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Chapter: Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry : Drugs Containing Resins

Podophyllum consists of the dried rhizomes and roots of Podophyllum peltatum Linn., belonging to family Berberidaceae.






Podophyllum, American Mandrake, May-apple root.


Biological Source


Podophyllum consists of the dried rhizomes and roots of Podophyllum peltatum Linn., belonging to family Berberidaceae.


Geographical Source


Podophyllum peltatum is indigenous to Eastern part of the United States and Canada. It grows wildly in Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee.


Collection and Preparation


Podophyllum is a perennial herb which grows wildly in moist and shady places. Most of the drug is collected from the wild plant in autumn. However, the cultivation of podophyllum has been found to be profitable in the area of its occurrence. The rhizomes are dug up, washed with water to remove soil, and cut into smaller pieces. The adventitious roots present on the rhizomes are removed. The drug is dried in the sun.




Podophyllum rhizomes come in the form of subcylindri-cal pieces of 5–20 cm length and 5–6 mm thickness at the internode and about 15 mm at the node. The pieces show occasional branching. It shows the scars of aerial stems and adventitious roots. The outer surface is smooth or wrinkled and dark reddish brown. It shows slight but characteristic odour and bitter, acrid taste. The rhizome breaks with a short, horny fracture. The transversely cut surface show white starchy circles with radially elongated vascular bundles.




A transverse section of the podophyllum rhizome shows darker epidermis and one- or two-layered cork made up of dead cells. The outer cortical zone is made up of thin-walled parenchyma and collenchymatous tissues, whereas the inner cortex consists of a ring of smaller vascular bundles. Central pith is parenchymatous with narrow stone cells. Certain parenchymatous cells of the nodal region shows cluster crystals of calcium oxalate and most of the cells show the presence of starch grains.


Chemical Constituents


Podophyllum rhizomes contain 2–8% resinous material termed as podophyllin. The major constituents of podophyllum resin are the lignan derivatives which are charac-terized as podophyllotoxin, α- and β-peltatin. The lignans are found in the form of glycosides and also as their free aglycones. It also contains desmethyl podophyllotoxin, desoxypodophyllotoxin, podophyllotoxone, a flavonoid quercetin and starch





Podophyllum resin or podophyllin shows cytotoxic activity. It is used for the treatment of venereal and other warts. Podophyllotoxin is semisynthetically converted to a potent anticancer agent etoposide which is mainly used for the treatment of lung and testicular cancer. Podophyllum resin is a strong gastrointestinal irritant. It acts as a drastic purgative in moderate doses but it has been mostly replaced by other purgative drugs.

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