Fern Extract and Sun ProtectionMay 4, 2009 Written by JP [Font too small?]
Summer is nearly upon us and that means that many us will be spending more time outdoors in the sun. While this is a good thing in many respects, it also increases the likelihood of sun damage and premature aging of skin. Another very real concern is skin cancer. But these risks may be significantly reduced if we protect ourselves from excessive UV radiation during the peak hours of the day and by supporting the body from the inside out.
There is a little known nutritional supplement that may help shield the skin from the harmful effects of summertime sun exposure. I’m referring to a fern extract (Polypodium leucotomos) that has been the subject of scientific study for over a decade. Here’s an overview of several studies that support its use as an “internal sunscreen”.
- In 2004, a study at the Harvard Medical School Department of Dermatology tested the effects of a fern extract on 9 healthy adults. The volunteers were exposed to artificial UV radiation on two different occasions. In one instance, they were asked to take the fern extract. The second UV radiation session was administered without the supplement. Skin tests performed 24 hours after the UV exposures demonstrated a significant “chemophotoprotective” effect thanks to the fern extract. The dosage used was 7.5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. This would equate to just over 500 mg for a 150 pound individual and about 700 mg for someone who weighs 200 pounds. (1)
- An Italian trial from 2007 found that those with sun sensitivity also responded very well to fern supplementation. 25 patients consumed 480 mgs of fern extract a day and found that it provided a statistical reduction in “skin reaction and subjective symptoms”. In addition, this natural medication did not provoke unwanted side effects. (2)
A recent scientific review from the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center revealed several proposed mechanisms by which this fern extract appears to work:
- It inhibits the formation of free radicals and the typical oxidative damage brought about by UV radiation. This may have to do, in part, with the naturally occurring antioxidants present in ferns. (3)
- It specifically protects skin cells and DNA from sun related damage/decomposition and cell death. This may account for some of the skin anti-aging effect noted in some research. (4,5)
- Fern extracts also show a remarkable anti-inflammatory effect in skin tissue. Chronic inflammation appears to contribute to both cancer and wrinkle formation. (6,7)
- Fern extract preserves immune function during UV exposure, which may prevent harmful cellular changes that play a role in the development of skin cancer. (8)
The topical application of fern may yield added benefits as well. Studies as far back as 1997 show its far reaching potential as a skin saver. (9,10) The prospect of combining oral and topical fern appears to be very promising indeed. In fact, even difficult to treat skin conditions such atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and vitiligo (a loss of pimentation in sections of the skin) may be responsive to a combination therapy that includes fern extract. (11,12,13,14,15)
Using fern extracts will not give you license to engage in reckless sun exposure. But it may give you an added layer of protection from the harmful effects of UV radiation. We all should spend some time in the sun. The health benefits are undeniable. But we should do so in a judicious manner. Fern extract appears to be an ally which can help us to derive more of the sun’s benefits with less potential for accompanying damage.
Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!
Tags: Antioxidants, Inflammation, Skin Care
Posted in Alternative Therapies, Nutritional Supplements