Magical Mandrake Root

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Esculapio
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Esculapio

I really enjoy researching herbs and potions for my writing. Some plants have more mythology associated with them than others and happily legends about the mandrake plant abound 😀

From the book of Genesis, to Shakespeare, to J K Rowling, authors have used mandrake root in their stories.

It’s been associated with fertility, used as an early anesthetic for surgery, and the juices from it’s large leaves mixed into a cooling ointment. In ancient and medieval times, the root was pulped then infused with alcohol. A tincture made from the fresh plant is still used in homeopathy to-day.

The so-called "female" and "male" mandrakes, from a 1583 illustration
The so-called “female” and “male” mandrakes, from a 1583 illustration

The root also contains an alkaloid that causes hallucinations, delirium and, in larger doses, coma. This, as well as the sometimes almost humanoid shape of the root, led to a belief in its magical powers.

In drawings, the root was usually shown as a man with a long beard or a woman with long and thick hair. People in medieval times preserved the root and showed it off in their homes to avert misfortune and bring prosperity and happiness to the house.

The roots are often described as parsnip-like. Its a large plant! The roots grow 3 or 4 feet deep into the ground, often dividing into two or three branches. It has huge, pointed, dark-green leaves 12 inches long by 4 or 5 inches wide that lay flat to the ground. Flowers are similar to a primrose but a purplish color. Fruits are like small yellow apples.

In ancient and medieval times, the root was pulped then infused with alcohol. A tincture made from the fresh plant is used in homeopathy to-day.

Many people believed that mandrake root could cure demoniacal possession, they thought demons couldn’t bear its smell 😀 … A minor problem was that they also believed digging up the roots was fatal!

Just about everyone has read J K Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets where Harry and his friends wear earmuffs to protect themselves from the shrieks and terrible groans from re-potting mandrakes. This belief goes way back to ancient history but really flourished in the middle ages.

In Truth Unveiled, Meagan combines mandrake root with hemlock and henbane to produce a banishing potion for an undead sorcerer… In a recipe not dissimilar to that used in ancient times to produce deep sleep.

M is for magical mandrake, researching can be quite a lot of fun 🙂

Kim Cleary, Author

Kim Cleary

Kim writes paranormal stories with a intrigue, suspense and a hint of romance. She loves all animals, especially her dogs; and thrives on coffee and chocolate while writing and researching.

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