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The fragrance of Biblical Mandrake

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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.

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Fleisher, A., Fleisher, Z. The fragrance of Biblical Mandrake. Econ Bot 48, 243–251 (1994).

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