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      In search of traces of the mandrake myth: the historical, and ethnobotanical roots of its vernacular names


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          Mandrake ( Mandragora spp.) is one of the most famous medicinal plant in western cultures since Biblical times and throughout written history. In many cultures, mandrake is related to magic and witchcraft, which is said to have a psychosomatic effect (especially when mandrake contains narcotic compounds) in addition to the pharmacological influence, as occurs with other narcotic magical plants. Due to its unique properties and related myths, it is not surprising that this plant has many names in many languages.


          This paper presents an attempt to reconstruct the historical, ethnobotanical, and folkloristic roots of 292 vernacular names of Mandragora spp. in forty-one languages. We used the plant’s morphological data, philology, myths and legends, medicinal properties and uses, as well as historical evidence and folkloric data, to explain meaning, origin, migration, and history of the plant’s names.


          The names were classified into the following main categories: Derivatives of mandragora (19 languages), alraun (7) and of yabroukh (5). The salient groups of the plant’s vernacular names are related to: Anthropomorphism (33 names in 13 languages); Similarity to other plants (28/9); Supernatural agents (28/9); Narcotic effects (21/8); Leaves, fruits, and seeds (21/8); Aphrodisiac properties (17/10); Use of a dog (15/9); Gallows (14/5); Black magic, sorcery, witchcraft (13/8), and Medicinal use (11/7).


          This frequency distribution of the mandrake’s vernacular names reflects its widespread reputation as related to the doctrine of signatures, beliefs in its supernatural, natural, and mythic powers, and to a lesser extent, its uses in magic and medicine. A spatiotemporal analysis of the mandrake’s names supports the old idea that the pulling ceremonies for this plant originated in the Near East and that various other myths related to this plant may have originated in different places and periods.

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          Ethnopharmacological survey of medicinal herbs in Jordan, the Ajloun Heights region.

          The study of local knowledge about natural resources is becoming increasingly important in defining strategies and actions for conservation of medicinal plants. This study therefore sought to collect information from local population concerning the use of Ajloun Heights region medicinal plants; identify the most important species used; determine the relative importance of the species surveyed and calculate the informant consensus factor (ICF) in relation to medicinal plant use. Data collection relied predominantly on qualitative tools to record the interviewee's personal information and topics related to the medicinal use of specific plants. Our results revealed that 46 plant species grown in the study region are still in use in traditional medicine for the treatment of various diseases. Most of the locals interviewed dealt with well-known safe medicinal plants such as Achillea falcata, Matricaria aurea, Majorana syriaca, Allium sativum and Allium cepa. The use of moderately unsafe or toxic plants was noted to be practiced by practitioners and herbalists rather than the locals. These plants include Ecballium elaterium, Euphorbia hierosolymitana, Mandragora autumnalis and Citrullus colocynthis. Kidney problems scored the highest ICF while Crocus hyemalis was the plant of highest use value. Searching the literature evidenced some concordance with the solicited plant uses mentioned by the informants.
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            Ethnopharmacological survey of herbal remedies used for treatment of various types of cancer and their methods of preparations in the West Bank-Palestine

            Background Plants have been the primary source of medicines since life on earth; more than 50 % of existing cancer treatments are derived from plants. Methods An ethnopharmacological survey of herbal remedies used in cancer treatment was carried out in the West Bank/ Palestine. A questionnaire was distributed to one hundred and fifty herbalists, traditional healers and rural dwellers. Collected information included the names of plants, the used parts, types of cancers for which these plants were used and also their methods of preparation. To identify the most important species used, Factor of informant’s consensus (Fic), Fidelity level (Fl) and the Use-value (UV) were calculated. Results Collected data has shown that 72 plants are utilized for treatment of cancer, belonging to 44 families; from them Compositae and Lamiaceae were the most common. Leaves and fruits were the most commonly used parts, while decoctions, infusions and syrups were the main methods of preparation. Lung cancer was the most common type of cancer treated with these plants and Ephedra alata was the most commonly used plant for treatment of cancer in Palestine. The Fic was high for all the plants; Fl was 100 % for many plants, the highest UV (0.72) was for Ephedra alata. Conclusions This study showed that many herbal remedies are still used by herbalists in Palestine for treatment of cancer; some of them have been approved scientifically while others are not. A combined effort between informants and scientific institutions working in this field can help in the discovery of new anticancer agents. Moreover, scientists must explore the most suitable method of extraction, formulation and dose determination in order to achieve the best benefits from these herbals.
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              European Red List of Vascular Plants.


                Author and article information

                amots.dafni@gmail.com , adafni@research.haifa.ac.il
                bedrettin.aytac@gmail.com , baytac@ankara.edu.tr
                J Ethnobiol Ethnomed
                J Ethnobiol Ethnomed
                Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine
                BioMed Central (London )
                4 December 2021
                4 December 2021
                : 17
                : 68
                [1 ]GRID grid.18098.38, ISNI 0000 0004 1937 0562, Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology and Institute of Evolution, , University of Haifa, ; Haifa, Israel
                [2 ]GRID grid.5841.8, ISNI 0000 0004 1937 0247, GREB-BioC, Botany Laboratory, Faculty of Pharmacy and Food Sciences, , University of Barcelona, ; Av. Joan XXIII S/N, 08028 Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
                [3 ]20128 Mghar, Israel
                [4 ]GRID grid.7144.6, ISNI 0000 0004 0622 2931, Laboratory of Biogeography and Ecology, Department of Geography, , University of the Aegean, ; 81100 Mytilene, Greece
                [5 ]GRID grid.7256.6, ISNI 0000000109409118, Department of Arabic Language and Literature, Faculty of Languages, History and Geography, , Ankara University, ; Ankara, Turkey
                [6 ]GRID grid.9024.f, ISNI 0000 0004 1757 4641, Department of Life Sciences, , Università degli Studi di Siena, ; Siena, Italy
                [7 ]GRID grid.410563.5, ISNI 0000 0004 0621 0092, Faculty of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmacognosy, , Medical University of Sofia, ; Dunav 2 sr., 1000 Sofia, Bulgaria
                [8 ]GRID grid.18098.38, ISNI 0000 0004 1937 0562, Department of Arabic Language and Literature, , University of Haifa, ; Haifa, Israel
                [9 ]GRID grid.18098.38, ISNI 0000 0004 1937 0562, Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, The Ezri Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies, , The University of Haifa, ; Haifa, Israel
                [10 ]GRID grid.7149.b, ISNI 0000 0001 2166 9385, Faculty of Agriculture, Department of Applied Botany, , University of Belgrade, ; Nemanjina 6, 11080 Belgrade, Republic of Serbia
                [11 ]GRID grid.5110.5, ISNI 0000000121539003, Centre for Information Modelling, , University of Graz, ; Graz, Austria
                [12 ]GRID grid.4489.1, ISNI 0000000121678994, Department of Botany, , University of Granada, ; Campus Universitario de Cartuja, 18071 Granada, Spain
                Author information
                © The Author(s) 2021

                Open AccessThis article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

                : 30 May 2021
                : 16 November 2021
                Funded by: FundRef http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/501100005717, University of Haifa;
                Custom metadata
                © The Author(s) 2021

                Health & Social care
                mandragora spp.,plant names,etymology,phytonymy
                Health & Social care
                mandragora spp., plant names, etymology, phytonymy


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