Herbal Medicine: For Witches or for Real?

Does herbal medicine really work? Can someone find a cure in the heart of a plant? The answer is not so simple. Herbal medicine actually existed from ancient times, in China, India, and Greece. The ‘doctors’ of that era used methods and tools, followed scientific trial and error, and found plants worth a place in their secret chest of potions and lotions. Indeed, some of them are tested today as plant cures and really have the power to treat illnesses. But many of them had only the power of folklore and belong in the realm of superstition.

Hippocrates was raised on the island of Kos and studied in the Asklepion. He wrote the Hippocratic Corpus as a collection of texts that are associated with him as the 'Father of Western Medicine', with herbal recipes, remedies, and treatments. We still use some of these recipes today in herbal medicine and are they scientifically proven by modern research. For example, he introduced people to poisonous plants, but highlighted also the therapeutic power they have. Some of them are used as strong anesthetic sand to treat pain, like opioids such as poppy and mandrake.

Plants have many poisonous compounds such as alkaloids, glycosides, and saponins. Depending on the amount these can be have poisonous, hallucinogenic, or anesthetic power. Recreative drugs like marijuana, ‘magic’ mushrooms like amanita muscaria, mandrake, and other plants in specific amounts and with certain means of consumption can have these effects.

Mandrake or Satan’s apple or love apple or dragon doll is found in Southern Europe and Asia. The Old Testament illustrates the mandrake with love: “Jacob came out of the field in the evening and Leah went out to meet him and said, you must sleep with me, for I have certainly paid your hire with my son’s mandrakes. So he slept with her that night” (Genesis 30:16). In Hebrew mandrake or love plant refers to aphrodisiac qualities. In Arabic the fruit’s name means genies’ eggs. Mandrake was placed under the bed to bring conception, and to attract love and luck. The anthropomorphic root could house the witch’s familiar or be baptized in a person’s name to work magic on them for benefit or bane.

Medically mandrake treated pain, rheumatism, and foul ulcers and was a general anesthetic. The dangerous side is that it could cause madness or death. Also, it is widely used as a hallucinogenic and narcotic despite the dangers.

* The above is not medical advice but mere suggestions for improving your diet. Before reach herbal use you should consult your doctor, especially those who have health issues, are pregnant or are under the age of 6.

 Evropi-Sofia Dalampira is an Agriculturist-MSc Botany-Biology and PhD Candidate in Agricultural-Environmental Education and Science Communication.


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