The mayapple is from North America, where it is

also called mandrake, wild mandrake, American

mandrake, Indian apple, devil's apple, et cetera

(Morton 1977, 87*). The number of names can

lead to some confusion. Mandrake is actually the

English name for Mandragora officinarum.

Settlers applied the name to the mayapple because

North American Indians used its root as an amulet

and as medicine (Emboden 1974, 149*). Because

of this confusion, many people, especially Englishspeaking

Americans, continue to believe that the

mayapple is psychoactive. But the root contains no

known psychoactive constituents, only toxic

glycosides and podophyllin, a resin with cathartic

effects (Meijer 1974; Morton 1977,88*).

The Asian mayapple (Podophyllum pleianthum

Hance [syn. Dysosma pleiantha (Hance) Woodson]),

a native of China and Japan, is mixed with hemp

(Cannabis sativa) and sweet flag (see Acorus calamus)

to produce a psychoactive substance that

"allows one to see spirits" (Li 1978, 23*). In the

Kumaon region of India, the seeds of a species

known as bankakri (Podophyllum hexandrum [syn.

P. emodi Wall. ex Hook. f. et Th.]) are used to ferment

an alcoholic beverage (beer) (Shah and Joshi


In homeopathy, the extract Podophyllum is

still used in various dilutions. While developing its

symptom picture, some strong alterations of

consciousness were observed:

Podophyllum exhibits a bilious temperament.

. .. Furthermore, there exists the delusion of a

serious heart or liver disease, he [the patient] believes that he is becoming seriously ill and

will die. Everything makes him melancholy

and sad, and nowhere does he see a ray of

light. Sometimes, the delusion arises that

through his own fault he has gambled away

his own grace or endangered the well-being of

his soul by a mortal sin. Still others feel as if

the clouds in heaven were too dark or everything

were running the wrong way. (Vonarburg


This example provides a clear illustration of

the ways in which the psychological patterns that

arise when a medicine is administered can be

influenced and shaped by a person's culture.

Meijer, Willem. 1974. Podophyllum peltatum-may

apple: Apotential new cash-crop plant of eastern

North America. Economic Botany 28:68-72.

Vonarburg, Willem. 1996. EntenfuB-Podophyllum

peltatum 1. (Homoopathisches Pflanzenbrevier:

Folge 11). Naturheilpraxis 49 (2): 212-16.

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