In the traditional Ayurvedic medicinal practise Adinatum lunulatum Kashaya (Decoction or concoctions) is administered to patients as diuretic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidants, anti-hyperglycaemic, antiulcer, etc. remedies19. The pharmacological properties of the plant are widely attributed to the its rich bioactive reservoir of plant secondary metabolites like carotenoids, ferene, fernane, terpenoids, alkaloids, adiantone, phenolic acids, cardiac glycosides, coumarins, diterpenes, triterpenes, flavonoids, tannins, steroids, saponins, emodin, alkaloids, anthraquinones, etc.20. In the Ayurvedic formulations Adiantum lunulatum is described with properties like rasa (astringent in taste and are suitable for Kashaya formulations), guna (heavy in nature), madhuravipaka (sweet in taste after digestion), sheetaveerya (cold in nature) and kapha pitta shamaka (reduces pitta dosha). Traditionally the plant is indicated in many formulations as a wound healing agent, anti-poisonous agent to treat venom and to relieve complications associated with insect bites, anti-diarrheal agents, to treat urinary retention and incontinence, anti-inflammatory agents, anti-ulcerative, anti-pyretic, to address blood disorders, skin disorders, gastritis, psychiatric disorders, epilepsy, etc.21,22.


Figure 2: Fronds of the fern Adiantum lunulatum


The fern Adiantum lunulatum is often recognized with the following names: Adiantum delicatulum, Adiantum dolabriforme, Adiantum rhizophytum, Adiantum philippenese, Adiantum filiforme, Adiantum arcuatum (Poir.) Sw., Adiantum lunulatum Cav., Adiantum lunulatum Brum.f., Adiantum lunulatum var. fissum Christ. The common vernacular names of the plant as used in different Indian state is enlisted in Table No. 2.23,24.


Table No. 2: Vernacular names of Adiantum lunulatum


Vernacular names


Hamsapadi, Samalapatti, Hansaraj, Hanspadi,


Walking fern, Maiden hair, Maidenhair Fern, Walking Maidenhair Fern


Goyaliyalata, Kalijaant, Kali saaha, Kali


Hamsara, Hamsaraj kali dandalino












Hansaraj, Kalohansaraaj


Caicai, Gayomanmanoc, Lamotlamotan





The preliminary phytochemical analysis of the alcoholic and aqueous extracts of the fern Adiantum lunulatum demonstrates the presence of some significant bioactive secondary metabolites like tannins that attributes to its astringent characteristics, anti-helminthic, anti-allergic properties. The astringency of the tannins limits their applicability as they potentially reduce the bioavailability of the nutrient and exerts antinutritional effects. The presence of tannins in the fern further corroborates their wound healing and anti-inflammatory properties25,26. The antioxidant properties of Adiantum lunulatum is due to the presence of flavonoids which executes strong free radical scavenging properties. Flavonoids are the most abundant and important plant phytocompound with demonstrated pharmacological properties like anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal anticancer, cardioprotective properties27,28. The immune modulation potential of the plant is accredited to the steroids which functions as anticholesterimic agents. In Ayurvedic medicine the concoctions prepared from Adiantum lunulatum are employed to address blood disorders owing to the presence of saponins in them which has the potential to precipitate and coagulate the erythrocytes29. Terpenoids have exhibited various health benefits like antiviral, antimicrobial, antidiabetic, cardioprotective, anticancer, neuroprotective, immunomodulatory properties30. The preliminary analysis revealed the presence of secondary metabolites like tannins, flavonoids, steroids, anthocyanin, alkaloids, in both methanolic and hexane extracts. While certain phytocompounds like phlobatannins, terpenoids were predominantly present in the hexane extracts and anthraquinones and glycosides in methanolic extracts31. A preliminary analysis by John, had comparable results and identified the presence of ten important secondary metabolites namely, alkaloids, cardiac glycosides, coumarins, diterpenes, triterpenes, emodins, saponins, flavonoids, steroids and tannins32. Among the secondary metabolites terpenes are the majorly identified phytocompounds. Triterpenes like triterpene (I)33, while a hopane triterpenoid characterized as 6α-acetoxy-16β, 22-dihydroxy-3-ketoisohopane (I)34, Fern-9(11)-en-6α-ol-methanol (1/1)35, 22, 29ξ-epoxy-30-norhopane-13β-ol, fern-9(11)-en-6α-ol, fern-9(11)-ene, fern-9(11)-en-25-oic acid, fern-9(11)-en-28-ol, filicenol-B, adiantone and oxidation. product of fern-(11)-en-6α-ol obtained as 6-oxofern-9(11)-ene from the whole plant of Adiantum lunulatum 36. Additionally, the triterpene 22, 29ξ-epoxy-30-norhopane-13β-ol demonstrated antibacterial properties. A study on green leafy vegetables consumed by South Indian population revealed that Adiantumlunulantumhas 27.31% total carotenoids and 5.41% of beta carotenoids37,38 The Indian Medicinal Plants Phytochemistry and Therapeutics (IMPPAT 2.0) database is reservoir of information of over 4000 Indian medicinal plant. This database records over 100 phytocompounds for Adiantum genus, whereas the following five compounds were found specific to Adiantum lunulatum: Fern-9(11)-en-28-ol, Fernene, Fern-9(11)-en-6alpha-ol, Fern-9(11)-en-25-oic acid, and Adiantone39,40,41.


