Medicinal plants

Mandrake - history, effects and dangers

Mandrake - history, effects and dangers

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Mandrake - a magical witch plant, an important component of witch and flight ointments in addition to belladonna, henbane and thorn apple. A plant with a lot of history and a mystical and magical background.

Profile of Mandrake

  • Scientific name: Mandragora officinarum
  • Plant family: Nightshade family (Solanaceae)
  • Popular names: Dragon dolls, hangman, meerkat, mandrake, witch herb, springwort, magic root, fiend root, root servant, buckwort, alruneken
  • Occurrence: Mediterranean, Orient
  • Parts of plants used: Root
  • ingredients: Alkaloids, especially atropine, hyoscyamine, scopolamine, cuscohygrin, apoatropine
  • application areas:
    • Colic
    • Menstrual pain (dysmenorrhea)
    • asthma
    • Pollen allergy and hay fever
    • whooping cough

Mandrake - healing effect

Due to its toxicity, mandrake is usually only used in homeopathic dilution, namely for indigestion, headache and liver-bile disorders (more on this under "Homeopathy"). The mandragora also has its place in anthroposophic medicine. Potentized extracts are used there for rheumatic complaints.

Folk medicine used mandrake

  • Gastric ulcers,
  • Colic,
  • Menstrual pain,
  • Whooping cough,
  • asthma
  • and hay fever.

The plant was also used for a long time as a pain reliever and as a narcotic. Today, mandrake is hardly used anymore in phytotherapy, except - in very rare cases - externally as an envelope or plaster for rheumatic pain or as a decoction for skin diseases.

Plant description

The mandrake is a perennial plant and has its home in the Mediterranean, in frost-free areas. It has a thick root that can be up to 60 centimeters long. This root is often split lengthways, so that its shape is reminiscent of a little man with legs and body. A rosette close to the ground with egg-shaped leaves emerges from the root. These are serrated at the edges and nippled. It prefers sandy soils in the sun and partial shade.

The mandrake blooms in spring. It then shows bluish-violet flowers that spring directly from the rosette. If you take a closer look at the flowers, they are reminiscent of those of the blue gentian, although there is absolutely no relationship here.

Later gold-colored berry fruits develop from the flowers. They look like little apples. This happens when the foliage of the plant has completely disappeared. This is how the apples look like little fall apples. However, these are not so easy to pick up because they have grown stuck in the center of the mandrake with a stem. If the fruits are ripe, they are yellow to yellow-orange and non-toxic. The taste is said to be reminiscent of tomatoes. In order to avoid catching possibly unripe, poisonous fruits, it is generally best not to eat them.

In contrast to Mandragora officinarum, which - as mentioned - blooms in spring, there is the so-called autumn mandrake (Mandragora autumnalis). As the name suggests, it blooms in autumn. The flowering time is the only difference between the two types of mandrake.

The ingredients scopolamine and hyoscyamine in mandrake increase the frequency of the heartbeat, lead to relaxation of smooth muscles, inhibition of secretion and dilation of the pupil. In addition, the scopolamine has a central calming and sleep-reducing effect, which leads to a hallucinogenic effect in higher doses.

In the past, mandrake was used medically as a pain reliever or for anesthesia during operations. Also for the treatment of nervous complaints. Today, with the exception of homeopathy, it is rarely used in medicine or folk medicine. At this point, however, it should be pointed out that homeopathy is an alternative medical treatment method for which there has been no scientific proof of effectiveness.


The dried root of the mandrake serves as the starting material for homeopathic use. In general, it is not a commonly used homeopathic drug. It mainly affects the central nervous system and the vascular muscles. It is also used for diseases of the digestive system, for depression and heart problems, especially if they develop due to flatulence (Roemheld syndrome). Other areas of application are bladder cramps, insomnia, shaking palsy and rheumatism.

The typical "mandrake patient" is frosty, is hypersensitive to smells and noises. He or she does not tolerate fat, sweets or alcohol and likes to relax with the help of nicotine or other drugs. Own wishes are suppressed for fear of rejection.

