Herbs & Plants

American False-Hellebore (Veratrum viride Ait)


Veratrum veride
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Botanical Name:Veratrum viride Ait
Family: Melanthiaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Liliales
Genus: Veratrum
Species: V. viride
Other common names.—True veratrum, green veratrum American veratrum green hellebore, swamp hellebore, big hellebore, false hellebore, bear corn, bugbane, bugwort, devil’s-bite, earth gall, Indian poke, itchweed, tickleweed, duck-retter.
Indian Poke, Indian Hellebore, False Hellebore, Green False Hellebore)
Part used.—The rootstock, dug in autumn when the leaves have died down.

Habitat and range.—American false-hellebore is native in rich wet woods, swamps and wet meadows, its range extending from Canada, Alaska, and Minnesota south to Georgia and Tennessee.

In eastern North America, var. viride occurs from southwestern Labrador and southern Quebec south to northern Georgia. In the west, var. eschscholzianum occurs from Alaska and Northwest Territory south through Yukon, British Columbia, Alberta, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Oregon to northern California.

It is found in wet soils in meadows, sunny streambanks, and open forests, from sea level in the north of the range, up to 1,600 m in the southeast and 2,500 m in the southwest

Description.—The large bright-green leaves of this plant make their way through the ground early in spring, followed later in the season by a stout, erect leafy stem, sometimes growing as tall as 6 feet. It is round and solid, pale green, closely surrounded by the sheathing bases of the leaves and unbranched except in the flowering head. The large leaves, the lower ones of which are from 6 to 12 inches in length and 3 to 6 inches in width, are hairy and pleated like a fan. The numerous greenish-yellow flowers are produced from May to July in rather open clusters. The plant is very poisonous……...CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES

It is extremely toxic, and is considered a pest plant by farmers with livestock. The species has acquired a large number of common names within its native range, including American False Hellebore, American White Hellebore, Bear Corn, Big Hellebore, Corn Lily, Devils Bite, Duck Retten, Indian Hellebore, Itch-weed, Itchweed, Poor Annie, Blue Hellebore, and Tickleweed.

It is a herbaceous perennial plant reaching 0.7–2 m tall, with a solid green stem. The leaves are spirally arranged, 10–35 cm long and 5–20 cm broad, elliptic to broad lanceolate ending in a short point, heavily ribbed and hairy on the underside. The flowers are numerous, produced in a large branched inflorescence 30–70 cm tall; each flower is 5–12 mm long, with six green to yellow-green tepals. The fruit is a capsule 1.5–3 cm long, which splits into three sections at maturity to release the numerous flat 8–10 mm diameter seeds. The plant reproduces through rhizome growth as well as seeds.

There are two varieties:
Veratrum viride var. viride. Eastern North America. Side branches of inflorescence erect or spreading.
Veratrum viride var. eschscholzianum (Roemer & Schultes) Breitung. Western North America. Side branches of inflorescence drooping.

The related western North American Veratrum californicum (White False Hellebore, Corn Lily) can be distinguished from sympatric var. eschscholzianum by its whiter flowers, with erect side branches of the inflorescence

Medicinal uses:
The plant is highly toxic, causing nausea and vomiting. If the poison is not evacuated, cold sweat and vertigo appears. Respiration slows, cardiac rhythm and blood pressure falls, eventually leading to death.

It is used externally by several Native American nations. Although is rarely ever used in modern herbalism due to its concentration of various alkaloids, it has been used in the past against high blood pressure and rapid heartbeat; a standardized extract of V. viride alkaloids known as alkavervir was used in the 1950s and 1960s as an antihypertensive.  The root contains even higher concentrations than the aerial parts.

Any use of this plant, especially internal use, should be carried out with great care and preferably only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner.  A decoction of the root has been used in the treatment of venereal disease. The roots have been grated then chewed and the juice swallowed as a treatment for colds. A poultice of the mashed raw root has been used as a treatment for rheumatism, boils, sores, cuts, swellings and burns. The dried and ground up root has been used as a dressing on bruises and sores. A poultice of the chewed root has been applied to rattlesnake bites to draw out the poison. The powdered root has been rubbed on the face to allay the pain of toothache.  A decoction of the root has been taken orally by both men and women as a contraceptive. A dose of one teaspoon of this decoction three times a day for three weeks is said to ensure permanent sterility in women.

