Herbs & Plants

Podophyllum emodi

Botanical Name: Podophyllum emodi
Family: Berberidaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Ranunculales
Genus: Sinopodophyllum

*Sinopodophyllum hexandrum
*Dysosma emodi (Wall. ex Royle) M.Hiroe
*Podophyllum emodi Wall. ex Hook.f. & Thomson
*Podophyllum hexandrum Royle
*Sinopodophyllum emodi (Wall. ex Hook.f. & Thomson) T.S.Ying

Common names:; include Himalayan may apple and Indian may apple

Habitat: Podophyllum emodi is native to Afghanistan, Bhutan, northern India, Kashmir, Nepal, Pakistan, and western China (Gansu, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Tibet, Yunnan). It grows in scrub forests and alpine meadows, usually in humus rich soils, 2000 – 3500 metres in the Himalayas. Very abundant in fir forests in Kashmir.

Podophyllum emodi is a perennial herb, 15-30 (-45) cm. tall, erect, smooth, glabrous, somewhat fleshy or succulent, simple; rhizome short, horizontally creeping, scaly above, with dense thick fibrous roots; scales up to 5 cm long, 1-2 (.3) , cm broad, ovate-lanceolate, striated, pale, entire; stem scapigerous, simple, erect, terete, naked below with (1-) 2 (-3) alternate leaves above the middle and usually 1 supra axillary flower (or fruit). Leaves palmate, deeply 3 (-5) lobed; lamina (7-) 12-20 (-25) cm in diam., with petiole about as long as the lobe and somewhat swollen at base; lateral lobes obliquely ovate, sometimes 2-lobulate; middle lobe broadly elliptic and symmetrical; all lobes sharply toothed, acute to slightly acuminate, 5-12 (-15) cm long, 3-5 (-8) cm broad, sessile, coarsely veined below. Flower blooms duriing April-May. Flowers are white to pink, 2-4 (-5) cm in diam:, ± terminal in bud but becoming supra axillary later; peduncle short, elongating up to 2 (-3) cm in fruit, erect or ascending, somewhat thickened. Sepals 3, broadly oblong, caducous, petaloid. Petals (4-) 6, obovate-oblong, 2-3 cm long, 1-1.5 cm broad. Stamens usually 6, about half as long as the petals; filaments ;slightly flattened; anthers c. 3 mm long, oblong, obtuse. Berry oblong-ovoid or oblong-ellipsoid, 2-4 (-5) cm long, 1.5-2.5 cm broad, scarlet or red, pulpy, narrowed below the stigma, many seeded; ,seeds 2-3 mm in diam., obovoid or suborbicular.


Prefers a moist peaty soil and filtered light or shade. Grows well in a moist open woodland. Hardy to about -20°c, it takes some years to become established but is very long lived in a suitable habitat[130]. Young leaves may be damaged by late frosts but otherwise the plants are quite hardy. Over collection of the plant from the wild is becomimg a cause for concern as local populations are being endangered. Young plants only produce one leaf each year, older plants have 2 or 3 leaves each year. Plants in this genus have excited quite a lot of interest for the compounds found in their roots which have been shown to have anti-cancer activity. There are various research projects under way (as of 1990). The sub-species P. hexandrum chinense. Wall. has larger flowers and more deeply divided leaves.

Through seeds – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Sow stored seed in a cold frame in early spring. The seed germinates in 1 – 4 months at 15°c. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow on in a shady part of the greenhouse for at least 2 growing seasons. Plant them out into their permanent positions in the winter when the plants are dormant. Division in March/April.

Edible Uses:
Fruits are edible, eaten – raw. It must only be eaten when it is fully ripe. Juicy but insipid. The fruit is about 5cm long. The leaves are edible according to one report but this must be treated with some caution, see notes on toxicity below.

Mediciinal Uses:
The whole plant, but especially the root, is cholagogue, cytostatic and purgative. The plant contains podophyllin, which has an antimiotic effect (it interferes with cell division and can thus prevent the growth of cells). It is, therefore, a possible treatment for cancer, and has been used especially in the treatment of ovarian cancer. However, alopecia is said to be a common side-effect of this treatment. This species contains about twice the quantity of active ingredient than P. peltatum. The roots contain several important anti-cancer lignans, including podophyllin and berberine. The roots are also antirheumatic. The root is harvested in the autumn and either dried for later use or the resin is extracted. This plant is highly poisonous and should only be used under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. It should not be prescribed for pregnant women.

Other Uses: A medicinal resin is obtained from the plant. It is extracted with alcohol.

Known Hazards : The leaves and the roots are poisonous. Only the root is poisonous, it is more toxic than P. peltatum.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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