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  • Other names for raccoon berry: American Mandrake, Duck's Foot, Hog Apple, Mandrake, Mayapple, Wild Lemon.

    A genus of about nine species of perennial, distributed throughout N America and the Himalayas. Podophyllum peltatum is a handsome plant for the woodland garden, with umbrella-shaped leaves, anemone-like flowers, and edible, lemon-flavored fruits. It was used in various ways by native N Americans; in minute doses as a purgative, emetic, vermifuge, and liver tonic, and externally for removing warts. The Menominee made a decoction of the plant as an insecticide for potato crops. It was also used as a means of suicide. Podophyllums contain a resin, podophyllin, which consists of lignan glycosides, the most important being podophyllotoxin. These substances are highly toxic to cells, causing fetal death if ingested by pregnant women. Podophyllin resin was introduced as a purgative by John King, a young physician from Ohio, and it became popular worldwide for this purpose. It is no longer considered safe for internal use. In the 1970s research by the pharmaceutical laboratory Sandoz led to the development of the semi-synthetic drug etoposide, a potent anti-tumor agent. The Himalayan P. hexandrum (syn. P. emodi), especially rich in podophyllotoxin, is now a protected species, after serious depletion in the wild through over-collection for the pharmaceutical industry. Podophyllum comes from the Greek pous, "foot", and phyllon, "leaf", describing the leaf shape.

    The mayapple, native to the woodlands of Canada and the eastern United States, is a small plant that produces a single white flower in may which, later turns into a yellow berry that resembles a tiny apple. The mayapple rhizome contains high amounts of the compounds pogophyllotoxin and alpha and beta peltatin, which have cancer-fighting properties. Extracts of mayapple are currently used in certain topical medications for genital warts and some forms of skin cancer.

    April 27, 2015