Mandrake, the Witches' Herb
Mandrake, aka Mandragora officinarum
Here I've gathered information about the mandrake plant, including medicinal uses, legends, and how to grow it.
So far, I've successfully raised four mandrake plants from seed, and will soon be planting my home-grown seeds!
(Update) So far, I haven't been able to raise any seedlings, but I've only had seed pods twice. Maybe next year.
The mandrake comes from the Mediterranean area, and is quite common in the Middle East. It is also found in North Africa.
It is often found on stony and uncultivated ground, which is often of poor quality. Mandrake prefers well drained and sandy soil, and it may not tolerate too much frost.
Mandrake In Flower
Mandrake's An Unusual Plant
.....Maybe that's why I like it!
The mandrake plants shown in the picture below this capsule were grown from seed by me. There are four plants in the pot, and the tiny purple speck in the centre is the first flower I've ever had on them, and they are four years old.
Seeds are difficult to come by where I live, so I was really happy to find these some years ago. Out of just twenty seeds, there are four survivors, which is a 20% rate. That's not too bad. Of course, I'm hoping for more flowers next year, and maybe this time, they'll be pollinated.
There are many legends about Mandrake, and, if you've seen the Harry Potter films, then you'll have seen the plant being grown in the school, and screaming when uprooted.
It's said that if you hear the scream from a Mandrake being pulled up, then you'll die, so don't pull them out of the ground. :-)
The Mandrake Are Flowering!
Mandrake's ruling planet is Mercury, and Earth is sometimes mentioned in association with it.
It is sacred to Hecate, and is also associated with Diana, Hathor, Aphrodite, Circe, and the Alrauna Maiden (A legendary sorceress). I've also seen it mentioned with Saturn as a ruling deity.
If you can't get the real mandrake, Mandragora officianalis, then the Americal herb mayapple, Podophyllum peltaltum, can be used as a substitute. It is not related to the real mandrake.
Here is a list of folk names also used to describe mandrake. Some of these are names for the Americal mandrake.
- Alraun, Anthropomorphon,
- Baaras, Brain Thief,
- Circeium, Circoea,
- Galgenmannchen, Gallows,
- Herb of Circe, Haxenmannchen,
- Mandragen, Mandragor, Mannikin,
- Racoon Berry,
- Satan's Apple,
- Sorcerer's Root,
- Wild Lemon,
- Witches' Mannikin
The First Mandrake Plant For The Year
This is the first of my four mandrake plants to show itself above ground this year; the other three are holding back. It looks such a tiny plant in that huge pot, doesn't it?
I'd love it if they all came up at once, as two of them flowered last year, and if they were all in flower at the same time, perhaps I'd get some seeds from them. Maybe this year............
A Week Later
Just checked on the mandrake pot, and all four plants are up and doing well. Even better, two of them are already showing flower buds. Since this is at the same time, perhaps this year I'll be able to collect some seeds.
The plants look really healthy, and are growing strongly, so I must be doing something right. :-)
It's been a long wait for flowering size, about 4 or 5 years, but perhaps it has something to do with the climate, since originally these plants came from the Mediterranean area. Maybe that's why they're out of time with our seasons here in Australia - who knows, but I'd love to get some seeds from them.
Another name for mandrake, in Arabic is "djinn's eggs" - beid el-jinn.
A djinn. or jinn, is a supernatural creature, which like humans, is capable of being good, evil, or neutral. Sometimes they are though of as demons.
Like humanity, jinn have supposedly been given free will. They occupy a parallel world to us, and may sometimes be seen by humans, and may occasionally interact with them.
Hitler & Hanussen
Mandrake Root And Adolf Hitler
Thanks to one of my readers for this post - I hadn't found this particular piece of mandrake trivia.
I wonder if Mandrake root did bring the Third Reich into being?
Hitler was apparently losing his grip on his followers in the late 1930s, and was somewhat depressed. He met an astrologer/magician named Erik Jan Hanussen in Berlin (Hanussen was actually a Jew, who's family name was Steinschneider).
Much taken with Hanussen, Hitler had his horoscope charted by him, and became more interested in the occult.
Hanussen taught Hitler about the use of the mandrake root in spells, and also improved his speech, and body language, so that his public image was improved.
Of course, the fact that Hitler believed in all this gave him credibility when he was speaking, so in that way, one could say that mandrake root, and the spells cast using it, actually did help bring him into power.
