Ferns are an important phytogenetic bridge between lower and higher plants. Historically they have been used in many ways by humans, including as ornamental plants, domestic utensils, foods, and in handicrafts. In addition, they have found uses as medicinal herbs. Ferns produce a wide array of secondary metabolites endowed with different bioactivities that could potentially be useful in the treatment of many diseases. However, there is currently relatively little information in the literature on the phytochemicals present in ferns and their pharmacological applications, and the most recent review of the literature on the occurrence, chemotaxonomy and physiological activity of fern secondary metabolites was published over 20 years ago, by Soeder (Bot Rev 51:442-536, 1985). Here, we provide an updated review of this field, covering recent findings concerning the bioactive phytochemicals and pharmacology of fern species.
Keywords: Ferns; Food; Medicine; Pharmacology; Phytochemicals.
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