Polypodium Leucotomos

Other Name(s):

Anapsos, Calaguala, Difur, Fern, Fougère, P. Leucotomos, PL, PLE, Polypodium.


Polypodium leucotomos is a fern from Central America. The underground “runners” (rhizomes) are used for medicine.

Polypodium leucotomos is used to prevent certain skin problems including sunburn, eczema (atopic dermatitis), psoriasis, vitiligo, and skin cancer. It is also used for other cancers and Alzheimer's disease.

How does it work?

Polypodium leucotomos might have antioxidant effects. Antioxidants might prevent damage caused by excessive sun exposure.

Uses & Effectiveness

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Itchy and inflamed skin (eczema). Early research suggests that taking a specific Polypodium leucotomos extract (Anapsos by ASAC Pharma) by mouth might reduce inflammation in people with itchy and inflamed skin.
  • Dementia. The effectiveness of Polypodium leucotomos for dementia is unclear. Some early research suggests that taking a specific Polypodium leucotomos extract (Anapsos by ASAC Pharma) 360 mg daily by mouth for 4 weeks might improve mental function in people with mild to moderate dementia. However, other research suggests that taking 720 mg of the same extract daily might not be effective. The reason for these conflicting results is not clear.
  • Psoralen-UVA (PUVA) light exposure damage. Psoralen is a medication for a skin condition called psoriasis. Exposure to UV light makes psoralen work better in some patients. This combination treatment is called PUVA. There is some evidence that taking a specific Polypodium leucotomos extract (Fernblock by Cantabria Farmaceutica) before PUVA treatment can reduce skin redness and signs of light damage. Polypodium leucotomos also seems to decrease skin darkening that happens to some people after PUVA treatment. Early research also suggests that taking a specific Polypodium leucotomos extract (Difur by Cantabria Farmaceutica) or applying a lotion containing Polypodium leucotomos extract before light exposure might decrease skin damage in people with psoralen-sensitized skin.
  • Psoriasis. Some evidence suggests that taking Polypodium leucotomos extracts might improve symptoms of severe psoriasis.
  • Sunburn. Early research suggests that taking a specific Polypodium leucotomos extract (Fernblock by Cantabria Farmaceutica) before sun exposure can reduce reddening of the skin and signs of skin damage. Early research also suggests that taking a specific Polypodium leucotomos extract (Difur by Cantabria Farmaceutica) or applying a lotion containing Polypodium leucotomos before sun exposure might decrease sun damage. Clinical studies on sunburn and sun damage have used a specific extract of Polypodium leucotomos (Fernblock by Cantabria Farmaceutica). This extract is used in Heliocare brand name products.
  • A condition called vitiligo in which whitish patches appear on the skin. Early research suggests that taking a specific extract of Polypodium leucotomos (Fernblock by Cantabria Farmaceutica) for up to 26 weeks might return some skin color in people with vitiligo. There are also some reports that taking a different extract of Polypodium leucotomos (Anapsos by ASAC Pharma) for 5 months can have similar effects.
  • Skin cancer.
  • Other cancers.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of Polypodium leucotomos for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).


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Side Effects

Polypodium leucotomos is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth or applied to the skin, short-term. One polypodium leucotomos extract (Fernblock, Cantabria Farmaceutica) has been used safely for up to 2 days. Another extract (Anapsos, ASAC Pharma) has been used safely for up to 5 months. The safety of long-term use is not known. There is very little information available about possible side effects of Polypodium leucotomos. It may cause upset stomach in some people.

Special Precautions & Warnings

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking Polypodium leucotomos if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.


The appropriate dose of Polypodium leucotomos depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for Polypodium leucotomos. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.


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Reviewed on 6/14/2021

Alcaraz, M. V., Pathak, M. A., Rius, F., Kollias, N., and Gonzalez, S. An extract of Polypodium leucotomos appears to minimize certain photoaging changes in a hairless albino mouse animal model. A pilot study. Photodermatol.Photoimmunol.Photomed. 1999;15(3-4):120-126. View abstract.

