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Some persons, too, were in the habit of employing mandragora for diseases of the eyes; but more recently the use of it for such a purpose has been abandoned. It is a well-ascertained fact, however, that the root, beaten up with rose oil and wine, is curative of defluxions of the eyes and pains in those organs; and, indeed, the juice of this plant still forms an ingredient in many medicaments for the eyes. Some persons give it the name of "circæon."1 There are two varieties, the white2 mandragora, which is generally thought to be the male plant, and the black,3 which is considered to be the female. It has a leaf narrower than that of the lettuce, a hairy stem, and a double or triple root, black without and white within, soft and fleshy, and nearly a cubit in length.

Both kinds bear a fruit about the size of a hazel-nut, enclosing a seed resembling the pips of a pear in appearance. The name given to the white plant by some persons is "arsen,"4 by others "morion,"5 and by others again, "hippophlomos." The leaves of it are white, while those of the other one6 are broader, and similar to those of garden lapathum7 in appearance. Persons, when about to gather this plant, take every precaution not to have the wind blowing in their face; and, after tracing three circles round it with a sword, turn towards the west and dig it up.8 The juice is extracted both from the fruit and from the stalk, the top being first removed; also from the root, which is punctured for the purpose, or else a decoction is made of it. The filaments, too, of the root are made use of, and it is sometimes cut up into segments and kept in wine.

It is not the mandragora of every country that will yield a juice, but where it does, it is about vintage time that it is collected: it has in all cases a powerful odour, that of the root and fruit the most so. The fruit is gathered when ripe, and dried in the shade; and the juice, when extracted, is left to thicken in the sun. The same is the case, too, with the juice of the root, which is extracted either by pounding it or by boiling it down to one third in red wine. The leaves are best, kept in brine; indeed, when fresh, the juice of them is a baneful poison,9 and these noxious properties are far from being entirely removed, even when they are preserved in brine. The very odour of them is highly oppressive to the head, although there are countries in which the fruit is eaten. Persons ignorant of its properties are apt to be struck dumb by the odour of this plant when in excess, and too strong a dose of the juice is productive of fatal effects.

Administered in doses proportioned to the strength of the patient, this juice has a narcotic effect; a middling dose being one cyathus. It is given, too, for injuries inflicted by serpents, and before incisions or punctures are made in the body, in order to ensure insensibility to the pain.10 Indeed, for this last purpose, with some persons, the odour of it is quite sufficient to induce sleep. The juice is taken also as a substitute for hellebore, in doses of two oboli, in honied wine: hellebore, however, is more efficacious as an emetic, and as an evacuant of black bile.

1 Or "Plant of Circe."

2 Identified by Fée with the Atropa mandragora vernalis of Bertolini, the Spring mandrake.

3 The Atropa mandragora autumnalis of Bertolini, the Autumnal mandrake.

4 The Greek for "male."

5 "Dementing." Fée remarks that the "Morion" in reality is a diferent plant, and queries whether it may not be the Atropa belladonna of linnæus, the Belladonna, or Deadly nightshade, mentioned above in Note 57.

6 The female, or black, mandrake.

7 See B. xx. c. 86.

8 The superstitions with reference to the. Mandrake extended from the earliest times till a very recent period. It was used in philtres, and was supposed to utter piercing cries when taken up; Josephus counsels those whose business it is to do so, to employ a dog for the purpose, if they would avoid dreadful misfortunes. All these notions probably arose from the resemblance which the root bears to the legs and lower part of the human body. See B. xxii. c. 9, where we have queried in a Note whether the Eryngium may not have been the "mandrake," the possession of which was so much coveted by the wives of Jacob.

9 "Pestis est."

10 In the same way that chloroform is now administered.

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