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Side Effects & Safety
European mandrake is POSSIBLY UNSAFE and should be avoided. It can cause many side effects, including confusion, drowsiness, dry mouth, heart problems, vision problems, overheating, problems with urination, and hallucinations. Large doses can be fatal.
Special Precautions & Warnings:
It is UNSAFE for anyone to use European mandrake, but people with the following conditions are especially likely to experience harmful side effects.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Don’t take European mandrake by mouth if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. It can cause serious or even fatal side effects.
Children: Don’t give European mandrake to children because they are especially sensitive to the harmful chemicals it contains.
Down syndrome: Don’t give European mandrake to people with Down syndrome because they are especially sensitive to the harmful chemicals it contains.
Elderly people: Don’t take European mandrake if you are elderly because you might be especially sensitive to the harmful chemicals it contains.
Heart conditions including heart failure, coronary artery disease, and fast and irregular heartbeat: Don’t take European mandrake if you have one of these conditions. It could make your condition worse.
Liver problems: Don’t take European mandrake if you have liver disease. It could make your condition worse.
Kidney problems: Don’t take European mandrake if you have kidney disease. It could make your condition worse.
High blood pressure: Don’t take European mandrake if you have high blood pressure. It could make your condition worse.
Over-active thyroid: Don’t take European mandrake if you have thyroid problems. It could make your condition worse.
Myasthenia gravis: Don’t take European mandrake if you have myasthenia gravis. It could make your condition worse.
Glaucoma: Don’t take European mandrake if you have glaucoma. It could make your condition worse.
Spastic paralysis or brain damage: Don’t take European mandrake if you have brain damage. It could make your condition worse.
Enlarged prostate: Don’t take European mandrake if you have an enlarged prostate. It could make your condition worse.
Urinary problems: Don’t take European mandrake if you have problems urinating. It could make your condition worse.
Digestive tract conditions such as heartburn or “gastroesophageal reflux disease” (GERD), a hiatal hernia, an infection, stomach ulcer, constipation, a blockage, ulcerative colitis, a serious condition called toxic megacolon, or other digestive disorders: Don’t take European mandrake if you have any of these conditions. It could make your condition worse.
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Botanical: Atropa mandragora
Family: N.O. Solanaceae
- Medicinal Action and Uses
—Synonyms—Mandragora. Satan’s Apple.
—Habitat—The Mandrake, the object of so many strange superstitions, is a native of Southern Europe and the Levant, but will grow here in gardens if given a warm situation, though otherwise it may not survive severe winters. It was cultivated in England in 1562 by Turner, the author of the Niewe Herball.
The name Mandragora is derived from two Greek words implying ‘hurtful to cattle. ‘ The Arabs call it ‘Satan’s apple.’
—Description—It has a large, brown root, somewhat like a parsnip, running 3 or 4 feet deep into the ground, sometimes single and sometimes divided into two or three branches. Immediately from the crown of the root arise several large, dark-green leaves, which at first stand erect, but when grown to full size a foot or more in length and 4 or 5 inches in width – spread open and lie upon the ground. They are sharp pointed at the apex and of a foetid odour. From among these leaves spring the flowers, each on a separate foot-stalk, 3 or 4 inches high. They are somewhat of the shape and size of a primrose, the corolla bell-shaped, cut into five spreading segments, of a whitish colour, somewhat tinged with purple. They are succeeded by a smooth, round fruit, about as large as a small apple, of a deep yellow colour when ripe, full of pulp and with a strong, apple-like scent.
—Medicinal Action and Uses—The leaves are quite harmless and cooling, and have been used for ointments and other external application. Boiled in milk and used as a poultice, they were employed by Boerhaave as an application to indolent ulcers.
The fresh root operates very powerfully as an emetic and purgative. The dried bark of the root was used also as a rough emetic.
Mandrake was much used by the Ancients, who considered it an anodyne and soporific. In large doses it is said to excite delirium and madness. They used it for procuring rest and sleep in continued pain, also in melancholy, convulsions, rheumatic pains and scrofulous tumours. They mostly employed the bark of the root, either expressing the juice or infusing it in wine or water. The root finely scraped into a pulp and mixed with brandy was said to be efficacious in chronic rheumatism.
