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Mandragora officinarum - L.

Common Name Mandrake
Family Solanaceae
USDA hardiness 6-9
Known Hazards All parts of the plant are poisonous[19, 21]. Only slightly so according to one report[89]. Not recommended as a herbal medicine [301]. Toxicity signs include: skin reddening, dry mouth, tachycardia, arrhythmias, pupil dilation [301].
Habitats Open woodland, deserted fields and stony places[21, 89].
Range South-eastern Europe.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Mandragora officinarum Mandrake
Mandragora officinarum Mandrake


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Mandragora officinarum is a PERENNIAL growing to 0.1 m (0ft 4in) by 0.3 m (1ft).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 7 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf from March to July, in flower from March to April, and the seeds ripen from July to August. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects. The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid and neutral soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Atropa acaulis Stokes. Atropa mandragora L.


Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit
Edible Uses:

Fruit - raw or cooked. A delicacy[89]. The fruit is about the size of a small apple, with a strong apple-like scent[4]. Caution is advised in the use of this fruit, it is quite possibly poisonous[K].


Medicinal Uses

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Cathartic  Emetic  Hallucinogenic  Narcotic

Mandrake has a long history of medicinal use, though superstition has played a large part in the uses it has been applied to. It is rarely prescribed in modern herbalism[238], though it contains hyoscine which is the standard pre-operative medication given to soothe patients and reduce bronchial secretions[244]. It is also used to treat travel sickness[244]. The fresh or dried root contains highly poisonous alkaloids and is cathartic, strongly emetic, hallucinogenic and narcotic[4, 21, 46, 192, 244]. In sufficient quantities it induces a state of oblivion and was used as an anaesthetic for operations in early surgery[238]. It was much used in the past for its anodyne and soporific properties[4]. In the past, juice from the finely grated root was applied externally to relieve rheumatic pains, ulcers and scrofulous tumours[244]. It was also used internally to treat melancholy, convulsions and mania[244]. When taken internally in large doses, however, it is said to excite delirium and madness[4]. The root should be used with caution, and only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner[21, 238]. See the notes above on toxicity. The leaves are harmless and cooling. They have been used for ointments and other external applications to ulcers etc[4].


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Other Uses

None known

Special Uses


Cultivation details

Prefers a deep humus-rich light soil and a sheltered position in full sun[238]. It also tolerates some shade[200]. Prefers a circumneutral soil[200] and dislikes chalk or gravel[4]. Plants are liable to rot in wet or ill-draining soils[4]. Plants are hardy to about -15°c[187]. The roots are somewhat carrot-shaped and can be up to 1.2 metres long[4]. Plants are intolerant of root disturbance and should be put out into their permanent positions as soon as possible[188]. The root often divides into two and is vaguely suggestive of the human body. In the past it was frequently made into amulets which were believed to bring good fortune, cure sterility etc[244]. There is a superstition that if a person pulls up this root they will be condemned to hell[244]. Therefore in the past people have tied the roots to the bodies of animals and then used these animals in order to pull the roots out of the soil.


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Seed - best sown in a cold frame in the autumn[188]. The seed can also be sown in spring in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Root cuttings in winter[200]. Division. This can be rather difficult since the plants resent root disturbance.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


Links / References

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Readers comment

   Mon Jan 24 04:00:01 2005

Vespid ( etopsid ) is a chemotherapy drug made from the alkaloids of the mandrake plant.

Chris Poirot   Sat Oct 16 13:07:58 2004

In several herbal exibitions and botanical gardens a distinction seems to be made between so called "male" and "female" plants.

Since the plant is apparently hermaphroditic an even self-fertile, what can be the reason (if any) for this distinction?

Ar there varieties or even related species of Mandragra (officinarum) colloquially called "male or "female" Or is all this just another mystification, i.e. not based on any sound taxonomic grounds?

Corwin   Fri Jan 26 2007

In regards to the "male" versus "female" distinction this is in refers to the shape that the roots grow in. The "female" being a forked root with two branches and the single being the male. This is associated with it's ancient proported qualities as an "Aphrodisiac". The female for was carved, in the middle ages, into human forms called manikins and were worn to give good luck. Perhaps the earliest ref to this herb is in Genesis 30:14-17.

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