Indigenous, American mandrake grows luxuriantly in moist shady woods and in low marshy grounds. It is the only species belonging to the genus. The leaves are said to be poisonous.
The fruit has a subacid, sweetish, peculiar taste, agreeable to some palates and may be eaten freely. From its color and shape, it is sometimes called WILD LEMON. The Indians were well acquainted with the virtues of this plant.
The ROOT is the official portion and is said to be most efficient when collected after the falling of the leaves. It shrinks considerably in drying. It is nearly inodorous, but in powder form it has a sweetish, not unpleasant smell. The taste is at first sweetish, afterwards bitter, nauseating, and slightly acrid. The decoction and tincture are bitter. In its fresh state it is an acrid, nauseating, and altogether drastic agent. When dry, this objectionable feature is, to a very great extent, dissipated. It is a powerful article and should not be used in too large or too frequent doses or it will gripe and cause distress, watery evacuations, and uneasiness in the pelvis and bowels.
American mandrake is an active and certain cathartic producing copious liquid discharges without much griping or other unpleasant effect. It is decidedly a cholagogue and a cathartic in from 6 to 10 hrs. If used as a cathartic, add a little ginger but use no sugar.
Its influence is particularly noted on the salivary glands, mucous membrane if not irritated, gall ducts, liver, and kidneys. Because of its influence on the pelvic organs, it is UNFIT to use in the pregnant state.
It is highly valuable in all chronic, scrofulous and dyspeptic complaints, dropsy, bilious and liver disorders. In congestions of the liver, about 10 gr. powdered mandrake and 5 gr. powdered cloves are taken in honey. The Fl. X may be taken in doses of 5 to 30 drops.
The resinoid, podophyllin, is much used now. It is valuable in liquifying the gall in the relief of gall stones for which purpose it is best taken in syrup of ginger or in capsules. Take large doses every few minutes. It will not nauseate nor produce catharsis until the parts are eased and the gall liquified. Occasional doses must be taken to maintain a liquid condition. In small doses it is useful in jaundice. It acts upon the liver in the same manner as mercury, but is superior to it.
The preparation of the root is to be preferred to those of the resin, podophyllin.
In minute doses, frequently repeated, podophyllum (Fl X) is said to diminish the frequency of the pulse, to relieve cough, and for these effects is sometimes used in spitting up of blood, catarrh, and other pulmonary affections.
The doses of the powdered root is 2-10 grs.
The simple infusion is made of 1 t. root, cut small, to 1 pt. boihng water. Take 1 t. at a time, as required.