What is mandrake and its dangerous properties

Let's find out what mandrake is, what its properties are, the effects on the body and how to recognize it

What is mandrake and what are its dangerous properties? A lot of curiosity arose around this particular herb after some residues were found inside a package of spinach that forced a family from Milan to hospital. It responds to the scientific name of Mandragora officinarum and belongs to the Solanaceae family. Known since ancient times, it is known above all for its toxic and hallucinogenic properties, but also for the rather curious shape of the root.

In Italy it is also called mandragola (mandragora autumnalis) and grows spontaneously in the fields, where it can be easily confused with other edible plants, such as borage and spinach. It belongs to the family of dicotyledon angiosperms, for this reason it blooms in autumn, showing some flowers of a soft blue color and an oval shape. Its fruits, on the other hand, are yellow and have the appearance of fleshy berries. To characterize the mandrake is above all the root, which has a forked and anthropomorphic shape. This detail, together with its hallucinogenic properties, has made the herb the protagonist of many legends. According to tradition it would be the favorite plant of witches, who used it to prepare particular potions and during esoteric rites.

What makes the mandrake poisonous? This herb is rich in alkaloids which make it very similar to nightshade. Like the latter, it is not edible and has hallucinogenic properties. Root toxicity has devastating effects on the human body. It can in fact lead to coma and, in severe cases, even to death. The symptoms are vomiting, convulsions, high blood pressure, tachycardia and gastrointestinal pain, but also hallucinations and amnesia. In the past, many writers have spoken of the mandrake. Among these Macchiavelli, but also J. K. Rowling who very often mentioned this herb in the novel "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets", in which it was used to prepare particular magic potions.

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