Female mandrake root, 15th century

Female mandrake root, 15th century

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Credit: KING'S COLLEGE LONDON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Female mandrake root. 15th-century artwork of a female mandrake root. The mandrake (Mancragora officinarum) is a European plant that was widely used for its medicinal and narcotic properties. The root was thought to look like a human figure. According to folklore the plant emitted a piercing shriek when uprooted, killing anyone who heard it. This coloured woodcut is from a 1497 edition of 'Hortus sanitatis' (Garden of Health), printed in the German city of Mainz by Jacob Meydenbach. Also called 'Ortus Sanitatis', this work contains treatises on plants, animals and medicinal treatments, and was first published in 1491.

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