Alvarez, X. A., Pichel, V., Perez, P., Laredo, M., Corzo, D., Zas, R., Fernandez-Novoa, L., Sempere, J. M., Diaz, J., and Cacabelos, R. Double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study with anapsos in senile dementia: effects on cognition, brain bioelectrical activity and cerebral hemodynamics. Methods Find.Exp Clin Pharmacol 2000;22(7):585-594. View abstract.

Bernd, A., Theilig, C., Ramirez-Bosca, A., and et al. Comparison of extract from Polypodium leucotomos with further fractions regarding their immunomodulating activities [published abstract]. Presented at the International Symposium on the Impact of Cancer Biotechnology on Diagnostic and Prognostic Indicators, Nice, France, October 26-28, 1996.

Capella Perez, M. C. and Castells, Rodellas A. [Double-blind study using "anapsos" 120 mg. in the treatment of psoriasis]. Actas Dermosifiliogr. 1981;72(9-10):487-494. View abstract.

Dea-Ayuela, M., Rodero, M., Rodriguez-Bueno, R., Bolas-Fernandez, F., and Martinez-Fernandez, A. R. Modulation by Anapsos (Polypodium leucotomos extract) of the antibody responses against the nematode parasite Trichinella spiralis. Phytother Res 1999;13(7):566-570. View abstract.

Del Pino, Gamboa J., De Sambricio, Guiu F., and Colomo, Gomez C. [Comparative study between 120 mg. of anapsos and a placebo in 37 psoriasis patients]. Med Cutan Ibero.Lat.Am 1982;10(3):203-208. View abstract.

Del, PGJ, De, SGF, and Colomo, GC. Comparison of Polypodium leucotomis extract with placebo in 37 cases of psoriasis. Med Cutan Iber Lat Am 1982;10:203-208.

Fernandez-Novoa, L., Alvarez, X. A., Sempere, J. M., Miguel-Hidalgo, J. J., Diaz, J., Franco-Maside, A., and Cacabelos, R. Effects of anapsos on the activity of the enzyme Cu-Zn-superoxide dismutase in an animal model of neuronal degeneration. Methods Find.Exp Clin Pharmacol 1997;19(2):99-106. View abstract.

Gomes, A. J., Lunardi, C. N., Gonzalez, S., and Tedesco, A. C. The antioxidant action of Polypodium leucotomos extract and kojic acid: reactions with reactive oxygen species. Braz.J Med Biol Res 2001;34(11):1487-1494. View abstract.

Jimenez, D., Naranjo, R., Doblare, E., Munoz, C., and Vargas, J. F. Anapsos, an antipsoriatic drug, in atopic dermatitis. Allergol.Immunopathol.(Madr.) 1987;15(4):185-189. View abstract.

Mannan, A., Khan, R. A., and Asif, M. Pharmacodynamic studies on Polypodium vulgare (Linn.). Indian J Exp Biol 1989;27(6):556-560. View abstract.

Mercadal, Peyri O. and Maesci, Cappitanio F. [Preliminary communication on the treatment of psoriasis with anapsos]. Actas Dermosifiliogr. 1981;72(1-2):65-68. View abstract.

Middelkamp-Hup, M. A., Bos, J. D., Rius-Diaz, F., Gonzalez, S., and Westerhof, W. Treatment of vitiligo vulgaris with narrow-band UVB and oral Polypodium leucotomos extract: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol 2007;21(7):942-950. View abstract.

Navarro-Blasco, F. J. and Sempere, J. M. Modification of the inflammatory activity of psoriatic arthritis in patients treated with extract of Polipodium leucotomos (Anapsos). Br J Rheumatol. 1998;37(8):912. View abstract.

