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Podophyllum

What other names is Podophyllum known by?

American Mandrake, Citron Sauvage, Citronnier, Devil's Apple, Duck's Foot, Ground Lemon, Himalayan Mayapple, Hog Apple, Indian Apple, Indian Podophyllum, Ipécacuanha de la Caroline, Mandrake, Mayapple, Pa Giao Lian, Pied de Canard, Podófilo, Podophyllin, Podophyll Pelati Rhizoma/Resina, Podophylle, Podophylle en Bouclier, Podophylle à Feuilles Peltées, Podophylle Indien, Podophylle Pelté, Podophyllum emodi, Podophyllum hexandrum, Podophyllum peltatum, Pomme de Mai, Raccoon Berry, Sinopodophyllum emodi, Umbrella Plant, Vegetable Calomel, Vegetable Mercury, Wild Lemon, Wild Mandrake.

What is Podophyllum?

Podophyllum is a plant. The root and underground stem (rhizome) are used to make medicine.

Podophyllum is highly poisonous when taken by mouth. Nevertheless, some people take it orally for yellowed skin (jaundice), liver ailments, fever, syphilis, hearing loss, and cancer. Podophyllum is also used to empty the bowels, kill parasitic worms in the intestine, and counteract snakebite. Some women take it to cause an abortion.

Podophyllum has been used as a laxative. (It was an ingredient in Carter's Little Liver Pills.) But it has been removed from the market due to safety concerns.

Podophyllum is applied directly to the skin for removal of warts, including plantar warts and sexually transmitted (venereal) warts. It is also used topically for treating pre-cancerous white patches on the tongue and mouth (oral hairy leukoplakia).

Intravaginally, podophyllum is used to treat gynecologic infections.

Likely Effective for...

  • Genital warts. Applying podophyllum resin, also called podophyllin, as a 10% to 25% suspension in tincture of benzoin or as a 2% to 4% gel directly to the affected area is effective for the removal of warts caused by human papillomavirus. However, podophyllotoxin (podofilox, Condylox), a chemical found in podophyllum and an FDA-approved drug, is usually used instead because it is less toxic and might be more effective. But some research suggests that using a 20% podophyllum resin is equally effective as 8% solutions of podophyllotoxin or colchicine for removing penile warts.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Corns. Early research suggests that applying a specific product (Canthacur PS) containing cantharidin, salicylic acid, and 5% podophyllum resin to the affected area after corn removal can clear corns without causing scarring.
  • White patches growing on the tongue (hairy leukoplakia). Early research suggests that a single application of 25% podophyllum resin in tincture of benzoin to the affected area can help heal wounds caused by hairy leukoplakia. Other research shows that adding acyclovir cream to 25% podophyllum resin is more effective than the 25% podophyllum resin alone for treating oral leukoplakia.
  • Liver problems.
  • Cancer.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of podophyllum for these uses.

How does Podophyllum work?

Podophyllum can stop cell duplication and new growth. It can also have laxative effects.

QUESTION

Condoms are the best protection from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). See Answer

Are there safety concerns?

When applied by medical professionals in low concentration to unbroken skin, podophyllum is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people. It should be washed off within 4 to 6 hours. Podophyllum should not be used in higher concentrations or over large areas of the body. It is absorbed through the skin and can cause the same serious harmful effects as taking podophyllum by mouth. Podophyllotoxin, a chemical found in podophyllum, is safer and has largely replaced podophyllum as a treatment.

Podophyllum is LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth or applied to the skin in higher concentrations over large areas of the body. It is poisonous. It may cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headache, spasms, fever, visual changes and hallucinations, low blood pressure, bone marrow problems, paralysis, coma, liver problems, and kidney problems. It can take up to 13 hours for symptoms of poisoning to appear. Some deaths after taking podophyllum by mouth or applying it to the skin in large amounts have been reported. Podophyllum poisoning has been successfully treated in some cases by using activated charcoal.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding:It is LIKELY UNSAFE to take podophyllum by mouth or apply it to your skin if you are pregnant. There have been reports of death and multiple birth defects in babies whose mothers used podophyllum during pregnancy.

It is also LIKELY UNSAFE to use podophyllum if you are breast-feeding. The poisons in podophyllum can endanger you and your nursing baby.

Dosing considerations for Podophyllum.

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

APPLIED TO THE SKIN:

  • Podophyllum should not be used for self-treatment. Covering too much skin with podophyllum or applying it to broken skin increases the chance of getting poisoned. It's safer to use podophyllotoxin (one of the chemicals in podophyllum).
  • For genital warts caused by human papilloma virus (HPV): A 0.5% podophyllotoxin gel is applied twice daily for three days in a row and repeated for two to four cycles. Podophyllotoxin is a chemical taken from podophyllum. Podophyllotoxin (podofilox, Condylox) is an FDA-approved drug. Podophyllotoxin might be more effective than podophyllum and is less toxic.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

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Reviewed on 9/17/2019
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