Mandrake in history

Mandrake is one of the oldest medicinal plants. It is even mentioned in the Bible, in the Old Testament. The ancient Egyptians used them in various recipes. They brewed love potions and used them for sleep disorders and as a pain reliever.

The nightshade family was a cure for infertility and was considered an aphrodisiac. A legend says that the person who digs up the root of the plant is killed by its terrible screams or is driven mad by it. That is why there were various rituals and precautions. For example, the mandrake root should not be taken from the ground by a human, but by a black dog.

Furthermore, the mandragora was a burial object in the pyramids, and mandrake fruits were depicted on the robe of the Tut-Ench-Amun.

The Greek philosopher and natural scientist Theophrast (371-287 BC) reported on the healing effects of mandrake. The leaves of the plant, which are fed with food, should support wound healing and the root (grated and put in vinegar) is the means of choice for gout, insomnia and as a love potion. The Greek doctor Dioskurides (approx. 40-90 AD) described the mandragora as an anesthetic in wound medicine and surgery.

Witch herb and magic plant

Mandrake is one of the most important and legendary magical magic plants. It is often described as "witch herb". Today it is still part of magical rituals in corresponding circles. Among other plants, it was an important ingredient in witch and flight ointments. It was also contained in hallucinogenic witch remedies. Again and again people reported a glow that emanated from the fruits of the plant.

The root served as a lucky charm. Worn around the neck as a talisman, it should bring money, fame and honor to the owner and keep diseases away. Small figures were carved from the roots and dressed as dolls.

Another legend tells that the mandrake root was wrapped in high-quality fabrics and kept in a box lined with silk. If the owner of this little "treasure" died, the son received the amulet, which had to put a piece of bread in his father's coffin for exchange.

Because the mandrake root had something so special and mystical about it, they sold jugglers and charlatans at a high price. Unfortunately, this also gave rise to the trade in "false" mandrake roots, with imitations. A real mandrake addiction spread. Duke Maximilian of Bavaria then issued a ban on digging up mandrake roots in order to practice magic and witchcraft with her.

Poem about mandrake

"The smartest forest spirits are the Little Mandrake,
Long-bearded little man with short legs,
A finger-long elderly family,
You don't really know where they come from. "

(Heinrich Heine)

This poem describes the essence of the Mandragora quite well. The shape of the root resembles a little man. Furthermore, it has the property of only showing the green, wrinkled leaves on the surface of the earth for a short time. The root exudes a sweet narcotic scent and the mandrake fruits have a sulphurous smell.

Mandrake - side effects

It must be pointed out again here that the mandrake is highly toxic. If the root is used in a concentrated form and by an unskilled hand, this can lead to a racing heart, fever, massive nervousness, nausea, nausea, hallucinations and massive diarrhea, up to respiratory paralysis with a fatal outcome.


Mandrake has much more to tell about its existence as a magic witch and magic plant than about its use as a medicinal herb. It is highly toxic and is used almost exclusively diluted in homeopathy today. But here, too, it is only a "small" medium. (sw)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Müller-Ebeling, Claudia; Rätsch, Christian: Magic plant mandrake: The magical mandragora: aphrodisiac - love apple - hangman (nightshade family - an interesting family of plants), Nachtschatten Verlag, 2015
  • Jahn, Angelika: The immortality of artificial humans in literature, (master thesis), Diplomica Verlag GmbH, 2014
  • Madejsky, Margret; Rippe, Olaf: Heilmittel der Sonne, AT Verlag, 2013
  • Chevallier, Andrew: The Great Lexicon of Medicinal Plants, Dorling Kindersley Verlag GmbH, 2017
  • Schmersahl, Peter: Mandrake - medicinal plant and fabulous magic plant. The mandrake in the mirror of fine art, in: Deutsche Apothekerzeitung, 33/2007: 48, August 2007

Video: The Mandrake Root (October 2022).