I mentioned in my previous post that there are undoubtedly herbs and animal derivatives that are affective in treating various ills. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of folk remedies that are pure hooey, based in large part on magic. Caraway was used for scorpion stings, stomach troubles, and to keep mischievous spirits away. Now there’s a wonder drug.

In many cases, the shape of the plant or its leaves suggested its use (“correspondence”). Plants with yellow sap were used to treat jaundice. Mandrake root was associated with fertility in the Torah (Leah and Rachel quarrelled over it) because of its shape. Sometimes called “the root that would be a man”, it was reputed to scream when pulled up. Mandrake is actually a natural source of atropine, scopolamine, and hyoscyamine. It could be used as a sedative, but in large doses it’s likely to put you into a coma. What’s the right dose? Who knows?

This sympathetic magic, more specifically correspondence, is a major reason why rhinoceros horn is coveted as a fertility medicine. This, in particular, makes me laugh. Why would anybody believe that rhinoceros horn is good for fertility? It isn’t working for the rhinoceros: they are heading towards extinction.