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The mayapple plant or American mandrake is not related to the European mandrake of the Solanaceae family. European mandrake is a toxic plant, similar in properties to belladonna, and currently lacking any medicinal applications. In Eastern countries, it was supposed to promote human fertility.

mayapple plant flower and leaves

Healing Properties

North American natives have been using podophyllin (the resin of American mandrake’s root) for time immemorial, and from 1820 onwards, it became part of several pharmaceutical preparations.

Its active component, podophyllotoxin, acts as an effective but well-tolerated purgative in low doses. It also has cholagogue properties (helps empty the gall bladder).

It has been recently proven that podophyllin has antimitotic properties (prevents cellular division). It has been successfully tested in the treatment of acuminated condyloma acuminatum, papilloma, warts, and other viral tumors of the skin. Its applications in cancer treatment are currently under research.


In high doses, it can provoke violent diarrhea and even death.

Mayapple Plant Scientific Facts

  1. Scientific Name – Podophyllum peltatum L.
  2. Other Names – American mandrake, wild lemon.
  3. French – Podophylle.
  4. Spanish – Podófilo.
  5. Environment – Meadows and damp forests all over the Atlantic regions of North America. It does not grow in Europe.
  6. Description – The mayapple plant is a herbaceous plant of the Berberidaceae family, growing up to 50 cm high. Its fruit is aromatic yellow berries.
  7. Parts of the plant used medicinally – The resin of the root (podophyllin).

How to use Mayapple

  1. An intake of 0.25 to 0.5 grams of the root, or 50 to 100 mg of podophyllin, results in a regular evacuation 12 hours after the intake.
  2. Podophyllin resin is applied to the skin in several pharmaceutical preparations. These preparations contain an oil suspension of the resin mixed with paraffin. Put some drops of this suspension on the affected skin area every day to achieve results.


George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Ed. Francesc X. Gelabert. vols. 2 San Fernando de Henares: Editorial Safeliz, 2000. 517. Print. [mayapple plant]

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