This original root, being quite difficult to obtain due to various local, regional, and international laws is also often substituted within magical practice by the North American variety, Podophyllum peltatum. This substitution does result in some controversy however. The root can be traced back to the Old Testament, where there are accounts of it being used in practices intended to aid fertility. Indeed, the fact that the Hebrew word for mandrake means love plant. Among some Asian cultures, it is also believed to help ensure that conception occurs. Among western legends, it has also long been held that when mandrake is dug up it lets out a scream so terrible that it kills everyone who hears it. Elaborate methods of pulling the root from the earth were therefore devised, with the famous chronicler Josephus even writing of methods involving using a dog to pluck mandrake from the earth so as to keep the man harvesting it from dying. Mandrake has also long been the source of mystical speculation, with some viewing it as the primordial origin of man, while others have repeatedly written of it as being a key component in the creation of a Homunculus; a creation spoken of in alchemy and other arcane arts that creates something akin to an artificial human. Folklore also held that mandrake only grew where a hung man had dripped semen to the ground, and that mandrake has potent powers that aid in fending off and protecting against demonic possession.
It is important to note that all parts of the mandrake plant are poisonous. Some herbalist traditions hold that the Mandrake root has hallucinogenic properties and can, in large doses, induce madness and delirium. Contrary perhaps to this common wisdom, some have also claimed that mandrake can be useful as a purgative.