The Medicinal Herb Info site was created to help educate visitors about the often forgotten wisdom of the old ways of treating illnesses. Many of today's drugs and medicines were originally derived from natural ingredients, combinations of plants and other items found in nature.

We are not suggesting that you ignore the help of trained medical professionals, simply that you have additional options available for treating illnesses. Often the most effective treatment involves a responsible blend of both modern and traditional treatments.

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American Mandrake

Scientific Names

American Mandrake

  • Podophyllumm peltatum L.
  • Berberidaceae
  • Barberry family

Common Names

  • Duck’s foot
  • Ground lemon
  • Hog apple
  • Indian apple
  • Lang-tu (Chinese name)
  • Love apples
  • Mandragora
  • May apple
  • Racoon berry
  • Wild lemon
  • Wild mandrake
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    Parts Usually Used

    Root (dried tubers)
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    Description of Plant(s) and Culture

    A perennial woodland plant of the barberry family, with shield-shaped leaves and a single, waxy, large white, cuplike flower 2 inches across, droops from crotch of leaves; May to June. It has an edible, lemon-yellow, oval (egg shaped) fruit about 2 inches long, called the “apples”. These are edible when fully ripe with a flavor reminiscent of strawberry. A popular ornamental, it grows 12-18 inches tall. Leaves may be called umbrella-like, smooth, paired, distinctive. The dark brown, fibrous, jointed rootstock produces a simple, round stem which forks at the top into two petioles, each supporting a large, round, palmately 5-9 lobed, yellowish-green leaf. Some plants, growing from different rootstocks, are non-flowering. These have only a single leaf on an unforked stem.
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    Where Found

    Found in low, shady lands, roadsides, deciduous, rich woods, fields, and clearings in New England to Florida; Texas to Minnesota. It likes rich, moist soil and is easily increased by division or seed. (This is not the old-world mandrake or the European mandrake (Mandragora officinarum))
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    Medicinal Properties

    Antibilious, cathartic, emetic, diaphoretic (increases perspiration), cholagogue (increases the flow of bile to the intestine), alterative, emmenagogue, resolvent, vermifuge (expel intestinal worms), and deobstruent (relieving obstruction), counter-irritant, hydragogue
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    Biochemical Information

    A neutral crystalline substance, podo-phyllotoxins, podophylloresin, and amorphous resin, picro-podophyllin, quercetin, starch, sugar, fat and yellow coloring matter
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    Legends, Myths and Stories

    May apple, or mandrake, thrives under oak trees; the shallow roots of the mandrake feed on the soil fertilized by tannin bearing leaves fallen from the oak tree.

    This herb, as a drug, seems to be a very ancient one with the Chinese, as it is mentioned in the Shennung Pentsao (28th century BC) as one of the five poisons.

    At least on one occasion in the Bible, mandrake or may apple played an important role in the story line. In Genesis, Leah and Rachel, both wives of Jacob, were constantly vying for his favor. Rachel had remained barren, while Leah had given many sons to Jacob. When Leah’s son Reuben found a mandrake, a reputed aphrodisiac, Rachel begged Leah to give it to her. In exchange for the mandrake, Rachel agrees to let Leah spend the night with Jacob. Leah promptly becomes pregnant, but later, so does Rachel. To this day, mandrakes are called “love apples” in the Middle East and are still supposed to be aphrodisiac.
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    Uses

    Excellent regulator for liver and bowels. In chronic liver diseases it has no equal. Valuable in jaundice, bilious or intermittent fever. Good physic; is often combined with senna leaves. It is very beneficial in uterine diseases. It acts powerfully upon all the tissues of the body.

    Native Americans and early settlers used the roots as a strong purgative, “liver cleanser”, emetic, worm expellent, for jaundice, constipation, hepatitis, fevers, and syphilis. Resin from the root, podophyllin (highly allergenic), used to treat venereal warts. Etoposide, a semisynthetic derivative of this plant, is FDA-approved for testicular and small-cell lung cancer. The Old Testament recommended mandrake as a cure for sterility especially in women.
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    Formulas or Dosages

    Small doses given frequently should be used in order to prevent severe purgative action. Steep 1 tsp. in a pint of boiling water and take 1 tsp. of this tea at a time. Children less according to age. Take 1 capsule a day for no longer than 1 week at a time. Should be administered under medical supervision.
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    Warning

    Mandrake is a potent herb; it should be taken with care. It has toxic properties that have resulted in birth deformities and fatalities. Tiny amounts of root or leaves are poisonous. Powdered root and resin can cause skin and eye problems. Other herbs can give the same results and are much safer to use. Mandrake should be used only under medical supervision. Never take during pregnancy.
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    Bibliography

    Buy It! Back to Eden, by Jethro Kloss; Back to Eden Publishing Co., Loma Linda, CA 92354, Original copyright 1939, revised edition 1994

    Buy It! The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.

    Buy It! Chinese Medicinal Herbs, compiled by Shih-Chen Li, Georgetown Press, San Francisco, California, 1973.

    Buy It! The Herbalist Almanac, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, copyright 1988, fifth printing, 1994

    Buy It! Earl Mindell’s Herb Bible, by Earl Mindell, R.Ph., Ph.D., Simon & Schuster/Fireside, Rockefeller Center 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020

    Buy It! Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke., Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10000

    Buy It! Indian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens, Shambala Publications, Inc., Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, 1973

    Herbal Gardening, compiled by The Robison York State Herb Garden, Cornell Plantations, Matthaei Botanical Gardens of the University of Michigan, University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley., Pantheon Books, Knopf Publishing Group, New York, 1994, first edition

    Buy It! American Folk Medicine, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1973

    Buy It! An Instant Guide to Medicinal Plants, by Pamela Forey and Ruth Lindsay, Crescent Books (January 27, 1992).

    Buy It! Planetary Herbology, by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., O.M.D., Lotus Press, PO Box 325, Twin Lakes. WI 53181., Copyright 1988, published 1992

    Buy It! Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, 15th Edition, F. A. Davis Company, 1915 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103

    Buy It! The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine, by Dr. David Frawley & Dr. Vasant Lad, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, Second edition, 1988.

    Buy It! Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023

    Buy It! The Rodale Herb Book: How to Use, Grow, and Buy Nature’s Miracle Plants (An Organic gardening and farming book), edited by William H. Hylton, Rodale Press, Inc. Emmaus, PA, 18049., 1974

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