Mandrake was used in Pliny’s days as an anaesthetic for operations, a piece of the root being given to the patient to chew before undergoing the operation. In small doses it was employed by the Ancients in maniacal cases.
A tincture is used in homoeopathy to-day, made from the fresh plant.
Among the old Anglo-Saxon herbals both Mandrake and periwinkle are endowed with mysterious powers against demoniacal possession. At the end of a description of the Mandrake in the Herbarium of Apuleius there is this prescription: ‘For witlessness, that is devil sickness or demoniacal possession, take from the body of this said wort mandrake by the weight of three pennies, administer to drink in warm water as he may find most convenient – soon he will be healed.’ Bartholomew gives the old Mandrake legend in full, though he adds: ‘It is so feynd of churles others of wytches.’ He also refers to its use as an anaesthetic: ‘the rind thereof medled with wine . . . gene to them to drink that shall be cut in their body, for they should slepe and not fele the sore knitting.’ Bartholomew gives two other beliefs about the Mandrake which are not found in any other English Herbal – namely, that while uprooting it the digger must beware of contrary winds, and that he must go on digging for it uptil sunset.
In the Grete Herball (printed by Peter Treveris in 1526) we find the first avowal of disbelief in the supposed powers of the Mandrake. Gerard also pours scorn on the Mandrake legend.
‘There have been,’ he says, ‘many ridiculous tales brought up of this plant, whether of old wives or runnegate surgeons or phisick mongers, I know not, all which dreames and old wives tales you shall from henceforth cast out your bookes of memorie.’
Parkinson says that if ivory is boiled with Mandrake root for six hours, the ivory will become so soft ‘that it will take what form or impression you will give it.’
Josephus says that the Mandrake – which he calls Baaras – has but one virtue, that of expelling demons from sick persons, as the demons cannot bear either its smell or its presence. He even relates that it was certain death to touch this plant, except under certain circumstances which he details. (Wars of the Jews, book vii, cap. vi.)
The roots of the Mandrake are very nearly allied to Belladonna, both in external appearance and in structure. The plant is by modern botanists assigned to the same genus, though formerly was known as Mandragora officinalis, with varieties M. vernalis and M. autumnalis. According to Southall (Organic Materia Medica, 8th edition, revised by Ernest Mann, 1915), the root: ‘contains a mydriatic alkaloid, Mandragorine (Cl7H27O3N), which in spite of the name and formula which have been assigned to it, is probably identical with atropine or hyoscyamine.’ The roots of Mandrake were supposed to bear a resemblance to the human form, on account of their habit of forking into two and shooting on each side. In the old Herbals we find them frequently figured as a male with a long beard, and a female with a very bushy head of hair. Many weird superstitions collected round the Mandrake root. As an amulet, it was once placed on mantelpieces to avert misfortune and to bringprosperity and happiness to the house. Bryony roots were often cut into fancy shapes and passed off as Mandrake, being even trained to grow in moulds till they assumed the desired forms. In Henry VIII’s time quaint little images made from Bryony roots, cut into the figure of a man, with grains of millet inserted into the face as eyes, fetched high prices. They were known as puppettes or mammettes, and were accredited with magical powers. Italian ladies were known to pay as much as thirty golden ducats for similar artificial Mandrakes. Turner alludes to these ‘puppettes and mammettes,’ and says, ‘they are so trymmed of crafty theves to mocke the poore people withall and to rob them both of theyr wit and theyr money.’ But he adds: ‘Of the apples of mandrake, if a man smell of them thei will make hym slepe and also if they be eaten. But they that smell to muche of the apples become dum . . . thys herbe diverse wayes taken is very jepardus for a man and may kill hym if he eat it or drynk it out of measure and have no remedy from it…. If mandragora be taken out of measure, by and by slepe ensueth and a great lousing of the streyngthe with a forgetfulness.’ The plant was fabled to grow under the gallows of murderers, and it was believed to be death to dig up the root, which was said to utter a shriek and terrible groans on being dug up, which none might hear and live. It was held, therefore, that he who would take up a plant of Mandrake should tie a dog to it for that purpose, who drawing it out would certainly perish, as the man would have done, had he attempted to dig it up in the ordinary manner.