To find out more, do a search using the terms "Hitler" and "Mandrake Root" - you'll get a lot of information!
Medieval Drawing Of Mandrake
Spellwork With Mandrake Root
Mandrake Root is said to attract wealth, by drawing money towards you. It can also be used to increase agility, strength, and cunning, all very useful attributes.
On the other hand, there are also mentions online that mandrake can be used for mass curses,explosions, and meteor swarms, among other things.
It can also be used to make food for your pets, and to perform telekinesis, but I'm certainly not going to give any to my animals!
With all of this going for it, isn't it surprising that mandrake isn't better known? :-)
More Uses For Mandrake
.......don't try these at home!
Mandrake is a member of the nightshade family, and most members of that family are poisonous. Even our potatoes and tomatoes can be dangerous, as they are also part of the Solanaceae. The picture is potato flowers.
By the way, I always refer to the Mediterraneum mandrake, Mandragora officianalis as mandrake root, not the US version, which is may apple.
I've been having a browse around to find more information about mandrake root, and came up with a couple of interesting tidbits.
Did you know that in the ancient world, mandrake was recommended as an aphrodisiac? Not sure just how they used it, becaue you wouldn't want to ingest it! Anyway, it's mentioned in the bible: the reference I found is Genesis 30 : 14-17
The Romans believed that a demon resided in the mandrake root, and if you pulled up the plant, the scream from the demon would kill you.
In the Middle Ages, mandrake root was a popular anaesthetic. Wonder if the patients recovered?
Finally, A Mandrake Seedpod!
It's been over a year since the mandrake flowered, and I didn't think that this year any seed pods would be forthcoming. Imagine my surprise then, when I moved a dying leaf aside, and found a large green seedpod. I'm really happy about that, and will be watching it very closely to monitor its ripening.
Later: Although I waited until the seed pod ripened, and put it away for safekeeping, it has become lost in the disaster area that is part of my storage system.
Another Mandrake Tidbit
Lucius Apuleius, an ancient philosopher and student of Plato, best known for "The Golden Ass", had this to say about Mandrake:
'For witlessness, that is devil sickness or demoniacal possession, take from the body of this said wort Mandrake by the weight of three pennies, administer to drink in warm water as he may find most convenient - soon he will be healed.'
I wouldn't recommend that you try it!
Ancient and Magical Uses
Mandrake belongs to the element of Fire, and is ruled by the Planet Mercury.
Its powers are : Fertility, Health, Love, Money, and Protection
Mandrake has been used as an aphrodisiac, and as an anaesthetic, especially in the Middle Ages.
It seems that mandrake has hypnotic qualities, so in the past, it was used as the original 'date-rape' drug! Other herbals mention it as being a protection against rape.
Time For The Mandrake To Die Down
The four mandrake plants in a pot are looking very sad and sorry for themselves right now. The leaves are drooping and broken, and there are insect bites in them. (See the photo above)
They come up in our Autumn, and die down in Spring, so they're sort of back to front for our climate. Must be because they're really a Northern Hemisphere plant and they haven't learned any different! :-)
Hopefully, they'll come up again next year.....
The Mandrake, According To Nicholas Culpeper
Here are some snippets of information about the mandrake from my copy of "Culpeper's Complete Herbal & English Physician", published in 1826.
......The green leaves, bruised with axungia and barley-meal, heal all hot swellings and inflamations.
......Infused in wine, and drank, it causeth sleep, and easeth pains; the apples smelt to, or the juice taken in a small quantity, also cause sleep.
......The seed and fruit do cleanse the womb.
......It heals vehement pains of the head, and the tooth-ache, when applied to the cheeks and jaws, and causeth sleep.
Medicinal Uses For Mandrake
In ancient times, Mandrake was used as an anaesthetic - the patient chewed on a piece of root before being operated on.
It was also used for purging, and as an emetic.
Sometimes it was uses as a sedative for the insane.
Herbally, Mandrake is still used, but can be toxic, so mostly it is used for salves. It is claimed to be useful against hydrophobia and epilepsy.
Warning : If you have any Mandrake, do not ingest it, as it is toxic if not used properly.
Use at your peril!
In the Middle Ages, mandrake became more popular in magic, and was used as a magical talisman.
It was thought to protect people against demons, and it was also used for exorcisms.
If you could find a root which was shaped like a mannikin, and placed it on your mantelpiece, it will bring you wealth and happiness.
Mandrake was also used for fertility, was thought to improve the strength of any spell.