mandrake plant

Mandrake - from Harry Potter to the Bible: this plant is real and has insane properties

Ever wonder if anything in Harry Potter is actually real? Well actually...yes! Most of the spells are derived from Latin. And the plants, in particular - the Mandrake (or Mandragora, as Hermione makes sure we know) come straight from tales of ancient lore - and - the bible!?

As King James tells us, Rachel, childless but loved more than her sister Leah, who snuck into a second marriage with her husband Jacob (their father’s doing) offers a night with jacob in exchange for the coveted Mandrake plant, famous for its ability to induce fertility even in the barren.

So what are these tales of the plant…

Again, Harry Potter gets it right. Lore tells us the screams of a Mandrake plant, when uprooted, are nearly always fatal. That is, unless you employ this "one weird trick" and oh yes, it is weird.

Legend says you need to tie you're dog to the Mandrake root. Stuff your ears with cotton or wax. Oh yeah, and make sure the dog is hungry. Finally, place a delicious morsel of food just out of reach. That way the tied dog will uproot the plant when it goes to get the food. 

As an unfortunate consequence, your dog will die.

The uprooted plant will scream and make its ears bleed.

But apparently that's worth it for the insane properties of this plant. And while this isn't exactly true - their screams won't kill us - science shows that, in fact, there are tiny indiscernible screams that emanate from the plant, only audible to certain species of insects. Not exactly fatal. Also, this is true of most plants. Even grass screams when we cut it. That "cut grass" smell we love so much is actually the grass warning other grass about danger.

So what is the plant actually used for? 

In the bible, the plant supposedly enables Rachel to give birth to her first son (Joseph). In Harry Potter, it "unpetrifies" people.

In real life, the plant is used to induce sleep, kill pain, and many other things.

And its magical uses - well, that's a whole 'nother story

A powerful love potion, a good luck charm, granting the power to control the destinies of others. It is also listed as one of the ingredients in flying ointment, which was sometimes applied to broom handles and topically to induce the sensation of flying (possibly why we think witches fly on brooms - read more here!)

Mandrake had so many uses, in fact, that you could buy a fake version - carved roots of the Bryony plant - on the black market.

The plant still exists, though it is an endangered species, and it is not commonly used as it can be highly toxic when consumed even in small quantites.


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