Sun protection in a pill?

Tropical fern may offer protection, but no substitute for sunscreen

Barry Carpenter

The 33 News

July 3, 2009



There is a sun protection product called Heliocare. It comes in a pill and it's key ingredient comes from a tropical fern rich in antioxidants.

Dermatologists say it doesn't replace sunscreen, but it does add another layer of protection, and that can come in handy in Texas. Gail Franz has seen her share of sunshine, she grew up on Florida beaches and has lived in Texas for 30 years. She says she remembers her parents harping on her about the sun.

"I can remember my father and my mother saying to me, be careful Gail, be careful Gail, remember the sun."

Now she finds herself at the dermatologists office with sun damaged skin, but about two years ago Dr. Angela Bowers suggested she start using Heliocare. The company claims each pill has 240 milligrams of a tropical fern rich in antioxidants. Gail, an avid golfer, says she now has fewer skin lesions.

"I have had a decrease in the number of actinic keratosis. I don't know if I'm being proactive, but I also feel any kind of help I can get to keep me from coming out for these little spots, the better for me."

Dr. Bowers says many patients believe in the powers of heliocare.

"A lot of my patients who have taken Heliocare have told us about instances where they'll have a day where they have forgotten to take it out at the golf course and then the next day they'll take it and notice a definite difference in the amount of redness that they get."

Dr. Bowers says the pill may benefit people who work and play in the sun, on the water, on the tennis court or on the golf course.

"Our kids that are outdoors that are playing sports, they may be on the golf team, the tennis team, those are the ones that can really benefit because they are getting so much damage right now that it's going to stay with them the rest of their lives."

As for Gail, she takes one pill a day, everyday.

"Because I got tired of having to come constantly to have lesions removed from my skin."

Heliocare is a supplement and it's claims have not been evaluated by the FDA, although numerous studies have shown the key ingredient in Heliocare does offer sun protection. Heliocare costs about a dollar a pill, that's sixty dollars a bottle.