Mandrake, the human plant

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Legendary plant for anyone who is familiar with fantasy and the Middle Ages; the mandrake has a history with ancient and powerful roots, able to bewitch even today as it did centuries ago

Mandrake, the magical plant

The mandrake genus belongs to the Solanaceae family and, with 4 different species, has an area that goes from the Mediterranean to the peaks of China. Since ancient times the mandrakes were known and renowned all over the world thanks to their particular characteristics and shapes, so much so that they entered the imagination almost more like mythological plants than anything else. In fact, it enjoys analgesic and hypnotic properties if used in moderation and even hallucinogenic qualities if used in greater quantities.

Traditional extraction method of mandrake

The shape of the root also remembers the body of a small human being and once extracted emits a sort of “cry” which, according to the myth, would have killed the least prepared instantly; it is no coincidence that tradition has it that the stem is tied to a dog and the strange plant is extracted from the latter. All this, of course, did nothing but provide the mandrake with a role between the legendary and the real, leading her to become the main ingredient of most medieval potions.

Famous herb

Furthermore, it is impossible not to mention the sacredness of this herb, even mentioned in the Old Testament, specifically in Genesis (30:14). Ruben will find her in the fields and offer her to her mother, Leah, who in turn will exchange her with her sister Rachel in exchange for a night of passion with the husband of both, Jacob. In the Bible it is in fact called “Duda’im” or “plant of love”, thus referring to its ability to make infertile fertile, another famous characteristic of the mandrake.

A mandrake

This function will then be taken up in the novel of the same name by Niccolò Macchiavelli which also refers to its toxicity. Tradition also requires that the latter served to create homunculus, small men who were believed to derive from experiments carried out by alchemists with the help of this plant. The mandrake is still observable today both in nature and in fields, where it is still cultivated for the already mentioned pharmaceutical properties.

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