Polypodium leucotomos is a tropical fern native to the Americas.

Taking supplements or using topical creams made from the plant is thought to help treat inflammatory skin conditions and protect against sun damage.

Research is limited, but some studies have shown that Polypodium leucotomos is generally safe and effective.

This article takes a look at the uses, benefits, and potential side effects of Polypodium leucotomos.

Polypodium leucotomos is a tropical fern from Central and South America.

The name — often used in modern biomedicine — is technically a deprecated synonym for the plant name Phlebodium aureum.

Both its thin, green leaves and underground stems (rhizomes) have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries (1).

They contain antioxidants and other compounds that may protect against skin damage caused by inflammation and unstable molecules called free radicals (2, 3).

Polypodium leucotomos is available in both oral supplements and topical skin creams that contain varying amounts of the plant’s extract.


Polypodium leucotomos is the deprecated synonym for the tropical fern Phlebodium aureum. It contains compounds that may fight inflammation and prevent skin damage. It’s available as an oral supplement or a topical cream and ointment.

Research suggests that Polypodium leucotomos may improve symptoms of eczema, sunburn, and other inflammatory skin reactions to the sun.

May Have Antioxidant Properties

Antioxidant properties are likely behind the ability of Polypodium leucotomos to prevent and treat skin issues (2, 3).

Antioxidants are compounds that fight free radicals, unstable molecules that damage cells and proteins in your body. Free radicals can form after exposure to cigarettes, alcohol, fried foods, pollutants, or ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun (4).

Several studies have shown that antioxidants in Polypodium leucotomos specifically protect skin cells from free radical damage associated with UV exposure (1, 5, 6, 7).

In particular, the fern contains the compounds p-coumaric acid, ferulic acid, caffeic acid, vanillic acid, and chlorogenic acid — all of which have powerful antioxidant properties (8).

A study in mice found that oral Polypodium leucotomos supplements five days before and two days after being exposed to UV rays increased blood antioxidant activity by 30%.

The same study showed that skin cells that contained p53 — a protein that helps prevent cancer — increased by 63% (5).

A study on human skin cells found that treating cells with Polypodium leucotomos extract prevented cellular damage associated with UV exposure, aging, and cancer — while also stimulating the production of new skin proteins through its antioxidant activity (7).

May Improve Inflammatory Skin Conditions and Protect Against Sun Damage

Studies suggest that Polypodium leucotomos may be effective at preventing sun damage and inflammatory reactions to UV rays

People with eczema — an inflammatory condition marked by itchy and red skin — may benefit from using Polypodium leucotomos in addition to traditional steroid creams and oral antihistamine medications.

A 6-month study in 105 children and teens with eczema found that those who took 240–480 mg of Polypodium leucotomos daily were significantly less likely to take oral antihistamines compared to those who did not take the supplement (9).

Other studies suggest that the fern may protect against skin damage caused by the sun and prevent inflammatory reactions to sun exposure (10, 11, 12).

One study in 10 healthy adults found that those who took 3.4 mg of Polypodium leucotomos per pound (7.5 mg per kg) of body weight the night before UV exposure experienced significantly less skin damage and sunburn than people in the control group (13).

Another study in 57 adults who typically developed skin rashes after sun exposure found that over 73% of participants reported significantly less inflammatory reactions to the sun after taking 480 mg of Polypodium leucotomos daily for 15 days (14).

While current research is promising, more extensive studies are needed.


Polypodium leucotomos contains antioxidants that may protect skin from inflammatory conditions, as well as sun damage and rashes that develop from sun exposure.

According to current research, Polypodium leucotomos is considered safe with minimal to no side effects.

A study in 40 healthy adults who took a placebo or 240 mg of oral Polypodium leucotomos twice a day for 60 days found that only 4 participants in the treatment group reported occasional fatigue, headaches, and bloating.

However, these issues were considered unrelated to the supplement (15).

Based on the results of current studies, taking up to 480 mg of oral Polypodium leucotomos per day appears to be safe for most people. Nevertheless, more research is needed to fully understand the possible side effects (9, 14).

The fern is also found in creams and ointments, but research on the safety and efficacy of these products is currently unavailable.

Both oral and topical forms of Polypodium leucotomos are widely available online or at stores that sell supplements.

However, supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and may not contain the amount of Polypodium leucotomos listed on the label.

Look for a brand that has been tested by a third party and don’t take more than the recommended dose.


Current research suggests that up to 480 mg a day of oral Polypodium leucotomos is safe for the general population, but more research is needed.

Polypodium leucotomos (Phlebodium aureum) is a tropical fern high in antioxidants that’s available in capsules and topical creams.

Taking oral Polypodium leucotomos may be safe and effective at preventing damage to skin cells from UV rays and improving inflammatory reactions to sun exposure. Still, more studies are needed.

If you’d like to try Polypodium leucotomos, look for brands that have been tested for quality and always follow the recommended dosages.