A Flora and Fauna of Symi

A personal guide to the wildlife of Symi and beyond

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Mandrake

February 9, 2014

Mandrake, Mandragora, Cattle killer, Satan's Apple, love apple, Circe's plant, Dudaim, Ladykins, Mannikin, Racoon, Berry or Bryony roots date back to the Bible. The Ancients, including greeks, romans and celts considered it an anodyne and soporific. 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 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. Mandragora becomes the most popular anaesthetic during the Middle Ages and in the Elizabethan Age it was still being used as a narcotic.

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.'”

Quote from Genesis 30:14-17   “And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah. Then Rachel said to Leah, "Give me, I pray thee, of thy son's mandrakes." And she said unto her, "Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? And wouldst thou take away my son's mandrakes also?" And Rachel said, "Therefore he shall lie with thee tonight for thy son's mandrakes." And Jacob came out of the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said, "Thou must come in unto me; for surely I have hired thee with my son's mandrakes." And he lay with her that night. And God harkened unto Leah, and she conceived and bore Jacob the fifth son."

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