Mayapple: The Health Benefits and Side Effects


Mayapple contains a range of chemical compounds which are beneficial to human health. Some of these compounds inhibit cell division, which makes them a likely source for anti-cancer drugs. Interestingly, one of the chemical compounds, podophyllotoxin, has been approved for treating genital warts. As a matter of fact, various drugs created by modifying the podophyllotoxin molecule have been approved for use in treating certain kinds of cancers

Mayapple also possesses some important compounds such as gallic acid, quercetin, alpha-peltatin, kaempferol, berberine, and isorhamnetin. These naturally-occurring compounds have health-improving abilities, making mayapple highly effective as a viable medicine option.

Mayapple is actually a gastrointestinal irritant as well as a stimulant, which means it can improve the activity of the intestines to eliminate unwanted substances very fast. What it does is to induce vomiting and remove toxins from the body. It is also effective as a treatment for stomach flu, constipation as well as intestinal parasites.



That’s not all mayapple does—it is also effective as a treatment for too much bile secretion. It helps to reduce the symptoms of jaundice and biliousness, which are two health conditions connected with the excess of bile. In addition to this, the diuretic quality of mayapple can reduce the frequency of gallstones and ease their passage through the body.

Furthermore, when used in moderate amounts, mayapple can be very helpful to the skin, bowels, digestive system, and liver. In fact,  mayapple is a very potent stimulant and irritant whose effects include its ability as a purgative, laxative, antibilious, and cathartic agent.


The Health Benefits of Mayapple

Let’s take a closer look at the health benefits of mayapple.

  • Mayapple is known to be an effective treatment for genital warts. In fact, applying a compound in mayapple known as podophyllum resin or podophyllin, as a suspension in tincture of benzoin or as a gel directly to the affected area can be very effective for the elimination of warts brought on by human papillomavirus. However, podophyllotoxin, a chemical present in podophyllum, is often used for the treatment of genital warts as it is less toxic and might be more potent.
  • Mayapple is also an effective treatment for white patches that grow on the tongue, also known as hairy leukoplakia. In fact, according to some studies, a single application of podophyllum resin in tincture of benzoin to the affected area can help heal injuries or wounds caused by these white patches on the tongue.
  • Mayapple can easily clear corns. Studies show that applying products that contain cantharidin, salicylic acid, and podophyllum resin to the affected area after the removal of corn can clear corns without resulting in scarring.



The Uses of Mayapple

  • You can create a tincture from mayapple root. This usually involves cutting the rhizome into pieces after which, you pound them in alcohol. This solution is then filtered and diluted to reduce its potency. The tincture can then be applied to affected skin areas in small amounts by a qualified medical practitioner.
  • In addition to its medicinal use, mayapples also have culinary uses. In fact, this sweet and aromatic fruits can either be consumed raw or cooked and made into jellies, jams, marmalade, pies, and punch.
  • Mayapple fruit can also be incorporated into cold drinks, trail mixes, and even sauces. However, it is important to not forget that the rinds and seeds of mayapple should never be added to dishes as they can be very poisonous. Therefore, remember to always remove them before even considering cooking with mayapple.


Side Effects and Precautions

  • It is advisable not ingest any part of mayapple as even the edible berries can result in vomiting if taken in excess.
  • The use of mayapple should be left to herbal experts who have an extensive knowledge of herbal medicines.
  • If you must use an over the counter preparations of Podophyllum, it is best to follow directions carefully, and only treat small areas of skin.
  • Do not forget that almost all parts of the mayapple plant are toxic and unsafe for consumption. In fact, the ripened mayapple pulp may induce vomiting if consumed in excess. There have been reports of poisoning after topical applications of mayapple.
  • Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers should avoid the use of mayapple. This is because it is possibly unsafe for pregnant women to take mayapple orally or apply it to their skin. In fact, there have been reports of deaths and birth defects in babies whose mothers used podophyllum during pregnancy. If you are breastfeeding, steer clear of podophyllum as the poisons in podophyllum can endanger not just you, but the life of your baby.


The Bottom Line

Mayapple is a plant whose root and underground stem (rhizome) are effective as medicine. Although it is highly poisonous when taken orally, it is effective for treating jaundice, fever, syphilis, liver diseases, hearing loss, and even cancer. Mayapple is also used to ease bowel movement, destroy parasitic worms in the intestine as well as counteract snakebite.

When applied directly to the skin, mayapple can help with the removal of warts, which includes plantar warts as well as sexually transmitted warts. It is also used topically for the treatment white patches on the tongue or hairy leukoplakia, which can be cancerous.

In addition, intravaginally, mayapple is effective as a treatment for gynecologic infections. It can also be beneficial for people who are struggling with certain gastrointestinal, liver, and skin problems. However, this plant can be dangerous when used by individuals who have never used it for medicine or for cooking.

Except for the ripe fruits, all parts of mayapple are highly poisonous and can lead to death even when taken in small doses. In fact, podophyllotoxin, a compound in mayapple used to be an ingredient in laxatives, but it has been removed from the market because of safety concerns.

And so, as we stated earlier, it is best to exercise caution when using or eating the root or fruit of this plant, or better still, leave it to be used by experts with an extensive knowledge of herbal medicine.