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What Is a Mandrake?

The mandrake has long had mystical connotations, both because of its narcotic effect and because of the appearance of its root, which is said to resemble a human.
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  • Written By: Niki Foster
  • Edited By: Sara Z. Potter
  • Last Modified Date: 24 October 2014
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A mandrake is a plant of the Nightshade family used primarily for its anaesthetic and supposedly magical properties. It is closely related to the deadly nightshade or belladonna and can cause delirium and hallucinations if ingested in sufficient quantities. The mandrake is also said to act as a fertility aid for women. There are four species, all belonging to the Mandragora genus and all with relatively similar properties.

A common ingredient in both medicine and magic spells from ancient times through the Middle Ages, mandrake continues to see such use today on a lesser scale. Its use as a drug is documented as early as 200 BCE, when besieged Carthaginians gave invading Roman troops mandrake-laced wine in order to kill them in their stupefied state. It is also an ancient anesthetic, used to numb or sedate patients before various operations. In this context, it was typically inhaled.

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The mandrake has long had mystical connotations, both because of its narcotic effect and because of the appearance of its root, which is said to resemble a human. According to folklore, the humanoid root screams when it is pulled from the earth, and the human who hears it will go deaf, become insane, or in more extreme versions of the legend, drop dead. Elaborate techniques for harvesting the root were consequently invented; one of the best known involves filling the ears with wax and tricking a dog into pulling out the root, keeping one's distance so the dog will die instead of the harvester. Another macabre legend surrounding the mandrake holds that the plant grows where a man has been hanged.

The use of the mandrake as a fertility aid is alluded to, some believe, in the biblical book of Genesis. In Chapter 30, Rachael, who has not been able to conceive, allows her sister and co-wife to spend a night with their husband Jacob in exchange for some roots found on Jacob's property. Soon afterwards, Rachael becomes pregnant. Some biblical scholars suggest that the plant in question is not mandrake, but the word is the common English translation of the original Hebrew. In any case, it is traditionally believed to increase a woman's fertility, particularly in the East.

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anon135067
Post 7

Can the plant be found today? If so, where?

anon92079
Post 6

Mandrakes are a general name for several plants that were used for magic and medicine. The most famous is mandragora officinarum or true mandrake mandragora autumnalis or autumn mandrake in folk lore these we the male and female roots. There is also the finnish mandrakes bryony bryonia dioica the female and and tamus communis the male. There is also American mandrake podophyllum peltatum which is predominantly used in American Indian folk medicine

There are some quite good information pictures and links online. Regards, Alex

anon72692
Post 5

where can the mandrake be found?

anon70377
Post 4

How is mandrake normally ingested. Can it be smoked?

anon70376
Post 3

The other suggested plant is the poppy.

anon27094
Post 2

Is it an aphrodisiac that also helps fertility? I believe I read some where that it has nothing to do with fertility, but could possibly inhibit it, due to the other properties. Does anyone know?

anon26828
Post 1

If some biblical scholars suggest that the Mandrake is not the plant used in the book of Genesis, then what plant is suggested?

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