Quercetin and kaempherol: an argument against the use of podophyllin?

Genitourin Med. 1995 Apr;71(2):92-3. doi: 10.1136/sti.71.2.92.


Introduction: Topical application of podophyllin is a routine procedure in patients with ano-genital warts. Podophyllin is a crude plant extract and is therefore not a well-defined product. It may contain variable amounts of the active lignan podophyllotoxin and the majority of the dry weight of podophyllin is made up of substances never identified.

Objective: The purpose of the study was to estimate in podophyllin 20% the amounts of two mutagenic substances, quercetin and kaempherol.

Methods: Using high-pressure liquid chromatography the amounts of quercetin and kaempherol were determined in 3 batches of podophyllin 20%.

Results: Quercetin and kaempherol constitutes 2.5-3.8% and 6.0-6.4% of podophyllin dry substance, respectively. Podophyllotoxin constitutes in comparison 12.7-13.8% of podophyllin dry substance.

Conclusion: As approximately 10% of the amount of dry substance in podophyllin 20% is composed of two mutagenic flavonoids, quercetin and kaempherol, efforts should be focused on the production of a well-defined purified podophyllotoxin preparation that may replace podophyllin for clinic use in patients with genital warts. Self-medication with purified podophyllotoxin 0.5% may be considered as first-line treatment in well-instructed patients with external genital warts.

MeSH terms

  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Condylomata Acuminata / drug therapy
  • Contraindications
  • Flavonoids / analysis*
  • Mutagens / analysis*
  • Podophyllin / chemistry*
  • Quercetin / analysis


  • Flavonoids
  • Mutagens
  • Podophyllin
  • Quercetin