There are many allusions to the Mandrake in ancient writers. From the earliest times a notion prevailed in the East that the Mandrake will remove sterility, and there is a reference to this belief in Genesis xxx. 14.
—Cultivation—Mandrake can be propagated by seeds, sown upon a bed of light earth, soon after they are ripe, when they are more sure to come up than if the sowing is left to the spring.
When the plants come up in the spring, they must be kept well watered through the summer and kept free from weeds. At the end of August they should be taken up carefully and transplanted where they are to remain. The soil should be light and deep, as the roots run far down – if too wet, they will rot in winter, if too near chalk or gravel, they will make little progress. Where the soil is good and they are not disturbed, these plants will grow to a large size in a few years, and will produce great quantities of flowers and fruit.
Culpepper tells us the Mandrake is governed by Mercury. The fruit has been accounted poisonous, but without cause…. The root formerly was supposed to have the human form, but it really resembles a carrot or parsnip.
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Mandrake, (genus Mandragora), genus of six species of hallucinogenic plants in the nightshade family (Solanaceae) native to the Mediterranean region and the Himalayas. The plants are particularly noted for their potent roots, which somewhat resemble the human form and have a long history of use in religious and superstitious practices.
Mandrake plants generally have a short stem bearing a tuft of ovate leaves, often arranged in a basal rosette. The flowers are solitary with a bell-shaped corolla of five petals; they range from purple to yellow-green in colour. The fruit is a fleshy orange-coloured berry. The plants are characterized by a long thick taproot that is often forked. All parts of the plants contain tropane alkaloids and are considered poisonous.
The best-known species, Mandragora officinarum, has long been known for its poisonous properties. In ancient times it was used as a narcotic and an aphrodisiac, and it was also believed to have certain magical powers. Its root was thought to be in the power of dark earth spirits. It was believed that the mandrake could be safely uprooted only in the moonlight, after appropriate prayer and ritual, by a black dog attached to the plant by a cord. Human hands were not to come in contact with the plant. In medieval times it was thought that as the mandrake was pulled from the ground, it uttered a shriek that killed or drove mad those who did not block their ears against it. After the plant had been freed from the earth, it could be used for beneficent purposes, such as healing, inducing love, facilitating pregnancy, and providing soothing sleep. Mandrake is still used occasionally in homeopathic and folk medicine and has applications in modern witchcraft and occult practices.
In North America the name mandrake is often used for the mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) of the barberry family (Berberidaceae).
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“When Jacob came out from the field in the evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, ‘You must come in to me, for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.’ So he lay with her that night. And God listened to Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob a fifth son” (Gen. 30:16–17).
– Genesis 30:14–18
The tension that has been present for years in Jacob’s family due to the manner in which his wives envied each other comes to a boiling point after the birth of Asher to Leah’s maidservant (Gen. 30:13). Though doubtlessly well-known, the unspoken hostility between Rachel and her sister finds expression publicly in today’s passage.
Verse 14 begins with a record of the time Rachel requested the mandrakes Reuben found for his mother Leah during the wheat harvest. The mandrake is a Mediterranean plant with blue flowers in the winter and yellow, plum-like fruit in the summer. It has been desired in many cultures because of a belief that it is an aphrodisiac and promotes fertility. These qualities, coupled with the fact it was only rarely found in Paddan-aram where they lived (Gen. 28:5), explains why both Leah and Rachel desired the plant. Rachel herself has not borne any children, Leah has become temporarily infertile (29:31–30:13), and both are seeking a cure in the mandrake.
