Podophyllum peltatum

Podophyllum peltatum                                  Common name: May Apple, Devil’s Apple

Family:  Berberidaceae

Part used: Rhizome

Constituents: Resin, lignans (podophyllotoxin and podophyllin), flavonoids (kaempferol, quercetin and their glycosides)

Actions: Cathartic, Purgative, Antineoplastic, Antiviral, Cholagogue, Alterative, Hepatic tonic, Cytotoxic.

Medical uses: Traditionally used as a cathartic and was considered by Eclectic physicians to be one of the most stimulating and powerful alteratives available. Acts strongly on the liver and intestines and is a potent cholagogue and that stimulates peristalsis significantly. Used to relieve atonic constipation, hepatic congestion, dyspepsia and gall bladder dysfunction. Also stimulates the release of water and other discharge from tissues and is thus helpful in relieving inflammation. Cytotoxic properties make it of use in cancer and can be applied topically for various dysplasias (eg. condyloma acuminata).


  • Podophyllin & podophyllotoxin are cytotoxic.

Pharmacy: The internal use of Podophyllum is no longer advised because of its toxicity. Is listed by the FDA as an unsafe herb. Topical application of Podophyllum is still practiced.

Contraindications: Pregnancy (podophyllin and podophyllotoxin are embryocidal in animals and humans).

Toxicity: In large doses, Podophyllum can cause violent emesis & catharsis, gastritis and enteritis, which can potentially be fatal.

Interactions: None known.

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