Polypodium leucotomos: a potential new photoprotective agent

Am J Clin Dermatol. 2015 Apr;16(2):73-9. doi: 10.1007/s40257-015-0113-0.


As the understanding of the immune system pathways, cytokine balances, and cellular interactions continues to expand, so must the potential applications of therapies that can impact the process of diseases instead of just controlling their symptoms. In the case of Polypodium leucotomos extract, which is derived from a tropical fern of the Polypodiaceae family, the future potential of applications in dermatology and beyond will be better understood as its incorporation into daily routines gives rise to the development of new regimens. Clinicians may position this agent as an option for daily maintenance, accept its use in combinations, or use it as a template for further development of oral supplementation that may evolve into a true immunomodulator. The antioxidant activity of P. leucotomos extract is primarily driven by caffeic acid and ferulic acid, resulting in the control of cutaneous responses to ultraviolet-induced erythema, in the interception of inflammatory mechanisms, and the promotion of other cytotoxic responses. Histologically, the impact of P. leucotomos extract induces an effect on the overall reduction of angiogenesis, photocarcinogenesis, and solar elastosis, while on the cellular level there are improvements in cell membrane integrity and elastin expression. Future applications for P. leucotomos extract could include the potential for photoprotective effects, and subsequent research efforts should focus on determining the optimal dosage regimen, duration of action, and utility of combinations with sunscreens, among other outcomes. Recently published data have also demonstrated how the antioxidant effects of oral P. leucotomos extract can delay tumor development in mice models, suggesting there might be a protective role that could be described with further clinical research. In addition, it is important to recognize the distinction between photoprotection and chemoprevention, in that there has yet to be any in vivo or controlled clinical trial data in human subjects that show a role for P. leucotomos extract in the prevention of carcinogenesis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / administration & dosage
  • Antioxidants / chemistry
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Plant Extracts / administration & dosage
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Polypodium / chemistry*
  • Radiation Protection / methods*
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Sunscreening Agents / administration & dosage
  • Sunscreening Agents / chemistry
  • Sunscreening Agents / pharmacology*


  • Antioxidants
  • Plant Extracts
  • Sunscreening Agents