Again, the primary players in the chapter do not come off all that positively. Rachel and Leah are both showing superstition by putting their hope in a plant without asking God’s blessing on the potential medicine (Ps. 113:9). It is no wonder that Leah accuses Rachel of stealing her husband since Jacob’s profound and sinful neglect of Leah (1 Cor. 7:1–5) is evident in her willingness to trade the rare mandrakes for just one night with him. Rachel, in a sense, prostitutes Jacob by offering him to Leah for the desired fruit (Gen. 30:15) and is plainly more concerned to bear children of her own than she is for her sister’s welfare. Both women are willing to barter for relational and sexual intimacy, things that should never be so grossly traded.
Moses tells us God listened to Leah and gave her a son even though her prayer is not recorded (vv. 16–17). Ironically, the blessing of fertility comes not to the one who ate the “magical” fruit, but to the one who gave it away. By these two facts, the Lord shows His people that their superstitions are worthless, for He is sovereign over procreation. Still, Leah shows us how God often compassionately blesses us even when we act manipulatively to get our way.
Many passages of Scripture warn the people of God against sorcery, astrology, and other similar practices (Ex. 22:18; Rev. 22:15). Most of us probably do not engage in such things, but superstitions remain part of the lives of many Christians. For example, some believers think praying the same prayer every day will guarantee a certain result. Take care to cast all superstitions from your life and trust in the Lord’s sovereign will that is working for your good.
Passages for Further Study
1 Sam. 28
Mandrake plant growing herbaceous geophyte of the genus Mandragora also known as Mandragora autumnalis, Mandrake plant perennial deciduous plant also used as ornamental or medical drought tolerant plant, can grow in mediterranean, subtropical or temperate climate and growing in hardiness zone 6-10.
Leaves color green with wavy ovate leaves with white vein the leaves grow in rosette.
Flower color purple or white, with five petals.
Mandrake plant roots
Root color brown use for medical and in some ways remind troll.
Mandrake plant for sale – Seeds or Plants to Buy
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How to grow Mandrake plant growing and care:
What is the best way to start growing?
Plant / Seed / Vegetative reproduction
Is it necessary to graft or use vegetative reproduction?
Difficulties or problems when growing:
Autumn / Spring (in cooler area)
Pests and diseases:
How to prune:
Size of the plant:
Leaves 10-30 cm (4-12 inches) and roots 0.5-2 m (20-80 inches)
Growth speed in optimal condition:
Medium growing / Slow growing
Small amount of water
Light conditions in optimal condition for growing:
Full Sun / Half Shade / Full Shade
Is it possible to grow as houseplant?
Growing is also possible in a planter /flowerpot / containers:
Yes (need place for the roots)
Winter / Spring
General information about the flower
Purple or white flowers with five petals
- Autumn flowers
- Spring flowers
- Summer flowers
- Purple flower
- White flower
- Mediterranean Climate
- Subtropics Climate
- Temperate Climate
- Ornamental flower
- Ornamental plant
Plant growing speed
- Average growing plants
- Slow growing plants
- Perennial plant
- Drought tolerant plants
- Medical uses
- Ornamental plants
- Autumn Planting
- Spring Planting
Plants sun exposure
- Full sun Plants
- Part shade Plants
- Shade Plants
- Regularly water
- Small amounts of water
- Hardiness zone 10
- Hardiness zone 6
- Hardiness zone 7
- Hardiness zone 8
- Hardiness zone 9
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A woodcut of two mandrake plants. (Photo: Wellcome Images, London/CC BY 4.0)
“I have a new little buddy that I’m training to be my personal sorcerer root plant,” Raven Grimassi says.
Grimassi, who along with his wife Stephanie Taylor-Grimassi is a practicing witch, is talking about one of the 20-plus mandrake plants that the couple has been growing at their Massachusetts home.
You may know the plant from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as the one with the anthropomorphic stalk that emits a lethal shriek when you uproot it. But the mandrake has a centuries-old history as one of the most important and powerful plants in witchcraft, sorcery, and herbal medicine.
In the Bible’s Book of Genesis, mandrake root helps Rachel conceive Jacob, and in Greek mythology, Circe and Aphrodite are thought to use it as an aphrodisiac. But its powers are not only mythical: a member of the nightshade plant family, mandrake contains hallucinogenic and narcotic alkaloids. Dioscurides, a first-century Greek physician, tells us that a “winecupful” of mandrake root (that is, mandrake root boiled in wine) was used as an anesthetic in ancient Rome. But be careful, he warns—take too much, and one might end up dead.
