MANDRAKE FROM ANTIQUITY TO HARRY POTTER

M. Van den Berg, M. Dircksen

Abstract


After an introductory paragraph which supplies a cursory overview of all the ancient sources on mandrake, a well known and popular drug amongst the ancients, the article provides a systemization of information obtained from the three most significant ancient accounts of the mandrake plant. Dioscorides’ Greek text contains the more precise account and is supplemented by the Latin works of Cornelius Celsus and Pliny the Elder. These authors give detailed information on the plant’s physical appearance, the methods employed to harvest it, instructions on how to administer it, the dosages prescribed, the effects of overdosing, its toxicity and its soporific, anesthetic and other (alleged or real) medicinal properties. The second part of the article highlights some literary references to mandrake in sources as diverse as the Bible, a Shakespearean play and Rowling’s recent best selling Harry Potter series. Finally a description of mandrake in modern pharmacological terms leads to some conclusions regarding its actual medicinal and homeopathic usefulness.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7445/53-0-41

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ISSN 2079-2883 (online); ISSN 0303-1896 (print)

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