It is a perennial plant growing to 0.1 by 0.3 m (0.33 by 0.98 ft). It is in leaf from late winter to midsummer, in flower from late winter through early spring, and the seeds ripen in late summer.[dubious ] The flowers are hermaphroditic (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by insects. The plant is self-fertile.
The roots are somewhat carrot-shaped and can be up to 1.2 m (3.9 ft) long; they often divide into two and are vaguely suggestive of the human body.
The leaves grow in a rosette, and are ovate-oblong to ovate, wrinkled, crisp, sinuate-dentate to entire leaves, 5 to 40 cm (2.0 to 15.7 in) long, somewhat resembling those of the tobacco plant. A number of one-flowered nodding peduncles spring from the neck bearing whitish-green or purple flowers, nearly 5 cm (2.0 in) broad, which produce globular, orange to red berries, resembling small tomatoes. All parts of the plant are poisonous. The plant grows natively in southern and central Europe and in lands around the Mediterranean Sea, as well as on Corsica.
The plant requires well-drained, acidic or neutral soils; it prefers light (sandy) and medium (loamy) ones. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade.
Mandragora officinarum grows in woodlands, cultivated beds, sunny edges, and dappled shade in locations where temperature never drops under about -15°C.
The fresh or dried root contains highly poisonous alkaloids, including atropine, hyoscyamine, scopolamine, scopine, and cuscohygrine. The root is hallucinogenic and narcotic. In sufficient quantities, it induces a state of oblivion and was used as an anaesthetic for surgery in ancient times. In the past, juice from the finely grated root was applied externally to relieve rheumatic pains. It was also used internally to treat melancholy, convulsions, and mania. When taken internally in large doses, however, it is said to excite delirium and madness.
In the past, mandrake was often made into amulets which were believed to bring good fortune, cure sterility, etc. In one superstition, people who pull up this root will be condemned to hell, and the mandrake root would scream as it was pulled from the ground, killing anyone who heard it. Therefore in the past, people have tied the roots to the bodies of animals and then used these animals to pull the roots from the soil.
- USDA GRIN
- John Gerard (1597). "Herball, Generall Historie of Plants". Claude Moore Health Sciences Library.
- Hanuš, Lumír O.; Řezanka, Tomáš; Spížek, Jaroslav; Dembitsky, Valery M. (2005). "Substances isolated from Mandragora species". Phytochemistry 66 (20): 2408–17. doi:10.1016/j.phytochem.2005.07.016. PMID 16137728.
- A Modern Herbal, first published in 1931, by Mrs. M. Grieve, contains Medicinal, Culinary, Cosmetic and Economic Properties, Cultivation and Folk-Lore.
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