Mandragora officinarum is the botanical name of the plant more commonly known as mandrake. In addition to mandrake, belladonna and henbane also have centuries-old association with witchcraft, especially in Europe.
The Mandragora genus is a part of the Solanaceae, more commonly known as the nightshade or potato, family of plants. The family also includes belladonna, brugmansia, capsicum, eggplant, henbane, jimsonweed, petunia, potato, tobacco, tomato plants.
In older botanical classifications, the mandrake plant was considered a species belonging to the genus Atropa. It was given the name Atropa mandragora. More recent botanical classifications put mandrake in the genus Mandragora, under the name Mandragora officinarum.
Classification Of Mandragora officinarum
Species: M. officinarum
Mandragora officinarum and Mandragora autumnalis, considered by some as one species, are indigenous to areas around Southern Europe, Middle East, North Africa.
Today plants in the genus are cultivated by humans in various warmer parts of the globe. When grown outdoors, mandrake does best in locations where the temperature stays above freezing, year round.
Over the past few thousand years mandrake has been utilized for various purposes. Most notably its aphrodisiac, magical, medicinal, mind altering properties.
There is discrepancy over how many species make up the Mandragora genus. Depending on the source, the genus is comprised of between 1-6 species. More recent sources point to 2-4 species. (reference 1)
Possible species include:
In Europe and the Middle East written references date back thousands of years. In some instances mandrake is associated with being an aphrodisiac, related to love and sexual activity, or to ensure conception of a child.
Chemistry Of Mandragora officinarum
The major chemical components of mandrake are:
Scopolamine is the primary active constituent of Mandragora officinarum, Atropine, apoatropine, hyoscyamine, mandragorine, other tropane alkaloids are present, in lesser quantities.
Percentage of tropane alkaloids, including scopolamine, atropine, apoatropine, hyoscyamine, mandragorine:
Stalk: low levels.
Fresh root 0.3% to 0.4%.
Dried root 0.2% to 0.6%.
Unripe fruit: low levels.
Ripe fruit: low levels.
Dried leaves: medium levels. (reference 2, 3)
The concentration of tropane alkaloids is not as large as some other plants in the Solanaceae family, but mandrake consumption could be fatal if a person ingested high levels, or had an allergic reaction.
All parts of the plant contain active alkaloids. Fresh and dried mandrake root contain higher ratios of tropane alkaloids than other parts of the plant.
In most cases the leaves contain amounts of alkaloids that make them useful to work with for medical purposes. The fruits from Mandragora officinarum hold relatively smaller amounts of alkaloids.
Fresh leaves may be a cause for concern if you are in the proximity of live plants .People occasionally eat fresh mandrake leaves as food by mistake, now and again in a salad, and feel sick enough to seek medical attention.
Although accidentally ingesting Mandragora officinarum or other plants in the genus is rarely fatal, it is possible that persons who are more sensitive could unintentionally consume amounts large enough to cause death.
First Aid for accidental ingestion or mandrake overdose:
--- Administration of physostigmine.
Medical Use Of Mandragora officinarum
For over 3000 years mandrake has had multiple medical applications. It was included in the preparation of medicines for various purposes including:
--- to ease pain
--- to cause sleep
--- to treat anxiety
--- to treat arthritis
--- to treat headaches
--- to treat toothaches
--- to treat depression
--- treatment for gout
--- treatment for infertility
--- treatment for eye diseases
--- treatment for hemorrhoids
--- treatment for stomach problems
--- treatment for menstrual problems
--- treatment for erectile dysfunction
Mandragora autumnalis is often substituted and/or sold as Mandragora officinarum. The chemical makeup and ratio of active alkaloids is similar.
A person working with mandrake for its medical properties shouldn't be concerned over whether they obtained Mandragora autumnalis in place of Mandragora officinarum.
Availability Of Mandragora officinarum
Depending on where you live, mandrake might be available with a prescription or over-the-counter in places like pharmacies, health food stores, other businesses that stock similar products.
Beware when purchasing, some people try to get away with selling Podophyllum peltatum or Mayapple or American mandrake root as mandrake, only when you read the fine print do they say what it really is.
Make sure the description of the product states that either Mandragora officinarum or Mandragora autumnalis are the product that is being sold, if you want real mandrake.
If you are interested in cultivating your own plants for medicine, you might be able to find live Mandragora officinarum plants for sale, as well as Mandragora officinarum seeds, at a local nursery.
Seeds for growing plants, as well as other mandrake related items, can also occasionally be found at amazon or ebay. Richters used to sell Mandragora officinarum seeds, you can check here.
The seeds are moderately hard to germinate. Do some research on how to germinate Mandragora officinarum seeds, and what kind of conditions the plant requires, before attempting to do so yourself.
To preserve the potency of the medicinal ingredients, when drying after harvest do so in an area that is well ventilated and dark as possible.
