Special article: mandragora: anesthetic of the ancients

Anesth Analg. 2012 Dec;115(6):1437-41. doi: 10.1213/ANE.0b013e318259ee4d. Epub 2012 May 14.


Initial attempts at surgical anesthesia began many centuries ago, with the plants of antiquity. The mandragora, or mandrake, was used as a sedative and to induce pain relief for surgical procedures. It has been depicted in tablets and friezes since the 16th century before the common era (BCE) and used for its sedative effects by Hannibal (second century BCE) against his enemies. The Romans used the mandrake for surgery. The Arabs translated the scientific work of the Ancients and expanded on their knowledge. They developed the Spongia Somnifera, which contained the juice of the mandrake plant. After the fall of the Islamic cities of Europe to the Christians, scientific work was translated into Latin and the Spongia Somnifera was used in Europe until the discovery of the use of ether for surgical anesthesia.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesiology / history*
  • Arabs
  • General Surgery / history
  • Herbal Medicine / history
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, Ancient
  • History, Medieval
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Mandragora*
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plant Roots / chemistry


  • Hypnotics and Sedatives