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Posted on November 4, 2013 by Luisa Fazio

If you are in a cemetery, or in the ruins of an abandoned city, and you seem to see a shadow, it won’t be a ghost. It’s a careful and enterprising seeker of a special and unusual plant, a more “virtuous” and portentous talisman known for over 3000 years. It’s the Mandrake! (Mandragora officinarum L. belonging to the Solanaceae family, a close relative to the potato, it grows throughout the Mediterranean basin and it seems that prefers humid places, dark and gloomy spaces). It’s a very, very capricious plant in need of a lot of attention. In all ancient traditions, for its eradication difficult, it shall be used of numerous rituals through which ensures that the plant will certainly be cared for, treated well and respected. It has to be fed twice a day with milk and cookies, bread and meat. A sort of vegetable man! In case of negligence, we earmuffs and protect our ears! The demon that dwells in the plant will emit a cry of despair, “a cry that will be fatal to those who will listen!”(cited in Harry Potter and the chamber of Secrets – herbology lesson of the students on mandrakes replantation). It’s a multi-faceted herb.

The Mandrake has sedative, anesthetic, soporific virtues. It’s a panacea thanks to its content of alkaloids. But be careful, it can become dangerous! If you exceed the doses, the alkaloids contained in the plant, are transformed from drugs to poison causing nausea, dizziness, hallucinations, delusions up to be lethal. It has also magical powers and it is said that Joan of Arc had a habit of carrying a mandrake in the breast hoping to get through this means good luck, for being wealthy and protection against enemies. But above all it is appreciated and sought, since the Middle Ages, for its aphrodisiac qualities attributed to his mischievous form (a special bifurcation of the root that resembles the human figure, both male and female). For its root-looking anthropomorphic that imitates the human body, the mandrake plant is considered the erotic vegetable for excellence that brings love, marriage and fertility (for its erotic properties, in the sixteenth century, the mandrake inspired Niccolò Machiavelli. He drew the subject for comedy of the same name – Callimaco, thanks to a decoction of mandrake, he manages to win the love of reluctant Lucrezia). Once upon a time, the root of mandrake was naturally hanging on the head of the bed of young married, the best gift and the best guaranteed. Today, why not ensuring longer-lasting marriages with a beautiful bouquet of purple flowers? A mandrake for the bride?