Dioscurides is one of the first and most important references on the mandrake plant, documenting its appearance along with its medicinal uses. He describes a “male” and “female” mandrake, though we know today that he was describing two different species, Mandragora officinalis and Mandragora autumnalis.
From a seventh-century manuscript of Dioscurides’ De Materia Medica. (Photo: Public Domain/WikiCommons)
Over the centuries, legends surrounding the mandrake’s different sexes and human shape grew stronger, reinforced by the medieval doctrine of signatures, which claimed that plants that resembled certain body parts could be used to treat ailments of those body parts. As a plant with the shape of a human body, the mandrake was believed to exercise control over the body: it could induce love or conception, or bring good fortune, wealth and power. A mandrake root, shaped like a baby and slipped underneath one’s pillow every night, could help a woman conceive; or, shaped like a woman and carried in one’s pocket, could help a man secure his desired lover. Across Europe, men and women desperately sought out mandrake root to resolve their woes, and fraudsters counterfeited them out of carved bryony root to satisfy the growing demand.
A medieval depiction of a “female” mandrake. (Photo: Public Domain/WikiCommons)
The ages-old legend of the shrieking mandrake, as portrayed in the world of Harry Potter, holds that a mandrake will emit an ear-piercing scream if uprooted, killing the person who digs it up. According to the stories, the only way to uproot the mandrake safely is to plug one’s ears with wax, and tie a rope between a mandrake root and a dog’s tail. Back away from the root and throw the dog a treat, and the dog will lunge for it. The mandrake root will be uprooted by the dog’s sudden leap, and its shrieks will kill the hungry dog. The mandrake-hunter can then unplug their ears and continue the hunt in peace. (As long as they don’t care too much about their dead dog).
An unusual illustration of a female mandrake being uprooted, with the dog attached to the feet of the plant, and a kneeling male figure with his hands to his ears. (Photo: Wellcome Library, Londonn/CC BY 4.0)
Raven and Stephanie believe that it was European witches and sorcerers who made this legend popular, in an attempt to protect the plant from the greedy hands of illicit vendors and common folk. Witches and sorcerers used the roots, fruits, and leaves of the plant not only as charms, but also in potions, ointments, oils and other concoctions to secure the children, love, wealth, or power that their customers and friends desired. If ingested or transmitted through the skin, the alkaloids in the mandrake root worked their chemical magic, inducing excitation and hallucinations, as well as sleepiness—and sometimes, comas or death.
Mandrake illustration from a 15th-century manuscript Tacuinum Sanitatis. (Photo: Public Domain/WikiCommons)
Grimassi stresses that the witches didn’t use these plants to harm people, but rather to heal. “When you concoct a brew for healing, you have to know at what level it becomes toxic,” she says. “Any pharmacist has to have the same knowledge: a drug has to be effective enough to heal but not potent enough to harm.”
By the late medieval period, Christianity had become more and more dogmatic, and sought to stamp out all opposition. Practices relying on traditional herbs and plants such as the mandrake became labeled demonic and dangerous, and rapidly faded from the popular sphere. Witches and sorcerers ended up with a bad reputation, and had to practice in hiding.
A 19th-century illustration of Mandragora officinarum. (Photo: Swallowtail Garden Seeds/flickr)
Raven and Stephanie see themselves as the heirs of this tradition. “None of this really ever went away,” Raven says. Raven and Stephanie’s practice is not a reinvention or rediscovery. They are practicing Old-World Witches, and they have been writing books and lecturing about European witchcraft and magical themes for decades.
Public interest in the mandrake has been growing in recent years, as interest in organic plants and herbal healing has risen. But the Grimassis’ curiosity grew from their studies in the history of European witchcraft. They wanted to practice the theory that they had read about in books. “We wanted to physically see what our ancestors had in their hands,” Raven explains. And they succeeded.
They ordered seeds from a catalogue, and planted the mandrake in their southern California garden. The plants thrived in California, and when they moved to Massachusetts, they carefully uprooted their mandrakes, packaged them in garbage bags, and drove them across the country.
