Podophyllum (Podophyllum hexandrum, Podophyllum peltatum)


Podophyllum gets its name from the Greek words podos and phyllon, meaning foot shaped leaves. Podophyllum rhizomes have a long medicinal history among native North American tribes who used a rhizome powder as a laxative or an agent that expels worms (anthelmintic). A poultice of the powder was also used to treat warts and tumorous growths on the skin.
Podophyllotoxin is a plant-derived compound used to produce two cytostatic drugs, etoposide and teniposide. The substance has been primarily obtained from the American mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum). The Himalayan mayapple (Podophyllum hexandrum or Podophyllum emodi) contains this constituent in a much greater quantity, but is endangered in the wild.
Currently, extracts of the podophyllum plant are used in topical medications for genital warts, HIV-related oral hairy leukoplakia, and some skin cancers. Preliminary research also shows that CPH 82, an oral form of Podophyllum emodi composed of two purified semisynthetic lignan glycosides, may be useful in treating rheumatoid arthritis. However, when used orally, podophyllum can be lethal and should be avoided. The drug etoposide (VePesid®) is the semisynthetic derivative of podophyllotoxin, and is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for various types of cancer.

Related Terms

American mandrake, Araceae (family), bajiaolian, Berberidaceae (family), beta-peltatin, Condylox®, devil's apple, diphyllin, duck's foot, Dysosma pleianthum, epipodophyllotoxin, etoposide 7a, etophos 7b, ground lemon, Hakkakuren, highly purified podophyllotoxin, Himalayan mayapple, hog apple, Indian apple, Indian podophyllum, kampherol, mandrake, mayapple, Podocon-25®, podofilox, Podofin®, podophylli pelati rhizome/resina, podophyllic acid, podophyllin, podophyllinic acid ethylhydrazide, podophyllotoxin, podophyllotoxin-beta-o-benzyliden-glucoside (SP-G), podophyllotoxin derivatives, Podophyllum emodi, Podophyllum hexandrum, Podophyllum hexandrum Royale, podophyllum lignan, Podophyllum peltatum, Podophyllum peltatum L., Podophyllum pleianthum, podophyllum resin, Podophyllum versipelle, Proresid®, quercetin, raccoon berry, semisynthetic podophyllotoxin glycosides, Sinopodophyllum emodi, Syngonium podophyllum, umbrella plant, vegetable mercury, wild lemon, wild mandrake.
Note: Podophyllum should not be confused with Mandragora officinarum, although both are commonly known as mandrake. Podophyllum is potentially toxic when orally ingested.

evidence table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Warts (genital warts, plantar warts) (Grade: B)
Podofilox, an active component of podophyllin resin, is marketed under the brand name Condylox® and is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of external genital warts and perianal warts. Preliminary study showed that podophyllum preparation was moderately effective in the treatment of genital warts. Additional study is needed before a firm conclusion regarding efficacy can be made.
Leukoplakia (HIV-related) (Grade: C)
Oral hairy leukoplakia is an oral mucosal disease associated with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Podophyllum and its derivatives are known to be active cytotoxic agents, which may be beneficial in the treatment of hairy leukoplakia. Additional study is needed before a firm conclusion regarding efficacy can be made.
Rheumatoid arthritis (Grade: C)
Preliminary research suggests that podophyllum may be helpful for rheumatoid arthritis. Research is limited due to the possible adverse effects like severe diarrhea associated with taking podophyllum by mouth. However, additional research is needed before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Uterine cancer (Grade: C)
Preliminary evidence suggests that podophyllum may inhibit the growth of cancer cells, and may be beneficial as an adjunct to radiation for uterine cancer. Further research is needed before a strong recommendation can be made.