A Flora and Fauna of Symi

A personal guide to the wildlife of Symi and beyond

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Mandrake

February 10, 2014

Thanks for the responses to the request below.

www.wisegeek.com says this about mandrake:

"In the past, mandragora officinarum was used as a potent medicine surrounded more by superstition than fact. In modern herbalism, the medical use of the plant is limited to treating travel sickness, reducing bronchial secretions and as a pre-operative medication. Most of the supposed medical uses of mandragora officinarum have been dispelled and replaced with a warning that ingestion of too large a quantity of the plant can be fatal as the plant is poisonous.

 The mandragora officinarum, or Mandrake as it is commonly referred to, is a native of Central and Southern Europe and is of the Solanaceae Juss family. It is characterized by a large rosette of dark green curled leaves and a thick taproot. The root sometimes splits into two and resembles a person, which is probably one reason why the plant became the subject of legend and superstition. The large purple flowers give way to small, tomato-like fruit, the seeds and flesh of which contain highly toxic alkaloids.

 In ancient times, the mandrake was used pre- and post- surgery in order to cause a deep sleep due to its powers as a potent narcotic. It was thought to contain magical powers sufficient to cure mania, convulsions and depression and treat fertility problems when ingested, though even then, it was reputed to cause madness when taken in large doses. The root was also grated and the juice used topically to relieve rheumatism and ulcers."

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