Herb: Himalayan May Apple


Latin name: Podophyllum hexandrum


Synonyms: Podophyllum emodi


Family: Podophyllaceae



Medicinal use of Himalayan May Apple:

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.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Perennial


Height:
45 cm
(1 foot)

Flovering:
May to
June

Habitat of the herb:

Scrub forests and alpine meadows, usually in humus rich soils, 2000 - 3500 metres in the Himalayas. Very abundant in fir forests in Kashmir.

Edible parts of Himalayan May Apple:

Fruit - 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.

Other uses of the herb:

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

Propagation of Himalayan May Apple:

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 15C. 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.

Cultivation of the herb:

Scrub forests and alpine meadows, usually in humus rich soils, 2000 - 3500 metres in the Himalayas. Very abundant in fir forests in Kashmir.

Known hazards of Podophyllum hexandrum:

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

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.