The plant was used by some tribes to elect a new leader. All the candidates would eat the root, and the last to start vomiting would become the new leader.

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


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Herbs & Plants

Mayapple (American mandrake)

Botanical Name: Podophyllum peltatum
Family: Berberidaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Ranunculales
Genus: Podophyllum
Species: P. peltatum

Other names: American mandrake, umbrella plant, Devil’s apple, hog apple, Indian apple, wild lemon, may flower. in various regions it is also known as Devil’s apple, hog apple, Indian apple, umbrella plant, wild lemon, and American mandrake (though it should not be confused with true mandrake, Mandragora officinarum, an unrelated Old World plant whose roots have been used throughout history for medicines and potions).

Habitat :
Podophyllum peltatum (the mayapple) is a herbaceous perennial plant in the family Berberidaceae, native to the eastern part of North America. In woodlands in Canada and the Eastern U.S. (Eastern being East of Oklahoma).

The mayapple is a perennial plant.  These plants reach 6-18 inches in height and grow in patches. Each plant has a single stalk topped with one or two broad, deeply divided leaves that vaguely resemble umbrellas. The two-leaved plants normally produce a single, small white flower (usually in May, thus the name) from the fork in the stem. The flower develops into a pulpy, lemon-yellow berry which ripens in late summer and is the only part of the plant that isn’t poisonous (however, the berries should only be eaten in moderation, if at all).

CLICK & SEE THE PICTURES..>....(1)...….(2)..….


The stems grow to 30-40 cm tall, with palmately lobed leaves up to 20-30 cm diameter with 5-9 deeply cut lobes. The plant produces two growth forms. The ones with a single umbrella-like leaf do not produce any flower or fruit. The plants having a twin leaf (rarely three-leaf) structure, however, bear a single white flower 3-5 cm diameter with six (rarely up to nine) petals, between the two leaves; this matures into a yellow-greenish fruit 2-5 cm long. The plant appears in colonies in open woodlands. Individual shoots are often connected by systems of thick tubers and rhizomes.

Despite the common name mayapple , it is the flower that appears in early May, not the “apple”, which appears later during the summer. The Mayapple is also called the Devil’s apple, Hogapple, Indian apple, Umbrella plant (shape of the leaves), Wild lemon (flavor of the fruit), Wild mandrake, and American mandrake (shape of rhizomes).

According to Brian Fondren, the rhizome of the mayapple has been used for a variety of medicinal purposes, originally by Native Americans and later by other settlers.

 Cultivation: May apple is easy using to grow using seedling transplants or seed sown in fall. Prefers rich well drained soil and partial to deep shade.

Mayapple spreads from underground rhizomes to quickly form a colony that shades out smaller plants. It makes an excellent groundcover for unused areas and grows well in dappled shade. It likes light, loamy soil, shade, but not deep shade and plenty of space to spread out. You can gather seeds or rhizomes to plant or you might find a transplant in a native plant nursery. (I got mine from the local plant conservancy- they gather wild plants from construction sites and then sell them to the public.)

It’s good to keep them moist, not wet, and free of weeds until established. Once they are established, they will spread like crazy and crowd out weaker plants. Remember that it will take a few years before they starti producing fruits.


All the parts of the plant, excepting the fruit, are poisonous. This plant can kill humans within 24 hours. Even the fruit, though not dangerously poisonous, can cause unpleasant red/yellow diarrhea. The plant contains podophyllotoxin , which is used as a cytostatic and topically in the treatment of genital warts.

Medicinal Uses:
The rhizomes have a long history as a medicine among Native North American tribes. They used to gather the rhizomes in the autumn, dry them and grind them to a powder. They would eat or drink a brew of the powder as a laxative or to get rid of intestinal worms. The powder was also used as a poultice to treat warts and tumorous growths on the skin.

Currently, extracts of the plant are used in topical medications for genital warts and some skin cancers. In China and Japan, the rhizomes of P. pleianthum are used to make a compound called Hakkakuren, which is used to treat snakebites and tumors of the genitals.

