Polypodium Leucotomos Fern Fact Sheet

About Polypodium Leucotomos Fern

Polypodium leucotomos, the common names for which is calaguala or anapsos, is a fern from Central America with underground rhizomes that are used for medicine to prevent certain skin conditions such as sunburn, eczema, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, vitiligo and skin cancer. It is also used to balance the immune system response, and researchers believe it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, including preventing damage caused by excessive sun exposure.

Polypodium leucotomos fern disease prevention and health effects include:

  • Skin cancer prevention
  • Vitiligo treatment

Polypodium Leucotomos and Aging

Cancer is responsible for approximately 13% of all annual deaths worldwide, and is characterized by uncontrolled abnormal cell growth from malignant tumors which metastasize and spread to bodily areas beyond the point of origin. Common cancers such as stomach, lung, colon, breast and liver are caused by the five leading behavioral and dietary risks of excess body weight, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of exercise, smoking and alcohol use. Scientists have studied the impact of Polypodium leucotomos on UV radiated skin, and it slows free radical formation normally seen with sun exposure and prevents DNA damage. Polypodium leucotomos fern is available in many skin protection supplement products due to its specialization as a UV protectant.

Vitiligo is a skin condition that causes pigment loss and white patches in various sizes and locations on the body. Approximately 1 in 200 of the world population develops vitiligo. The disfiguring appearance may cause the affected individual to experience psychological distress, particularly when the face and the hands are involved. Polypodium leucotomos fern has been used successfully as a remedy for vitiligo in Europe for more than a decade. The skin depigmentation is thought to be caused by an immune system response, and the fern extract can help to balance and regulate the immune system. Supplementing with the fern for as little as a month has resulted in skin repigmentation (2 and 4).

Oxidation is an additional age-related disease precursor, which environmental pollutants and the over-burdening of the body’s natural stores of antioxidants exacerbate. Healthy cells are damaged when oxygen circulates in the body, and the resulting free radicals are normally neutralized by the body’s antioxidant defense system. In modern times, however, the sheer high-level load of toxins in the environment resulting from stress increases the number of free radical induced mutations in healthy DNA, which if left untreated replicate and develop disease. To compensate for the extra oxidation damage, supplementing with dietary or nutraceutical antioxidants is necessary for preventing disease. Chronic exposure to UV light overwhelms the normal antioxidant defense system and resulting in the accumulation of reactive oxygen species and premature aging, or photoaging, and an increased risk for skin cancer. Polypodium leucotomos fern has been shown to protect the skin from this type of damage (2).

Maintaining cell membrane integrity during aging is essential for many reasons, including preserving normal DNA and cell signaling. Polypodium leucotomos fern inhibits cell membrane damage and lipid peroxidation in skin cells, which significantly supports the activity of keratinocytes and fibroblasts, the skin elements that maintain its quality and appearance.

Supplementing with Polypodium Leucotomos Fern

Polypodium leucotomos fern is sold as a pill extract and may be marketed for use as a sun protectant.

How Much Polypodium Leucotomos Should I Take?

The standard dose for most Polypodium leucotomos fern products is 240 mg per capsule.

Side Effects

This supplement may cause an upset stomach. Its use as a sun protection agent is relatively new and its long-term safety is not yet known.


Polypodium leucotomos fern supplement may contraindicate with the following medications:

  • Anticoagulants and antiplatelets
  • Antihypertensives
  • Beta blockers
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Cardiac glycosides
  • Hydrophilic agents
  • Immunosuppressants
  • Sedatives


  1. Philips, N., et al. Journal of Dermatological Science. “Predominant Effects of Polypodium Leucotomos on Membrane Integrity, Lipid Peroxidation, and Expression of Elastin and Matrixmetalloproteinase-1 in Ultraviolet Radiation Exposed Fibroblasts, and Keratinocytes.” Jun 2003. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12788523
  2. Tahira, M. Abu, et al. Autoimmunity Reviews. “Current Remedies for Vitiligo.” May 2010.
  3. Natural Standard. “Polypodium Leucotomos Extract and Anapsos.”
  4. American Vitiligo Research Foundation. “Self Care & Sun Safety.” http://www.avrf.org/facts/sun.htm

Last Reviewed 10/Mar/2014


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Whilst wielding a couple of dumbbells in a gym class in 2003, Kate experienced an epiphany around the lack of accepted best practice guidelines when it came to staying well and avoiding disease. Kate realized that she had no chance of slowing her own aging process unless she became better educated about her options.

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