“Of course, there was no shrieking,” Stephanie notes. But the process wasn’t easy. Poisonous and native to southern Europe, mandrakes can’t thrive in the freezing New England soil—but Raven and Stephanie have found a way to make it work. Currently, there are over 20 mandrake plants facing the sunny southeastern windows in the Grimassis’ home in Springfield.
A two-year-old mandrake root. (Photo: Stephanie Taylor-Grimassi)
Through their online traditional herb store, the Gramassis sell mandrake leaves and oil, though they are cautious because the plant can be dangerous if used incorrectly. They strongly discourage their customers from burning or ingesting the leaves, and they don’t sell the roots—which is where the majority of the narcotic and hallucinogenic alkaloids are stored. The popularity of Harry Potter has brought them a few customers, Stephanie says, though many more customers are practicing witches or Wiccans who use the leaves to create a pouch of herbs or charm bag, or oil to anoint candles or a wand.
A 15-year-old mandrake. (Photo: Stephanie Taylor-Grimassi)
Stephanie and Raven care deeply about their plants. They unearth them once a year, usually on Halloween, bathe and anoint the roots, and exchange a few drops of their own blood for a few drops of the plants’ green blood—that is, chlorophyll. They consult their mandrakes regularly to draw knowledge from the earth. Hence Raven’s “personal sorcerer root plant,” with whom he converses regularly. “I talk to him about how mandrakes were viewed as powerful and magical, how witches and sorcerers hunted the woods for them,” he says. “It’s like having a kid, you teach the child to appreciate himself. So you do that with a magical plant, too.”
The hope is that with all this TLC, the mystical plants will offer something to Raven and Stephanie in return. “When I need something, I can go to the plant and ask him, can you help me out?” Raven explains. “And the plant is more predisposed to do that because I have a relationship with him.”
Mandrake History – Learn About Mandrake Plant Lore
Mandragora officinarum is a real plant with a mythical past. Known more commonly as mandrake, the lore generally refers to the roots. Beginning in ancient times, the stories about mandrake included magical powers, fertility, possession by the devil, and more. The fascinating history of this plant is colorful and even popped up in the Harry Potter series.
About Mandrake History
The history of mandrake plants and their use and legends goes back to ancient times. Ancient Romans, Greeks, and Middle Eastern cultures were all aware of mandrake and all believed the plant had magical powers, not always for good.
Mandrake is native to the Mediterranean region. It is a perennial herb with a large root and poisonous fruits. One of the oldest references to mandrake is from the Bible and probably dates to 4,000 B.C. In the story, Rachel used the berries of the plant to conceive a child.
In Ancient Greece, mandrake was noted for
being a narcotic. It was used medicinally for anxiety and depression, insomnia, and gout. It was also used as a love potion. It was in Greece that the resemblance of the roots to a human was first recorded.
The Romans continued most of the medicinal uses that the Greeks had for mandrake. They also spread the lore and use of the plant throughout Europe, including Britain. There it was rare and costly and was often imported as dried roots.
Mandrake Plant Lore
The legendary stories about mandrake are interesting and revolve around it having magical, often menacing powers. Here are some of the most common and well-known myths about mandrake from earlier times:
- The fact that the roots resemble the human form and have narcotic properties is likely what led to the belief in the plant’s magical properties.
- The human shape of the mandrake root supposedly screams when pulled from the ground. Hearing that scream was believed to be fatal (not true, of course).
- Because of the risk, there were many rituals surrounding how to protect oneself when harvesting mandrake. One was to tie a dog to the plant and then run. The dog would follow, pulling out the root but the person, long gone, would not hear the scream.
- As described first in the Bible, mandrake was supposed to boost fertility, and one way to use it was to sleep with the root under a pillow.
- Mandrake roots were used as good luck charms, thought to bring power and success to those who held them.
- They were also thought to be a curse because of the ability to kill with the root’s scream.
- Mandrake was thought to crop up under gallows, wherever the body fluids of condemned prisoners landed on the ground.