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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.

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