Pharmacological properties:

Antimicrobial properties:

The ethanolic, methanolic and chloroform extracts of the plant Adiantumlunulantum were tested for its antimicrobial activity towards pathogenic bacterial strains like Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Proteus vulgaris, Escherichia coli with chloramphenicol as the control. Among the plant extracts the highest zone of inhibition towards Staphylococcus aureus was observed in the ethanolic extract (13±11), for Pseudomonas aeruginosa in chloroform extract (14±12), ethanolic and methanolic extracts for Proteus vulgaris (13±11, 13±7) and chloroform extract for Escherichia coli (11±10)13. The fern extracts attained through Soxhlet extraction was subjected to antimicrobial activity against fourteen pathogenic microbial strains like Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli, Bacillus subtilis, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Proteus mirabilis, Salmonella paratyphi (and clinical isolate), Salmonella typhimurium, Salmonella flexeneri, Salmonella dysentriae, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Candida albicans and Candida neoformans. The minimum inhibitory concentration assay was conducted through disc diffusion method with antibiotics as controls. The aqueous extracts of Adiantum lunulatum demonstrated significant activity against Candida neoformans (10±0.09), ethanolic extract towards Pseudomonas aeruginosa(18.80±2.13), and petroleum ether extracts towards Salmonella flexeneri(13.20±3.59), Salmonella typhimurium(12.40±0.68), Candida albicans (11.20±3.46), Klebsiella pneumoniae(10.6±0.60)42. The silver nitrate mediated synthesis of antimicrobial biosurfactants from the fern Adiantum lunulatum demonstrated highest inhibitory activity as compared to other studies. The synthesized nanoparticles were tested towards gram-positive pathogenic strains like Staphylococcus aureus(17.85±1.17), Listeria monocytogenes(17.55±3.57), Bacillus subtilis (105.41±14.23), and towards gram negative strains like Escherichia coli(12.36±2.68), Salmonella typhimurium (28.77±1.47), Klebsiella pneumoniae(13.20±3.59)43.


Hepatoprotective properties:

The drug class statins are prescribed as hepatoprotective agents and these drugs have the propensity to induce oxidative stress induced toxicity in the hepatic cells by reducing the activity of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A an antioxidant enzyme. The therapeutic efficacy of the ethanolic plant extracts of Adiantumlunulatu was investigated against simvastatin induced hepatotoxicity in wistar albino rat model. The experimental animals were divided into five groups with six representatives in each group. Group 1 is of normal controls, group 2 was administered with 20mg/kg.p.o of simvastatin, group 3 was administered with 20mg/kg.p.o of simvastatin and Adiantum lunulatum  extract in 200mg/kg.p.o dosage, group 4 is administered with 20mg/kg.p.o of simvastatin and Adiantum lunulatum  extract in 400mg/kg.p.o dosage and group 5 was administered with 20mg/kg.p.o of simvastatin and Adiantum lunulatum  extract in 25mg/kg.p.o dosage. The histopathological examinations of the oral drug induced hepatotoxicity model revealed that the administration of the ethanolic extracts of Adiantum lunulatum increased the levels of hepatic enzymes like serum glutamic pyruvic transaminase (SGPT), serum glutamic oxaloacetate transaminase (SGOT), alkaline phosphatase (ALP) and a significant decline in the serum protein levels were observed44,45.


Antioxidant properties:

The copper nanoparticles of Adiantum lunulatum were prepared by utilizing the whole plant and the synthesized nanoparticles were characterized by X-ray diffraction method. The synthesized nanoparticles were investigated for their antioxidant potency on the Lens culinaris seeds and the roots of the treated seeds revealed the activity of protective enzymes and total phenolics in a dose dependent manner. Whereas, a negative synergy was observed with respect to lipid peroxidation and proline levels. The administration of copper nanoparticles altered the synthesis of free radicals and nitric oxide and modulates the signal transduction pathways46.


