The plant has survived since before the early Tertiary, around the time of the extinction of the dinosaurs 54 to 38 million years ago. Since then it has coped with the rigours of the Ice Ages and the impact of man and climate change. It is quite remarkable that it can still be found within the area of what is thought to be its original distribution, Europe, Asia and North America.
There is no evidence of it being used medicinally in Europe but we do know that the native American Cree used it as a birthing aid.
Today, in some parts of the world the young fronds are cooked and eaten, they are even processed and sold in tins!