Leaves, fresh juice, root of mandrake.
Mandrake has been used medicinally for a long period of time. Contemporary practitioners of herbal medicine hardly prescribe mandrake. However, this plant encloses a substance known as hyoscine that is the usual medication given in pre-operative stage with a view to provide comfort to the patients as well as lessen the bronchial secretions. In addition, this herb is also given to cure travel sickness. The roots of mandrake, whether dehydrated or fresh, enclose extremely poisonous alkaloids and are known to be narcotic and cause hallucination. When taken in large quantities, it brings about a condition of unconsciousness and in the early days of surgery it was used as an anesthesia prior to operations. In the earlier days, this herb was extensively used for its anodyne (sedative) and soporific (sleep inducing) attributes. In addition, in the past, people applied the juice extracted from the finely shredded roots topically to alleviate rheumatic pains. This herb was also used internally to cure depression, spasms as well as obsession. However, when this herb is taken in excessive amounts internally, it is known to cause hallucination and insanity. While the roots of satan's apple are extremely poisonous, the leaves are somewhat safe and cooling. As a result, the leaves of this plant have been used as an ingredient in several ointments that are meant for external application. The Dutch botanist and physician Herman Boerhaave boiled the leaves of satan's apple in milk and used the solution as a poultice to treat sluggish ulcers. The freshly obtained root of mandrake works as a very potent emetic (a medication that causes vomiting) and purgative. The dehydrated bark of the plant's root was also given to patients as a forceful emetic. In the ancient times, people extensively used the herb mandrake. They mainly used the herb to obtain rest and sleep when suffering from persistent pain. In addition, they also used the herb to treat depression, spasms, scrofulous tumour (a cushion-like swelling in any organ) as well as rheumatic pains. The ancient people primarily used the bark of the plant's roots. They either extracted the juice of the root bark or infused the root in water or wine. They grated the root finely and made it into a pulp which was mixed with brandy to prepare a herbal medication that was said to be highly effective in treating chronic rheumatism. According to available documents, the satan's apple was also used during the period of the Roman author, naturalist and natural philosopher Gaius Plinius Secundus, popularly known as Pliny the Elder, in the form of an anesthetic for surgery. In this case, the physicians gave a piece of the root to the patient to chew before undergoing the surgery. The ancients also used the herb in small doses to treat maniacal problems. In present day homeopathy, a tincture prepared from the fresh plant is still in use for treating a number of health conditions. The Anglo-Saxons believed that the herbal medications prepared with mandrake and periwinkle possessed inexplicable powers and used them to cure people who were said to be possessed by evil spirits. It is interesting to note that the mandrake root was surrounded by several bizarre superstitions. The root of the plant was once used as a talisman and placed on the mantelpiece with a view to keep away from misfortunes and also usher in affluence and bliss to the house. In effect, some times roots of bryony (an old world vine belonging to the genus Bryonia) were also cut into intricate forms and sold off as mandrake. Sometimes, the bryony vines were also grown on moulds with a view to give their roots the desired fancy shapes. Interestingly enough, during the reign of Henry VIII, attractive little images made from the bryony roots, resembling the figure of a man with millet grains inserted into their faces to make their eyes were sold for high prices. Such images were known as mammettes or puppettes and were said to be endorsed with miraculous powers. It has also been learnt that the Italian ladies were so fascinated by these images made from artificial mandrake that they purchased them paying as much as thirty golden ducats for each. It needs to be mentioned that the ancient writers had several references regarding the mandrake or satan's apple. Since the prehistoric days, people in the East have an impression that the mandrake plant would obliterate sterility.
Indigenous to the Himalayas, south-Eastern Europe, Jordan and Israel, mandrake usually grows on inferior, light and sandy soils. Generally, satan's apple or mandrake is propagated by its seeds that are sown on a bed of sparse earth immediately after they mature. The seeds are more certain to germinate when they are sowed soon after they ripen, rather than waiting to sow them in the spring. As the seedlings of satan's apple emerge in the spring, it is important to maintain them properly by watering the young plants all through the summer and keep them free from invasion by weeds. The seedlings or young plants ought to be picked up very cautiously one at a time during the end of August and transplanted in their permanent position. It is important that the soil where the young plants are transplanted ought to be sparse and deep, since the roots of the plant run far under the ground. In case there is excessive watering and the plants are extremely wet, they are most likely to decompose in winter. Similarly, if the plants are transplanted in an area near to chalk or gravel, they would grow very sluggishly. The plants will grow best when planted in rich soil that is left undisturbed. In such places, the mandrake plants develop into a large size within just a few years and produce large quantities of fruits and flowers.
Chemical analysis of the roots of the mandrake has shown that it encloses substances like atropine, tropane alkaloids, mandragorine and apoatropine. The dehydrated roots of the plant encloses around 0.2 per cent to 0.6 per cent alkaloids. It may be noted that tropane alkaloid belladonnie is only present in the dried roots of satan's apple.