What is Mandrake Root?

Overview

Mandrake root, which is also known as Atropa mandragora and "Satan's Apple," is a brown, large root that originates in Southern Europe (around the Mediterranean region). It is similar to a parsnip and was cultivated in 1652 in the United Kingdom. It is part of the nightshade family. Although the mandrake root is native to Southern Europe, it can be grown in gardens in the United States, under warm-weather conditions.

Characteristics

The mandrake root is large and brown, and goes between three and four feet deep in the ground (with groups of two or three branches, and sometimes singularly). The root's crown has vast, deep green leaves that initially are erect, but when are fully grown, spread out and lie over the ground. The flowers of the mandrake root are each on their own foot stalks and are between three and four inches in height. They resemble primroses in terms of size and shape. It also bears a round and smooth fruit that is approximately the size of a small apple. The fruit is a vibrant yellow color upon ripening, and possesses a strong and pleasant scent that is similar to apple.

Medicinal Uses

Mandrake root has various medicinal uses. Its leaves have cooling properties, and are often used for external, topical application. They are often used as an ingredient in ointments. Their leaves can be boiled in milk, and serve as a poultice to help soothe ulcers.

Witchcraft and Magic

The mandrake root has a strong connection with witchcraft and magic. According to folklore, when the mandrake root is dug up from the ground, it makes a screaming sound, and everyone who hears it dies. The root has been a common ingredient in many magic spells starting in ancient times up to the Middle Ages. It has had many mentions in literature, including works by Shakespeare, Machiavelli, Ezra Pound, John Steinbeck and Samuel Beckett.

Fertility

The book of Genesis in the Bible suggests that the mandrake root can function as an aid to fertility for women trying to get pregnant. Chapter 30 depicts Rachel, who, attempting to conceive a child, soon becomes pregnant after receiving mandrake roots from Jacob.

Cultivation

These roots can be propagated by seeds. When mandrake roots appear during the spring, it is vital to keep them well-watered all throughout the summer. They must be maintained properly and weeds should be eliminated from them frequently. Deep and light soil is preferable for mandrake roots.

Keywords: mandrake root, satan's apple, mandragora

About this Author

Isabel Prontes is a freelance writer and traveler residing in Manhattan, NY. She has traveled to five continents and counting. Her work has appeared on a number of websites, such as Travels, eHow.com and "Happy Living Magazine." Prontes has a professional background in public relations; she received a bachelor's degree in communication studies from Pace University.