American Mandrake, or May Apple, is medicinal and edible (fruit), used extensively by Native Americans. The fully ripe fruit is eaten raw, cooked or made into jams, jellies, marmalades, and pies. It is very aromatic, and has a sweet peculiar but agreeable flavor. May Apple seeds and rind are not edible, said to be poisonous. The root and plant contain valuable constituents Quercetin, Kaempferol, Podophyllin, Isorhamnetin, Gallic-acid, Berberine, Alpha-peltatin, that are being studied for their healing, anticancer and other properties. The root is used as a medicinal herb, it is antibilious, cathartic, cytostatic, hydrogogue and purgative, it should only be used by professional Herbalists. It is a most powerful and useful alternative medicine. A possible treatment for cancer is being tested as it contains podophyllin, which has an antimiotic effect (it interferes with cell division and can thus prevent the growth of cells). More Info.

The purgative action of mayapple rhizome powder is very strong, and the compounds in it are much too toxic to attempt self-medication with this plant. The FDA rates the use of this plant as “unsafe.”

The resin of May Apple, which is obtained from the root, is used in the treatment of warts. The whole plant, apart from the ripe fruit, is highly poisonous in large doses. American Mandrake herb produces nausea and vomiting, and even inflammation of the stomach and intestines, which has been known to prove fatal. In moderate doses, it is a drastic purgative with some cholagogue action. Do not use wile pregnant, nursing or trying to conceive.

May Apple Folklore
May Apple was once called the witches umbrella and thought to be employed by them as a poison, which may not be untrue! The English version of this plant has much lore told of it, being called Manroot (mandrake) believed to be alive and its screams when pulled from the ground would render a man permanently insane.
Magical Attributes:
The powdered root is used in powerful protective magic. Mayapple is extremely irritating to the eyes and Mayapple root is used in spells to keep things (like diaries, books of shadows, etc.) hidden from prying eyes. The powder can be sprinkled around the storage area or on the object itself, or around the perimeter of an area where you do not wish to be disturbed. (Remember that Mayapple is a topical poison while doing this. Take care not to let the powder sit on your skin or come in contact with your eyes.)

The dried fruit can also be added to sachets and mojo bags to similar purpose, that is to allow the bearer to work in secret, or to allow his or her actions to not be revealed too soon.

The whole root can be tucked under the mattress to ensure the fertility and verility of the couple who sleep upon it.

Kept in a high place in the home, Mayapple root is said to draw prosperity to the home and protect it from bad luck.

This herb is commonly used as a substitution in spells calling for Mandrake (Atropa mandragora)

Healing Attributes:

Mayapple is listed as “unsafe” by the FDA and most experts agree that its action is too strong for self-medication even by experienced herbalists. Every part, excepting the ripe fruit, is deadly poison and can kill an adult human within 24 hours.

It was used by Native American tribes, who dried and powdered the root, as a laxitive and to remove worms and as a topical treatment for warts and skin cancer.

Modern medicine has found compounds in the rhizome that are useful against cancer and it is used in the treatment of genital warts and skin cancers in Asia. It is also under study for use against dropsy, dispepsia, biliousness, and various liver conditions.

Symptoms of mayapple poisoning are salviation, vomiting, diarrhea, excitement, fever, headache, coma, and death.

Household Use:

The poisonous rhizome can be boiled and used to kill insects on crop plants, especially potatoes. Make sure that the resulting potion is only sprinkled on the inedible (to humans) parts of the plants, such as tomato leaves and the aerial parts of potato plants.

Culinary Use:

Only the ripe fruit or “apple” of the mayapple is edible. The fruit is ripe when it is yellow and slightly soft. Dispite its name, the flavor is more like lemon than apple. Mayapples may be eaten raw, but they are best cooked or made into jelly. They may also be juiced and mixed with sugar and water to make a beverage similar to lemonade(remove all seeds before juicing). These fruits should be eaten only in moderation and only when perfectly ripe. It has been known to cause technicolor diarrhea.

Here’s an article from Mother Earth News about cooking with Mayapples. An excellent idea for your Beltane celebrations (assuming you’ve got some ripe, if not, hold off till Midsummer)

Practical Kitchen Witchery:

If you’re using an old European spell that calls for Mandrake, you can use this plant instead. But remember, both plants are very poisonous and substitutions of dangerous plants should never be made with other dangerous plants when you are making things that are to be administerd topically or ingested. It is suggested to use the fruit instead of the root as a much safer alternative. It is slower to action and not as intense, but it is still effective.

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


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Herbs & Plants

Indian Podophyllum

Botanical Name: Podophyllum hexandrum
Family: Berberidaceae
Genus: Podophyllum
Species: P. hexandrum
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Ranunculales

Synonyms : Podophyllum   emodi.

