Maypple: Podophyllum Peltatum, Indian apple, Wild mandrake, Pomme de mai, Podophylle Pelt


The Mayapple is a small perennial that grows in average moisture and part to full shade.2  It prefers rich, moist, well-drained soil and often forms large colonies in the wild. It will grow in both dry and moist woodland areas and self-seeds under optimum growing conditions.1  Each plant grows 12-18 inches tall and features one or two, deeply-divided, umbrella-like leaves.7  From two-leafed plants a single white flower appears in early spring.  Each flower gives way to an edible, fleshy, greenish fruit, called a mayapple, which turns golden when ripe.7  Plants with only one leaf will not flower.  It then goes dormant in the summer.1


All parts of the Mayapple plant, including the roots, stems, and leaves, contain the active chemical ingredient, podophyllotoxin.1 This compound is proving to be effective in the treatment of lung, testicular, and skin cancer.3  A new derivative of podophyllotoxin has been discovered and is now the precursor to a new drug called CPH 82 which is being used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.5  The plant naturally contains concentrations of podophylloresin, podophyllotoxin, alpha/beta peltatin, and berbine.5  While derivatives such as etoposide, etopophos (etoposide phosphate), and teniposide can easily be produced.  Some other properties of the chemical constituents of P. peltatum include anti-mitotic abilities that prevent cellular division and anti-viral properties that have proven to be the number one component in inhibiting the replication of the measles and herpes simplex I viruses.5  Mayapple has also been successfully used in the treatment of juvenile leukemia, and certain
types of lymphomas in adults.5

Fun Fact:

It was once traded as a love charm among Delaware Indians.4


The Mayapple has long been used to treat dermatological problems, such as warts.  Historically, the Cherokee, Delaware, and Iroquois Indian tribes used it as a laxative, anti-rheumatic, cathartic, and dermatological aid.  The Native Americans also used it as an insecticide and fertilizer.4


Mayapple most is commonly used to treat dermatological issues, such as venereal warts.1 It’s also currently used as a laxative and hepatic stimulant.6  Podophyllotoxin is the pharmacological precursor for the important anti-cancer drug etoposide, which is proving to be effective in the treatment of lung, testicular, and skin cancer.5  A new derivative of podophyllotoxin has been discovered, and is now the precursor to a new drug called CPH 82, which is being used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
Other derivatives are also currently being used in the treatment of psoriasis and malaria.5


The fruit of the Mayapple may be used to make preserves and jellies.1  The podophyllotoxin can be used as a gel or solution to treat genital warts6, but It is most commonly prepared as a root powder, tincture, or fluid extract.5  Dosing isn’t exact, but it’s generally a small quantity due to the toxicity.

Pharmaceutical Preparations: Tincture. Macerate three ounces of the crushed root for fourteen days in a pint of diluted alcohol; express and filter. Or treat by percolation in the usual way. From twenty to forty drops are a dose; but it is even more wearisome to the bowels than the root is.8

Contraindications/Interactions/Adverse Reactions:

All parts of the plant, except the fruit are toxic, so any compound containing mayapple should be taken under the supervision of a medical advisor.  Also women who are pregnant should not use mayapple compounds.5

References Cited:

1.  Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center [database on the internet]. Austin (TX): The University of Texas at Austin. 2009 – [cited 2009 Oct 6]. Available from:

2.  USDA browser [database on the internet]. Washington DC: United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service. 2009 – [cited 2009 Oct 6]. Available from:

3.  Moraes R, Lata H, Bedir E, Maqbool M, Cushman K. Trends in new crops and new uses. ASHS Press [serial on the internet]2002 [cited 2009 Oct 6]; p. 527–532: [6 pages]. Available from:

4.  Tantaquidgeon, G. A Study of Delaware Indian Medicine Practice and Folk Beliefs. Pennsylvania Historical Commission [serial on the internet] 1942 [cited 2009 Oct 6]; p. 32, 78: [about 2 pages]. Available from:

5.   Appalachian Forest Resource Center [homepage on the internet]. Washington DC: United States Department of Agriculture; c2005-2006 [cited 2009 Oct 6]. Plants to Watch; [about 1 screen]. Available from:

6.  Home Remedies [homepage on the internet]. New York (NY): Home Remedies Guide; c2007 [cited 2009 Oct 6]. Indian Podophyllum - Medicinal Properties and Benefits; [about 2 screens]. Available from:

7.   Missouri Botanical Garden [homepage on the internet]. St. Louis (MO): Kemper Center For Home Gardening; c2001-2006 [cited 2009 Oct 27]. Podophyllum peltatum; [about 1 screen].  Available from:

8.   Henriette’s Herbal Homepage [homepage on the internet]. Helsinki, Finland: Henriette’s Herbal Homepage; c1995-2009 [cited 2009 Oct 27]. Podophyllum Peltatum. Mandrake, May-Apple; [about 3 screens]. Available from:

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