Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

The fragrance of Biblical Mandrake

Abstract

Mandrake (Mandragora officinaruim), nearly forgotten today, is one of the most famous plants known to humanity. For thousands of years, this plant was revered by many cultures, which ascribed to it mysterious and demonic qualities. Mandrake is mentioned in the Bible (Gen. 30:14-16) and its Biblical use is generally attributed to its supposed fertility power. A detailed study of Pentateuch text and the various commentaries allowed us to re-evaluate the role of mandrake in Biblical events. Sufficient evidence was found to conclude that the appearance of this plant on the Biblical scene is not due, as was commonly believed, to alleged magic power of its root, but to the unique fragrance furnished by the fruits of mandrake. It seems that the Scripture clearly connects the fragrance of mandrake with sexuality, which is the only known account of direct link between odor and human sexual response. Fifty-five principle odoriferous constituents were identified in rather bizarre chemical composition of mandrake aroma. It will be of assistance for a suggested scientific study of potential aphrodisiac effect of mandrake fragrance.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Literature Cited

  1. Anonymous. 1987. Torath Chaim (The Law of Life), Pentateuch, Mossad Harav Kook, Jerusalem.

  2. Emboden, W. A. 1979. Bizarre plants. Magical, monstrous, mythical. McMillan Publishing Co. Inc., New York.

  3. Feinbrun-Dothan, N. 1978. Flora Palaestina. Vol. 3. Israel Academy of Science and Humanities, Jerusalem.

  4. Fleisher, A., and Z. Fleisher. 1988. Identification of biblical hyssop and origin of the traditional use of oregano-group herbs in the mediterranean region. Economic Botany 42:232–241.

  5. Fleisher, Z., and A. Fleisher. 1992. The odoriferous principles of mandrake,Mandragora officinarum L. Aromatic plants of the Holy Land and the Sinai. Part IX. Journal of Essential Oil Research 4:187- 188.

  6. Folkard, R. 1884. Plant lore, legends and lyrics. Sampson Low, Marstone, Searle and Rivington, London.

  7. Gerrard, J. 1633. The herball or general historie of plantes. London.

  8. Grover, N. 1965. Man and plants against pain. Economic Botany 19:99–112.

  9. Harris, J. R. 1917. The origin of cult of Aphrodite. John Rylands Library; Manchester, England, Bulletin vol. 3:354–381.

  10. Kaplan, A. 1981. The living Torah. Maznaim Publishing Corporation, New York/Jerusalem.

  11. Maimonides, M. 1956. The guide for the perplexed. [about 1190] Dover Publishing, Inc., New York.

  12. Moldenke, H. N., and A. L. Moldenke. 1952. Plants of the Bible. Ronald Press Co., New York.

  13. Ramban. 1971. Commentary to the Torah. Genesis. [about 1260] Shilo Publishing House, Inc., New York.

  14. Shauli, M.C. 1989. Marpe ha-bosem (Fragrant Healing) community Spiritual Center and the Synagogue “Shauli,” Ashdod, Israel.

  15. Stark, A. T. 1917. Der Alraun. J. H. Furst Company. Baltimore.

  16. Thompson, C. J. 1934. The mystic mandrake. Rider & Co., London.

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Alexander Fleisher.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Fleisher, A., Fleisher, Z. The fragrance of Biblical Mandrake. Econ Bot 48, 243–251 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02862323

Download citation

Key Words

  • Mandrake
  • Mandragora officinarum
  • Biblical flora
  • fragrance
  • aphrodisiac effect