The healing power of duck foot

Duckfoot is a perennial plant with an umbrella-like leaf that is reminiscent of a duckfoot in shape. The plant originally grows in the forests of North America and when it blooms there is a good chance that it will be dead the following year. In the summer this plant may grow an apple. The plant is poisonous but was used by the North American Indians for its medicinal properties. It is mainly used in traditional folk medicine for stomach problems. In phytotherapy, duck foot is used for warts and ‘wild meat’. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.

Botanical drawing of duck foot / Source: Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)


  • Edibility of the apple
  • Naming
  • Active substances
  • Not for internal use
  • External use duck foot
  • Dose and safety

Edibility of the apple

Duckfoot is basically a poisonous plant. Duckfoot is related to the mandrake root. In English this plant is called Mayapple or May apple. All parts of the plant are poisonous, including the apple that grows on it. But if the apple starts to get wrinkles, it is ripe or almost overripe. Then he loses all his toxins. The plant itself is now also dying; that’s how much energy it takes to make this apple. The overripe apple can be eaten, but the seeds cannot. These must always be removed. The apple of the duck foot can be made into a jelly, jam or fruit drink. All May apple recipes require the apple to be cooked. Pregnant women should never take the May apple. Consuming a large amount of May apple products can cause laxative effects.


May apple of the podophyllum peltatum / Source: Velocicaptor, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)

In Latin, duckfoot is called Podophyllum peltatum . Podophyllum is a combination of the Latin words ‘podo’ meaning foot and ‘phyllum’ meaning leaf. The leaf closely resembles a duck’s footprint. In Dutch the plant has the following names: foot leaf, duck foot and podophyllum. Footblade is the literal meaning of podophyllum.

Active substances

The resin of duck foot and sometimes the root are used for phytotherapeutic purposes. The resin is known as podophylline. After extracting the resin, the podophylline continues to develop. Two-year-old resin contains its maximum content of these most important active substances. Duck foot resin consists of lignans such as podophyllotoxin, alpha and beta peltatins and deoxypodophyllotoxin. The resin also contains the flavonoid quercetin.

Not for internal use

Using podophyllum root as a laxative is no longer used in phytotherapy. It works well because it stimulates the small intestine and, as a bile diluent, stimulates the liver. However, it has been scientifically established that large doses of duck foot can lead to the inhibition of cell divisions and severe intoxication.

External use duck foot

The cell division inhibiting properties of duck foot are applied externally to treat warts and game meat. Benign skin tumors can also be treated with it. It should be noted that the surrounding skin should come into contact with the resin as little as possible. To this end, it is important to first apply a greasy ointment to the surrounding skin so that it is protected. There are herbal therapists who see good progress when they treat psoriasis with podophyllum. In phytotherapy, podophyllum is only an externally used medicine that can be used for:

Podophyllum peltatum / Source: Nicholas A. Tonelli from Pennsylvania, USA, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-2.0)

  • Warts,
  • Wild meat,
  • Skin tumor,
  • Psoriasis.

Dose and safety

There are three ways to use this medicinal plant as natural medicine.

  • Duckfoot root: 1.5 to 3 grams
  • Liquid extract: 2.5 to 7.5 grams.
  • Tincture (25%) processed in ointments: paraffin or propylene glycol.

Internal use of podophyllum is strongly discouraged because it has many side effects. These undesirable effects occur both at high doses and at long-term low doses. Side effects of duck foot include: abdominal pain, vomiting, gastroenteritis, hair loss and white blood cell deficiency.

Dangers of external use podophyllum

  • Podophyllum can be used externally, but some dangers should be taken into account. If you avoid these dangers, podophyllum is a safe natural remedy.
  • For external use, the area on which podophyllum is applied should not exceed 25 square cm.
  • Avoid contact with eyes; This can lead to conjunctivitis and corneal inflammation.
  • External use of podophyllum is not recommended during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
  • A non-pregnant woman of sexually mature age must use contraception if she is using podophyllum.