Mandrake: magic and myth

mandrakeMandrake leaves are just appearing around north Cyprus, perhaps even in your garden, and it is worth knowing about this interesting plant which belongs to the nightshade family. Because mandrake contains hallucinogens and the roots sometimes resemble human figures, these roots have been used in magic rituals even up to the present day. This is why gardening books state that all parts of the mandrake plant are poisonous.

This is contradicted by herbal and botanical books which often state that the leaves are quite harmless and can be used for ointments or if boiled in milk can be used as a poultice for ulcers. If the root is finely scraped into a pulp and mixed with brandy it was said to be useful in cases of chronic rheumatism. There is even evidence of it being used in ancient Greece as an anaesthetic for operations, a piece of the root being given to the patient to chew before undergoing the operation. Finally a tincture is used in homoeopathy today, made from the fresh plant.

According to legend, when the root is dug up it screams and kills all who hear it, so it might be worth listening to your iPod whilst weeding.

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