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Everything listed under: fernblock versus heliocare

  • Polypodium leucotomos (or the gold-foot fern)

    Polypodium leucotomos (also known as Phlebodium aureum) is a tropical fern native to the Americas. It has been used for centuries in Central American folk medicine, and in the last 10 or so years some real studies have been done on its benefits. There are no studies on P. leucotomos treating cough, mental illness, asthma, heart disease, or any of the other problems it has been used for historically, but it does turn out to be an excellent antioxidant for the skin.

    Taken orally every day, the fern extract has a high affinity for skin cells and works to prevent damage from ultraviolet radiation by disabling the free radicals the radiation causes. The fern extract isn't mean to replace your external sunscreen, but to be taken in combination to decrease the injury to your skin if you do happen to get a little too much sun. It decreases the number of "sunburn cells," skin cells that show actual damage under a microscope after radiation exposure. It also has been shown to inhibit the inflammatory cells that cause the redness and itching associated with sunburn and to block the enzymes that break down the elastic proteins in your skin.

    You can't sweat out the fern extract or wash it off, so it's a great addition if you're going swimming or surfing. I took P leucotomos extract for years in the form of Heliocare, but recently I've switched to Fernblock, which has a dye-free vegetarian capsule. (The Heliocare has FD&C Yellow 6.) Fernblock also has the bonus of Red Orange Complex (derived from 3 varieties of citrus) that adds anthocyanins, flavanones, hydroxycinnamic acids, and ascorbic acid--all good stuff to balance the inflammatory response and quench free radicals that can damage the DNA in skin cells (leading to skin cancer) and damage the dermal proteins (leading to wrinkles and premature aging).

    I recommend Fernblock to my patients who have previously had skin cancer and to my melasma patients. It is also a good choice for anyone interested in doing everything they can--especially in a natural way--for graceful aging.

  • On Balance

    A couple of months ago, a book was published called, Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace. In it, author Nikil Saval takes a tour of a Google workplace. His guide shows him the juice bar and notes that it is a favorite spot for employees, not so much due to the fresh juices but for the floor-to-ceiling windows that look out on the sunlit California landscape. Even at Google, the workplace of open floor plans, casual dress codes, and welcomed creativity, it turns out that people want something more. We have a biological need to see natural habitat and engage our whole bodies.

    Spending time in nature can lower our blood pressure, reduce our stress, and help us cope better by providing a sense of awe and gratitude that puts other problems in perspective. In our culture of vaguely dissatisfying "workspaces," bringing in a few (or many!) plants can be a strong vote for your own self care. When I worked at Kaiser Permanente in Oregon, I was infamous for decking my shared offices with as many potted plants as I could haul in (although I occasionally suspected that my fellow doctors were quietly annoyed with the crowding and especially the plant gnats...). These days I am fortunate enough to have large windows in my office and my exam rooms, from which, if you squint a bit, you can get a glimpse of the ocean. Believe me, I chose it that way.

    This does raise the question though: how does one balance the benefits of outdoor exposure with ultraviolet radiation and the increased risk for skin cancer, particularly the dreaded melanoma? It seems as though during skin cancer checks, half my patients are always apologizing to me for sun damage on their skin, as though they are embarrassed to have done something wrong. And I'm always telling them that the aging process is inevitable, that you have to enjoy your life, and that some radiation damage is a trade off for living on our Planet Earth and particularly in this beautiful state. The point is that we want to avoid intentional exposure (tanning on purpose) and minimize the incidental exposure as much as we can.

    How can you do that? Well, for example, I run outside but it's at sunrise and sunset. This summer I am (gulp) learning to surf, and my teacher-friend has not too ungracefully agreed that he will be getting up very early on weekend mornings. I've taken this supplement or this one every day for years, and Lululemon makes sun protective clothing that's sometimes a bit more flattering that what you can find at CostCo. A big hat (for which my friends and family tease me incessantly) is always a good idea, and some nice pasty zinc oxide sunscreen from one of the surf shops on the 101 gets the job done, too. I even have dreams of paragliding one day, and I'm told that many of the pilots wear this apparatus to protect their noses.

    Yes, that last one is a joke...well, partially.


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