May apple.

Botanical name: 

Date: Tue, 1 Nov 1994 21:07:56 -0500
Sender: Medicinal and Aromatic Plants discussion list <HERB.TREARN.BITNET>
From: Pami Jo Evans <pami.REX.PFC.MIT.EDU>
Subject: Re: May Apple

>Has anyone heard of this? A co-worker has been advised to take it (she didn't say why).

May Apple is also known as "American Mandrake" (Podophyllum peltatum). It grows in forrested areas, spreading over large areas. It is a low growing plant. The single stem produces two large leaves, forming a fork. A single flower appears in the fork, usually in May. By mid to late summer, it has become a small fruit. The fruit, when ripe, gives off a sweet apple like scent, hence the common name. The fruit is sweet and tasty, and makes a nice jelly, jam or preserve. If you were to gather the fruit yourself, however, you must gather them early, as they are highly favored by raccoons.

Medicinally, it is the rootstock that is used. It is cathartic, and purgative. It is also highly toxic, and is recommended for use only under medical supervision. American Indians used it to commit suicide. It can also cause birth defects in unborn children.

I would question who advised your co-worker to take this particular plant, and why. I am sure that there must be any number of less dangerous alternatives.