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Herbals for Sun Protection

August 1, 2012

Recent research supports the ability of some herbal agents, taken orally or applied topically, to prevent sunburn and limit the damage caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light.

Natural products with proven and promising photoprotective properties are highlighted in an article in Alternative and Complementary Therapies, published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available free on the Alternative and Complementary Therapies website.*

The article “Herbal Sunscreens and Ultraviolet Protectants” specifically identifies golden serpent fern (Phlebodium aureum or Polypodium leucatomos) and Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) as herbal products that, when taken orally, may reduce the local and systemic negative effects of UV light exposure, including photoaging, increased risk of skin cancer, and harm done to immune system function.

Sufficiently high oral doses or topical application of green tea (Camellia sinensis) may also offer photoprotection.
Oral use of combined vitamins C and E may offer very modest benefit as well.
Beta-carotene, alone or in combination with lutein and other carotenoids, may be able to reduce the effects of sunburn, but study results are mixed.
Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E neutralize free radicals in the blood and in other parts of our bodies. Test tube and animal studies suggest that they perform the same job in the skin. Levels of these antioxidants in skin cells decrease after exposure to ultraviolet radiation, suggesting they may be temporarily depleted.

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