Store dry Mandragora officinarum plant material in a dark environment within an air-tight container. Something like sealable ziplok plastic bags do a good job.
Mandrake root for casting spells and other related tasks can occasionally be found here. Real mandrake root from Europe is sometimes sold as raiz de mandragora.
Authentic mandrake root and seeds can be fairly expensive and hard to find, because of demand and their relative scarcity, when compared to other plants.
When purchasing mandrake, read the product description carefully to avoid getting an inferior imitation that does not contain the same alkaloids.
Remember to check the product description and make sure that what you are getting is Mandragora officinarum or Mandragora autumnalis.
Mandragora officinarum Dose Size
Persons thinking about ingesting mandrake for aphrodisiac, magical, medical, mystical, psychoactive, or other purposes, should take into consideration that large doses of mandrake can be fatal, see this.
The root contains the largest concentration of active ingredients. Leaves have smaller concentrations but they can also be ingested orally or smoked. Fresh leaf can be chewed.
Scopolamine is the primary active constituent of Mandragora officinarum. At small-medium dose levels mandrake can be sedating and reduce pain. There is sometimes a sense that something significant is going to happen.
Smoking Mandragora officinarum: Some people report a pleasant experience when dried mandrake is smoked, by itself or combined with tobacco or marijuana. Smoking is the mildest form of ingestion.
Effects are felt within a few minutes, duration is shorter, and the negative side effects are minimal when compared with other methods of consumption. Smoke 1 gram of dry material or less, on your first try. If necessary increase the amount on subsequent attempts.
Those who have limited experience with psychoactive drugs might find smoking mandrake pleasurable, but people with more experience will probably find smoking mandrake is too mild.
Mandragora officinarum Tea: Another method of ingestion is preparing mandrake into an herbal tea. Mandrake tea is sometimes concocted by mixing dried leaves or root with hot water.
The mixture should be allowed to steep for a time, being stirred occasionally. When ready the plant material is filtered out, or left in the tea if desired but don't swallow pieces of root and choke by accident, and the resulting tea is imbibed.
Making tea with about 1 gram of mandrake is a good test for the first time consumer. On subsequent attempts, the potency of the tea can be increased in intervals of 1 gram, until a comfortable level is reached. Sweeteners or other substances can be added to alter the taste.
Other methods of ingestion include: capsules, tinctures, eating the fruit. Putting 1 gram of dried mandrake plant material in capsules can be tried as a method of consumption.
On subsequent attempts, the contents of the capsule can be increased in intervals of 1 gram or less, until a comfortable dose level is reached. This method is not commonly employed.
Mandrake alkaloids are water soluble and can be made into a tincture. The liquid can be added to drinks, including beer and wine, and drank. Because of the variability in strength, finding an optimal dose size will require some experimentation.
Start by adding a few drops, less than 10, to a drink and see what the results are. If the experience was too mild, increase the number of drops added to the drink on further attempts.
The fruit from mandrake plants is relatively low in alkaloids when compared to other parts of the plant. However, you may wish to try.
If interested, try eating 5 fresh ripe fruits on your first attempt. Increase the number of fruits by 1 or 2 of future attempts if necessary.
When smoked, effects can be felt shortly after inhalation and can last up to a few hours. Consuming via other methods, the effects can start to be felt after 15 minutes or longer, and can start to peak at 60-120 minutes.
With small to medium doses the peak effects can last up to 3-6 hours. At these dose levels, ingestion of mandrake can be pleasant and sedating. It can ease pain as well as impart a relaxed feeling and ease anxiety.
Depending on the individual and the method of consumption, you might feel like laying down and relaxing or moving around and doing something like dancing.
Some people may fall asleep and enter a dreamland that can be hard to differentiate from being awake. You can feel that you are actually doing the things in your dreams, only to wake up.
From ancient times mandrake has been consumed by individuals of both sexes, prior to participation in erotic practices. For some this was to attain a deeper level of consciousness while engaged in these activities.
When you find the right dose size, it may be easier to enter a hypnotic state for mystical or magical purposes than it is during periods where more common thoughts of the external world exist.
Do not get carried away with larger doses if you like the way you feel after taking a small amount. Do not take more thinking you will feel even better.
As the dose size increases, losing touch with reality and hallucinations are common. The hallucinations experienced by people that consume mandrake often include delirium, delusions, disorientation, incoherent speech.
With large doses, peak effects can last 24-36 hours and usually include hallucinations. At these high dose levels, users often do not recall what happened. Those who do remember will generally say it was a negative experience. Doses that are large enough to cause hallucinations can include milder symptoms like visual disturbances and negative thoughts persist for days after peak effects have subsided
Larger doses than those that produce hallucinations can cause unconsciousness or death. Ingesting large doses of mandrake is not recommended because it could be fatal.
If you decide to work with mandrake as medicine, do so in small portions, slowly increasing the dose over time if necessary. Limit intake to once a week or less often.