Antihyperlipidemic properties:

The elevated levels of lipid molecules like cholesterol and triglycerides accounts for hyperlipidaemia with in turn spurs other medicinal conditions neurodegeneration, cardiovascular disorder, renal disorders, hepatic disorders, diabetes, atherosclerosis, etc. The elevated levels of low-density lipoproteins and a substantia decline in the levels of high-density lipoproteins increases the risk for cardiovascular diseases in hyperlipidaemia patients. The antihyperlipidemic properties of the Adiantum lunulatum leaves extracts were studied in the triton induces rat models. The experimental animals were divided into five groups. Group one was regarded as normal vehicles, group 2 is recognized as hyperlipidaemic controls as they were fed with high cholesterol diet, group 3 was treated with standard atorvastatin, group 4 was administered with 200mg/kg of extract while group 5 was administered with 300mg/kg of the plant extract. The biochemical parameters like total cholesterol (TC), triglycerides (TG), low-density lipoproteins (LDL), high-density lipoproteins (HDL)and very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) were assessed on the eight days. The biochemical evaluations revealed that the administration of Adiantum lunulatum leaves extracts significantly reduced the levels of faecal cholesterol and bile acid excretion in diet induced hyperepidemic rats and the serum lipid profiles with respect to TC, TG, LDL, HDL and VLDL were greatly improved47.


Gastroprotective properties:

The destruction in the internal lining of the gastric mucosal layers induces ulcers which are often treated with therapeutics like famotidine and cimetidine which function of proton blockers. The allopathic drugs are often accompanied with negative consequences whereas, the drugs derived from the natural sources are presumed to be economical and safe. Gastric ulcers can also be caused due to the action of certain gut microbe like Helicobacter pyroli. Given the fact that the fern Adiantum lunulatum has demonstrated antioxidant, antibacterial properties, it is therefore, hypothesized to exhibit gastroprotective and anti-ulcerative properties. The 500mg/kg ethanolic extract of Adiantum lunulatum was administered to male wistar albino rats. Ulcer was induced in the rat models through ethanol, pylorus ligation, aspirin and cold restraining approaches. The gastroprotective efficacy of the Adiantum lunulatum was investigated with reference to omeprazole as the standard drug. The extract was found to be safe till a dosage of 4000mg/kg. The Adiantum lunulatum isolates were beneficia in restricting ulcers and inflammation and their therapeutic activity was comparable with that of the standard drug. The Adiantum lunulatum extracts display significant anti-ulcerative and gastroprotective properties owing to the presence active phytocompounds like tannins, cardiacglycosides, flavonoids48.


Antifertility properties:

Adiantum species (Adiantumcapillus-veneris, Adiantum lunulatum, Adiantumincisum) are effective contraceptive for males. The antifertility properties were studied in the male albino rats. The rats were administered with extracts from three species of Adiantum at a dose of 100, 250 and 500mg/kg administered for a duration of 60 days. The administration of pant extract did not account for any increase in the weight of the reproductive organs. The biochemical parameters like protein levels, scialic acid levels, total cholesterol (TC), alkaline phosphatase (ALP), Serum glutamic oxaloacetate (SGPT), Serum glutamic oxaloacetate transaminase (SGOT), red blood cells (RBC), white blood cells(WBC), Haemoglobin (Hb), acid phosphatase, serum malondialdehyde, blood glucose, blood urea, and haematocrit levels were tested and the results were compared with the normal groups. The results suggested the antifertility properties of the extract49.


Anabolic medications (osteoprotective):

Ethnomedical formulations are majorly employed to treat and heal bone fractures. The traditional practitioners treat bone fractures initially by setting the bones, followed by an herbal medicine in the form of paste will be applied over the fracture to facilitate bone rejointing. The herbal medicine has a greater advantage over healing time as it is resquire nearly half the time as that of standard allopathic drugs. Traditionally, Adiantum lunulatum is made into a paste along with five more medicinal herbs namely, Caerya arborea, Cissus quadrangularis, Cissus triangularis, Tinospora cordifolia and Terminalia arjuna. The decoction prepared from the Adiantum lunulatum leaves were administered as analgesics to relieve the pain induced by fracture50,51.



Adiantum lunulatum (Walking maiden fern) is widely grown ferns that is easily accessible and affordable. It grows easily in wet and moist regions and is administered predominantly in traditional medicines. Although there are numerous evidences to substantiate the medicinal efficacy of the fern there is a dearth of scientific evidences. The plant is perceived to be a vast reservoir of phytocompounds but there are inadequate evidences for the phytocompound profiling and the existing studies are limited to the qualitative estimation of the phytoconstituents. Due to the lack of basic research Adiantum lunulatum is an underrepresented and understudied species. Therefore, much scientific examinations is required in both in-vitro and in iv-vivo model to elucidate the pharmacological properties of the plant and the probable therapeutic mechanism that the plant uphold.



The authors declare no conflict of interest.



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Received on 26.11.2022         Modified on 17.01.2023

Accepted on 14.02.2023       ©A&V Publications All right reserved

Res. J. Pharmacognosy and Phytochem. 2023; 15(2):133-138.

DOI: 10.52711/0975-4385.2023.00020