The great attention paid to Mandragora throughout history and in different parts of the world, has stimulated research into the etymology of its name, according to the different cultures from which was used.
For some, the name of the plant stems from the deformation of the expression mano di drago (ie hand of the dragon), referring in this case at the appearance of the root that sometimes can actually remember the paw and claws of a dragon, and the surface of the leaves, characterized to be fleshy pads similar to the skin of a reptile.
Since its first appearance in the X book of Homer’s Odyssey (is given by the god Hermes to Odysseus as a talisman of protection against the spells of Circe), the herb moly was celebrated several times by the Greek and Latin authors, and influenced the imagination of many medieval authors.
According to some scholars the name of the plant would derive from the Sanskrit mandros, “sleep” and agora, “substance” or Mandara, “paradise.” Other commentators argue for Sumerian origin, by nam-tar, “plant of the god of punishment”, or medieval German, from mann-dragen, “figure of a man,” or Persian, from mardumgià, “grass man”. Dioscorides in De Materia Medica, calls antimelon, archinen and Morion, while in Latin is Mandragoras. Claudius Aelian, in De Natura Animalium, calls cynospastos, “eradicated by a dog,” and says that shines at night, also calls aglaophotis, “shining”, a term used later by Pliny the Elder in Naturalis Historia.
Other scholars maintain that it comes from greek and means “dangerous for the cows.”
The Jews call it dudaim, from dum, love.
Known by the Arabs as “Satan’s apple” in the past has always been the subject of strange superstitions both that in southern Europe and in the Levant.
In any case, because of its unusual shape, many scholars argue that over time Mandragora had charming and funny epithets such as: Anthropòmorphon, Semi-Homo, Devil’s apple, or even old bearded or old lady.
Columella described it as “half human” and the Arabs called it the “apple of the Djinn”, that are little spirits.
Even the founder of the modern medicine, Hippocrates, was fascinated and asserts that its name is derived from Persian (mehregiah).
In Asia, in folk medicine in India, the mandrake is known as Lakshmana, “which has signs lucky.”
In France, the mandrake was known as main de gloire, “hand of glory,” or mandragloire, perhaps by the union of the words mandrake and Magloire, that is the name of a elf of French folklore, personified as a mandrake root worked.
From all this we can deduce that is a plant that in addition to all its properties esoteric, magic and healing, also has the power to bewitch men in the complicated task of finding the origin of its name: in fact, it kidnaps with its mystical charm.