The mandrake, a perennial plant, grows on fields and on stony places in Southern Europe. It is a member of the family of the nightshades, to which Atropa, Datura and Hyoscyamus also belong. The mandrake is one of the famous witch and magical plants of the medieval ages and various myths tell of it.
Use: What is used is the decoction of the grinded root. 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon is an effective dose which is still safe. The mandrake was also a component of witch ointments that were made by boiling different plants in pork lard. The mandrake was and also still is consumed in the form of wine: For that purpose around 30 grams of ground mandrake is soaked for about a month in 3/4 liter of wine (also: retsina). It is not advised to drink more from the obtained wine than 50 up to 100 ml.
Active constituents: Scopolamine, hyoscyamine, the opium-like acting mandragorine and other alkaloids.
Effects: Hallucinations, followed by death-like trance and sleep. The narcotic effect is here more pronounced than in Atropa because of the content of mandragorine and the high amount of scopolamine compared to other alkaloids. Sexual disinhibitation under semi-narcotic conditions occurs. Small doses cause a sleep-like state of trance with lucid dreams.
Side effects: Nightshade-alkaloids are not predictable, in terms of their effects on a person. Dosages that are well tolerated by one person, can lead to serious poisoning in another. Very common side- and aftereffects of nightshade-drugs are: nausea, unpleasantly increased sense of touch, decreased visual acuity due to the widening of the pupils, dryness of the mouth. The evident increase of the heartbeat can lead to serious problems in patients with already damaged heart (narrowing of the coronary arteries, angina pectoris, heart attack). Such people should strictly avoid the poisons of nightshades. In cases of repeated use within short time intervals, low, normally harmless amounts can already lead to a fully developed intoxication.
In the middle ages herbalists claimed that the continuous use of mandrake, deadly nightshade, henbane und thorn apple leads to imbecility. But due to the serious side effects the habitual use of these plants is very unlikely. Compare the effects and side effects to those in the sections about Atropa belladonna, Datura stramonium and Hyoscyamus niger.
Suppliers: Can be found in Southern Europe, growing in the wild, occasionally available in ethnobotanical nurseries.