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Family Athyriaceae / Woodsiacea
Athyrium esculentum (Retz.) Copel.

Guo gou cai jue

Scientific names  Common names 
Athyrium esculentum (Retz.) Copel. Pako (Bik., Ilk., Pamp.,Bis., Tag.) 
Anisogonium esculentum (Retz.) C. Presl. Tagabas (Tag.) 
Asplenium esculentum (Retz.) Copel. Fresh-lady fern (Engl.)
Calipteris esculenta (Retz.) J. Sm. Vegetable fern (Engl.)
Diplazium esculentum Retz. Guo gou cai jue (Chin.)
Cai jue (Chin.)  
Pako and its variations is a local name shared by many medicinal plants: (1) Pako - Athyrium esculentum (2) Pakong-alagdan - Blechnum orientale (3) Pakong-anuanag, pako, buhok-virgin, dila-dila - Onychium siliculosum (4) Pakong-gubat, pakong kalabao, Pityrogramma calomelanos (5) Pakong-parang - Pteris ensiformis (6) Pakong-roman - Ceratopteris thalictroides. (7) Pakong-tulog, pakong-cipres, Selaginella tamariscina (8) Pakong buwaya - Cyathea contaminans.

Other vernacular names
FRENCH: Fougere a legume.
INDIA: Linguda, Kothira.
INDONESIA: Paku-sayur.
JAPANESE: Kuware-shida.
THAILAND: Phak kuut khaao.


Pako is a terrestrial fern with a creeping rhizome and stout black roots on the undersurface. Compactly situated leaves are borne spirally, reaching a height of 1 meter or more. Rhizome bears narrow, tapering toothed scales, about 1 centimeter long. Leaves are 2- or 3-pinnate; 50 to 80 centimeters long; the pinnules are lanceolate, 5 centimeters long, and rather coarsely toothed. Sori are superficial and elongate, arranged in pairs on the side of the veins or veinlets.

- Widely distributed in the Philippines, common on gravel bars and banks of streams.
- Found from India to Polynesia. Parts utilized
Rhizomes and young leaves.

· Young fronds are eaten as a leafy vegetable, raw or cooked; or as an ingredient in salads or stews.
· A good source of calcium, phosphorus, iron and vitamin B.
· Decoction of the rhizomes and young leaves, simple or sugared, used for hemoptysis and coughs.
· In India, boiled young fronds taken with boiled rice as vegetables for laxative effect.
· Gardening: Wiry roots sold as "osmunda roots" for growing orchids, esp. Cattleyas.
· Livestock: Mature fronds used as fodder.

Antimicrobial: In a study of ethanol extracts of 19 Malaysian traditional vegetables, six extracts, including Diplazium esculentum, showed antimicrobial activity.
In a study of the antioxidant activity of shoots of three selected local vegetables, results showed significant differences in the boiled and fresh samples of the vegetables. D. esculentum rated 2nd (fresh) and 5th (boiled).
In a study of the methanolic extracts of leaves, stems and roots of four ferns for activity against A. niger, R stolonifer and Candida albicans, results showed a broad spectrum of antifungal activity for D. esculentum leaves.
Study of aqueous and alcoholic extracts of DE showed activity against human and plant pathogenic bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella arizonae, S. typhi, Staph aureus. Tetracycline was the reference standard antibiotic. All extracts mixed in equal proportion with the antibiotic were more effective against the bacteria than the antibiotic alone.
Fern Toxin / Ptaquiloside (Pta):
Pta, a nor-sesquiterpenoid glycoside is considered clastogenic, mutagenic, and carcinogenic. A few samples of Diplazium esculentum showed moderate levels, while most samples had no detectable Pta presence.
Anti-Anaphylactic / Mast Cell Stabilizing Activity:
Study evaluated the anti-anaphylactic and mast cell stabilizing activity of Diplazium esculentum in sensitized rats. Aqueous and ethanol extract showed protective activity in in vitro passive anaphylaxis. Both also showed marked protection against induced mast cell degranulation. Results clearly substantiated the beneficial effects of the vegetable fern.
Ethanolic, aqueous, and petroleum ether extracts of rhizome were studied for anthelmintic activity against Pheretima posthuma. All extracts showed significant anthelmintic activity. The ethanolic extract showed more potent anthelmintic activity.

Common market produce.

Last Update November 2012

Photos © Godofredo Stuart / StuartXchange

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Ethnomedical plants used for gastro-intestinal diseases by Adi tribes of Dehang-Debang Biosphere Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh / R Kagyung, PR Gajurel et al / Indian Journ of Traditional Knowledge, Vol 9(3), July 2010, pp 496-501.

Antimicrobial and Cytotoxic Properties of Some Malaysian Traditional Vegetables (Ulam) / M M Mackeen, A M Ali et al / 997, Vol. 35, No. 3 , Pages 174-178
Determination of total antioxidant activity in three types of local vegetables shoots and the cytotoxic effect of their ethanolic extracts against different cancer cell lines / Rahmat A, Kumar V et al /
Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2003;12(3):292-5.
Antifungal Activity of the Edible Ferns: Application for Public Health / Dr Zuraini Zakaria et al /

Antibacterial activity of Diplazium esculentum (Retz.) S w
/ Semwal Amit, Kaushik Sunil, Bhatt SP, Negi Arvind / Pharmacognosy Journal / DOI: 10.5530/pj.2011.21.14
Estimation of the fern toxin, ptaquiloside, in certain Indian ferns other than bracken / R Somvanshi, D R Lauren, B L Smith et al / CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 91, NO. 11, 10 DECEMBER 2006
Callipteris esculenta (Retz.) J. Sm. ex T. Moore et Houlst. / Chinese names / Catalogue of Life, China
ANTI-ANAPHYLACTIC AND MAST CELLS STABILIZING ACTIVITY OF DIPLAZIUM ESCULENTUM RETZ. ON SENSITIZED WISTAR RATS / Biswadeep Das*, Tania Paul, K G Apte, P B Parab, Rajendra Chauhan, R C Saxena / Inventi Impact: Ethnopharmacology , Vol. 2012 .
In-Vitro Anthelmintic Activity of Diplazium esculantum (Retz.) Swiss Rhizome Extract
/ Semwal Amit*, Farswan Mamta Singh / Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, Vol 1, Issue 4, 2004.

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