Mandrake (Mandragora Officinarum), a stemless plant, with lanceolate leaves, concealing beneath them several pale violet-colored flowers, and having a large, forked, fleshy, perennial root. It grows spontaneously in the south of Europe. The plant belongs to the natural order solanacew, which comprises many poisonous species. Its large root is often divided into two or three forks, causing it to be likened to the shape of the human body, a circumstance which in old time gave it the reputation of being endowed with animal feelings; and there are fabulous stories of its uttering shrieks when torn from the earth. The works of the early herbalists have curious accounts of the supposed virtues of this plant, of which they distinguished male and female varieties. According to Josephus, the collecting of mandrake was no easy matter; after the earth had been well dug from around the root a dog was tied to it, and when the animal tried to follow its master, its struggles pulled up the root; tin-dog died immediately, a fate which would have befallen the man had he pulled it. Sibthorp (Flora Gra'ca, London, 1806-40) says that the young Greeks wear small pieces of the root about them to serve as love charms; and among the ancients it was held in high repute for philters.
The qualities of the mandrake are acro-nareotic, purgative, and aphrodisiac. According to Lindley, Dr. T. H. Silvester has shown that the root was formerly used in the same way as chloroform and other anaesthetic agents now are. The mandrake of the Old Testament (Gen. xxx. and Canticles vii.) was thought, according to some commentatorfiLto have the power of removing barrenness. - The American mandrake, also called May apple, is podophyllum petatum, a plant belonging to a very different family, and now largely employed in medicine. (See Podophyllum).