|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 beinfluenced 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.