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Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)

Poisonous except for the ripe berries


cytostatic, antifungal, virus static

Areas of application:

Warts, birthmarks, genital warts, skin cancer, moles

Plant parts used:


Collection time:


To find:

On moist meadows and in sparse forests.


Lignans, podophyllotoxin, footleaf resin (podophyllin), flavonoids and plant gum


Mayapple grows 30 to 45 cm high and has very large leaves. The leaves are smooth, paired and umbrella-like. They are palmately lobed and 20 to 30 cm in diameter with 3 to 9 lobes. Some stems produce a single leaf without flowers or fruits, while others produce two or more leaves and 1 to 8 pendulous flowers (often just one) in the leaf axil. The 2.5 cm wide, waxy flowers are white, red or yellow, have 6 to 9 petals and bloom in May. These plants grow in clumps arising from a single rhizome.

The ripe berries can be made into jam in the kitchen or used in cakes. The seeds and shell are inedible and must be removed before cooking or eating. The fruit tastes similar to a pawpaw. You shouldn't eat too much of the fruit as it has a mild laxative effect.

For treatment on the skin, it should be noted that the resin from the stems is only applied to the affected area and that gloves are worn. When squeezing the stems, the resin obtained is diluted with alcohol to a 20% resin dilution (1 part resin with 5 parts alcohol). High concentrations can damage the skin, while lower concentrations may not be effective enough. The diluted resin is left on the skin for 1 to 4 hours and then washed off. The skin lesions fade within a few hours and begin to dry out within a day or two. After three days they start to disappear.

🛑 The Mayapple should only be used under the supervision of a highly qualified physician. Do not use during pregnancy or small children. Please do not touch it with your bare hands as it is absorbed through the skin and can be toxic and even fatal. The fresh or dried root can cause irritation to the skin. In large doses, podophyllin causes bloody gastrointestinal inflammation, convulsions, incoordination, coma, ulcers and kidney inflammation. Death can occur due to respiratory paralysis. People who work with the powdered drug can get conjunctivitis and inflammation of the cornea from the dust.

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