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Podophyllin is a resinous powder obtained by precipitating an alcoholic tincture of the rhizome of American Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) by means of water acidified with hydrochloric acid. It varies in color from grayish to bright yellow or greenish-brown, the first-named being the purest. The powder is soluble in alcohol and strong solutions of alkalis, such as ammonia. Its composition is somewhat complex. There are certainly at least two resins in the powder (which is known officially as Podophylli resina), one of them being soluble and the other insoluble in ether. Each of these contains an active substance, which can be obtained in crystalline form, and is known as podophyllotoxin. It is soluble in alcohol, ether, chloroform and boiling water.
Reactivity Alkalis decompose it into picro-podophyllic acid and picro-podophyllin, minute traces of both of which occur in a free state in the rhizome. The acid is inert, but picro-podophyllin is the active principle. It is a crystalline body, soluble only in concentrated alcohol. Hence the inutility of the pharmacopeial tinctura podophylli, which cannot be diluted before administration. The properties of podophyllin resin vary with the reaction of the tissue with which it is in contact; where this is acid the drug is inert, the picro-podophyllin being precipitated.The resin does not affect the unbroken skin, but may be absorbed from a raw surface, and will then cause purging. When taken internally it is both a secretory and an excretory cholagogue, but so irritant and powerful that its use in cases of jaundice is generally undesirable. Its value, however, in certain cases of constipation of hepatic origin is undeniable. It is largely used in patent medicines, usually as an auxiliary to aloes. The best method of prescribing podophyllin is in pill form.
Toxicity In toxic doses podophyllin causes intense enteritis, with all its characteristic symptoms, and severe depression, which may end in death. The treatment is symptomatic, there being no specific antidote.
Medical Applications Podophyllin is also used to remove genital warts. This requires several applications of podophyllin toxin to the warts over a period of time. Podophyllin resin and podofilox lotion or gel remove genital warts by stopping cell growth. A health professional applies podophyllin resin to the warts. Petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, to protect normal tissue near the warts from irritation. Resin is washed off within 4 hours to reduce side effects. Your health professional usually applies the resin once a week for at least 6 weeks or until warts disappear. You can apply podofilox in lotion or gel at home. The usual schedule is twice a day for 3 days, followed by 4 days without any lotion. You repeat this schedule for 4 weeks. Podofilox lotion or gel has been found to be effective in clearing warts. It has mild side effects and is well-suited for treatment at home.Neither podophyllin resin nor podofilox lotion or gel is used during pregnancy because these medications can be harmful to the fetus. The most common side effects near the application site are skin reactions, including:
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