Nogal-Ruiz, J. J., Gomez-Barrio, A., Escario, J. A., and Martinez-Fernandez, A. R. Effect of Anapsos in a murine model of experimental trichomoniasis. Parasite 2003;10(4):303-308. View abstract.

Pineiro, Alvarez B. [2 years personal experience in anapsos treatment of psoriasis in various clinical forms]. Med Cutan Ibero.Lat.Am 1983;11(1):65-72. View abstract.

Rayward, J., Villarrubia, V. G., Guillen, C., Prieto, A., Rodriguez-Zapata, M., Sada, G., and Alvarez-Mon, M. An extract of the fern Polypodium leucotomos inhibits human peripheral blood mononuclear cells proliferation in vitro. Int J Immunopharmacol. 1997;19(1):9-14. View abstract.

Tuominen, M., Bohlin, L., and Rolfsen, W. Effects of Calaguala and an active principle, adenosine, on platelet activating factor. Planta Med 1992;58(4):306-310. View abstract.

Vasange, M., Rolfsen, W., and Bohlin, L. A sulphonoglycolipid from the fern Polypodium decumanum and its effect on the platelet activating-factor receptor in human neutrophils. J Pharm Pharmacol 1997;49(5):562-566. View abstract.

Vasange-Tuominen, M., Perera-Ivarsson, P., Shen, J., Bohlin, L., and Rolfsen, W. The fern Polypodium decumanum, used in the treatment of psoriasis, and its fatty acid constituents as inhibitors of leukotriene B4 formation. Prostaglandins Leukot.Essent.Fatty Acids 1994;50(5):279-284. View abstract.

Bernd A, Ramirez-Bosca A, Huber H, et al. In vitro studies on the immunomodulating effects of polypodium leucotomos extract on human leukocyte fractions. Arzneimittelforschung 1995;45:901-4.

Garcia F, Pivel JP, Guerrero A, et al. Phenolic components and antioxidant activity of Fernblock, an aqueous extract of the aerial parts of the fern Polypodium leucotomos. Methods Find Exp Clin Pharmacol 2006;28:157-60. View abstract.

Gonzalez S, Alcaraz MV, Cuevas J, et al. An extract of the fern Polypodium leucotomos (Difur) modulates Th1/Th2 cytokines balance in vitro and appears to exhibit anti-angiogenic activities in vivo: pathogenic relationships and therapeutic implications. Anticancer Res 2000;20:1567-75. View abstract.

Gonzalez S, Pathak MA, Cuevas J, et al. Topical or oral administration with an extract of Polypodium leucotomos prevents acute sunburn and psoralen-induced phototoxic reactions as well as depletion of Langerhans cells in human skin. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed 1997;13:50-60. View abstract.

Gonzalez S, Pathak MA. Inhibition of ultraviolet-induced formation of reactive oxygen species, lipid peroxidation, erythema and skin photosensitization by polypodium leucotomos. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed 1996;12:45-56. View abstract.

Middelkamp-Hup MA, Pathak MA, Parrado C, et al. Oral Polypodium leucotomos extract decreases ultraviolet-induced damage of human skin. J Am Acad Dermatol 2004;51:910-8. View abstract.

Middelkamp-Hup MA, Pathak MA, Parrado C, et al. Orally administered Polypodium leucotomos extract decreases psoralen-UVA-induced phototoxicity, pigmentation, and damage of human skin. J Am Acad Dermatol 2004;50:41-9. View abstract.

Mohammad A. Vitiligo repigmentation with Anapsos (Polypodium leucotomos). Int J Dermatol 1989;28:479. View abstract.

Padilla HC, Lainez H, Pacheco JA. A new agent (hydrophilic fraction of polypodium leucotomos) for management of psoriasis. Int J Dermatol 1974;13:276-82. View abstract.

Sempere JM, Rodrigo C, Campos A, et al. Effect of Anapsos (Polypodium leucotomos extract) on in vitro production of cytokines. Br J Clin Pharmacol 1997;43:85-9. View abstract.

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