Herb: Mandrake


Latin name: Mandragora officinarum


Synonyms: Mandragora acaulis, Mandragora vernalis


Family: Solanaceae (Nightshade Family, Potato Family)



Medicinal use of Mandrake:

Mandrake has a long history of medicinal use, though superstition has played a large part in the uses it has been applied to. It is rarely prescribed in modern herbalism, though it contains hyoscine which is the standard pre-operative medication given to soothe patients and reduce bronchial secretions. It is also used to treat travel sickness. The fresh or dried root contains highly poisonous alkaloids and is cathartic, strongly emetic, hallucinogenic and narcotic. In sufficient quantities it induces a state of oblivion and was used as an anaesthetic for operations in early surgery. It was much used in the past for its anodyne and soporific properties. In the past, juice from the finely grated root was applied externally to relieve rheumatic pains, ulcers and scrofulous tumours. It was also used internally to treat melancholy, convulsions and mania. When taken internally in large doses, however, it is said to excite delirium and madness. The root should be used with caution, and only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. See the notes above on toxicity. The leaves are harmless and cooling. They have been used for ointments and other external applications to ulcers etc.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Perennial


Height:
10 cm
(4 inches)

Flovering:
March
to April

Habitat of the herb:

Open woodland, deserted fields and stony places.

Edible parts of Mandrake:

Fruit - raw or cooked. A delicacy. The fruit is about the size of a small apple, with a strong apple-like scent. Caution is advised in the use of this fruit, it is quite possibly poisonous.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - best sown in a cold frame in the autumn. The seed can also be sown in spring in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Root cuttings in winter. Division. This can be rather difficult since the plants resent root disturbance.

Cultivation of Mandrake:

Open woodland, deserted fields and stony places.

Known hazards of Mandragora officinarum:

All parts of the plant are poisonous. Only slightly so according to one report.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.