Common Name : Himalayan mayapple or Indian may apple

Indian Name: Papri or Banbaigan

Habitat :  Indian Podophyllum  is native to E. Asia – Afghanistan to China. It grows on   the scrub forests and alpine meadows, usually in humus rich soils, 2000 – 3500 metres in the Himalayas. Very abundant in fir forests in Kashmir.

Description and Composition
Indian Podophyllum is an erect, succulent herb with a creeping root stalk. It has flower-bearing erect branches leafy at top. The plant has toothed, purple spotted leaves, deeply divided in 3 to 5 lobes. The flowers are white or pinkish, cup-shaped and solitary. Its fruit is egg-shaped and scarlet in colour. The dried rhizomes of the plant constitute the drug.

The perennial herb Podophyllum hexandrum (syn. P. emodi), bearing the common names Himalayan mayapple or Indian may apple, is native to the lower elevations in and surrounding the Himalaya. It is low to the ground with glossy green, drooping, lobed leaves on its few stiff branches, and it bears a pale pink flower and bright red-orange bulbous fruit. The ornamental appearance of the plant make it a desirable addition to woodland-type gardens. It can be propagated by seed or by dividing the rhizome. It is very tolerant of cold temperatures, as would be expected of a Himalayan plant, but it is not tolerant of dry conditions.


The plant is poisonous but when processed has medicinal properties. The rhizome of the plant contains a resin, known generally and commercially as Indian Podophyllum Resin, which can be processed to extract podophyllotoxin, or podophyllin, a neurotoxin. It has been historically used as an intestinal purgative and emetic, salve for infected and necrotic wounds, and inhibitor of tumor growth. The North American variant of this Asian plant contains a lower concentration of the toxin but has been more extensively studied.

The active principle of Podophyllum is contained in the resinous mixture known as podophyllin. The other constituent of the root is podophyllotoxin. The rhizomes yield podophyllol, a sticky resin, quercetin and podophyllotoxin.

According to Viehoever and Mack (1938), the only active crystallisable substance isolated from either podophyllum or podophyllin is podophyllotoxin. Probably, it is not the chief cathartic principle, which is still to be isolated.

Podophyllum Emodi (Indian Podophyllum), a native of Northern India. The roots are much stouter, more knotty, and about twice as strong as the American. It is not identical with, nor should it be substituted for, the American rhizome. It contains twice as much podophyllotoxin, and in other respects exhibits differences. Indian podophyllum is official in India and the Eastern Colonies, where it is used in place of ordinary podophyllum.

Cultivation :    

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. 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.

Seed – 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:     Fruit  is 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 above

Constituents.  ”The chief constituents of Indian podophyllum are podophyllotoxin (2 to 5 per cent.) and podophylloresin (compare Podophylli Rhizoma). The drug yields from 6 to 12 per cent. of podophyllin when treated in the same way as the American rhizome, but the podophyllin so obtained is not identical with, nor should it be substituted for, that from the American drug, since it contains approximately twice as much podophyllotoxin, and in other respects exhibits differences (compare Podophylli Rhizoma).

Action and Uses. Indian podophyllum rhizome is official in India and the Eastern Colonies, where it is used in place of ordinary podophyllum; it is stated to be twice as active as the latter.

Healing Power and Curative Properties
The herb Podophyllum is used as a hepatic stimulant and as an agent to promote the flow of bile. It is also useful as a purgative and as a drug to correct disordered processes of nutrition and to restore the normal function of the system. It is a bitter tonic which helps induce vomiting.

Chronic Constipation
The drug is highly beneficial for treating chronic constipation and is used as a purgative. The safe single dose is 0.01 gm. Its action is slow but strong. In large doses, it can cause acute irritation and griping. It should therefore be administered either in combination with belladonna or Indian aloe.

Skin Disorders
Podophyllum is reported to be useful in many skin diseases and tumorous growths. It has acquired importance in recent years for its possible use in controlling skin cancer.

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

Podophyllin greatly irritates the eyes and the mucous membranes. The resin does not affect normal skin but may be absorbed by irritated or abrased skin and helps purging. It is an effective purgative, but in toxic or over doses it produces intense enteritis or inflammation of the small intestines which may sometimes result in death.

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


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