Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mandrakes, Mallots, Malts: Natural Anesthetics?

Okay, I am writing two separate posts at the same time. Do you realize how brain fogging that is? ;) It's like listening to a bunch of Irishmen after they downed 20 Guinness, while eating snapper candy. It just shouldn't be done. ;)

Just for fun, I want to state here a few of my favorite questions:

Why are most politicians evil? Because in the job description it says, "several years of experience in evil-doing, lying, cheating, and stealing required for employment in this position". ;)

Why are evil dark overlords politicians in training? Because everyone has to have retirement plans. See required politician experiences.

What do storm troopers wear under their uniforms? Smiley face boxers and t-shirts that say "I love carebears." It's totally obvious. (image taken from http://www.shutterpoint.com/Photos-ViewPhoto.cfm?id=184251)

But the question of the day is:

What are some natural anesthetics?
This was the great inquiry made by a wonderful blog follower that I decided to write this post in response to. (I'm biased: I love my blog followers.)

So let's start with a little medical history. Okay, I think I just lost half of my viewers with the "history" comment.

Historical Natural Anesthetics:

Now, I am not an expert on the natural ways of numbing, so I grabbed my knapsack, couple of bottles of generic filtered tap water that I was charged a buck a piece for, and went on an epic journey to research natural pain killers. [First, I looked at historical analgesics. You know, there is something to be said about some wives' tales: just not the ones that told knights that they needed to be sewn into their armor for good luck. Funny, but so wrong on so many levels.]

Anyway, after that search, I discovered many things. One, Harry Potter was right: people did actually believe that mandrake plants killed you with their screams. (Please enjoy this refresher video of Mandrakes. Mandrake - Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secerets).

And two, our ancestor's were whacked out of their gord.

I am not kidding, this is the first time that I can honestly say, "what the heck were our ancestors were thinking?!"

Seriously, I wonder how any of them survived long enough to create the next generation.

Most of the "numbing methods" they applied centered around doping themselves up enough hallucinogens to ride magic carpets (now, we know why they have those freaky fairy tales), hitting each other in the head with massive hammers, downing keggers of beer, and eating plants that are lethal.

Well, that explains a lot of historical events.

Hitler being voted in. Definitely a bunch of people on natural pain drugs. The voter cards looked blurry under the flying spots and fairies. They mistook Hitler for "hit here." (Actually, "hier" in German, but eh, details, details.)

The Third Crusade. It was all in the mead. Who else but drunks would head into the hottest, nastiest area of the world wearing heavy armor and start a war?

Atlantis. They took the Bugs Bunny approach to numbing methods and beat each over the head with mallots, then became lunatics thinking they could take over the world. Why else did God send their island into the ocean?

Easter Island. Self-explanatory. The entire population ate their weight in lethal mandrakes.

At any rate, the ancient methods for pain reduction were in fact:

1. Halluciongenics such as opium, and cocaine
2. Alcohol (largely whiskey and wine)
3. Striking the patient in the head (either by placing a helmet over the person's head and hitting them with a mallot or by giving them a good punch to the jaw. They lost a couple teeth, but hey, they were unconscious during surgery).
4. Mandrakes (a potentially lethal plant from the nightshade family)

Well, we can't knock them for trying. In all honesty, we pretty much use the a few of the same things for pain relief.

The analgesics Lortab and Vicodin are semi-synthetic derivatives of the opioid family. (Codeine and thebaine are two of the naturally occurring opiates used in the creation of these drugs.)

And come on, I know there are a few of you out there that wanted to deck that guy that was screaming in pain. (Please see reasons why not to go into medicine).

Anyway, let's discuss mandrakes (Mandragora officinarum). These are members of the nightshade plant family (Solanaceae) and genus Mandragora. [Included in the nightshade family are potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant.]

The genus Mandragora, on the other hand, realistically should be included in the hallucinogens category, but I want to give them their own attention.

The mandrake contains alkaloids such as scopolamine, atropine, and hyoscyamine. These are potentially deadly substances. So it wasn't the screaming that killed them, it was the alkaloids.

Atropine is used as a treatment for organophosphate poisoning (pesticides) and used to resuscitate patients with severe bradycardia. (For more information see: http://www.cvpharmacology.com/antiarrhy/atropine.htm and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atropine).

Not only are the Mandragora potentially deadly, they actually promote inflammation and pain. They produce a number of alkaloid chemicals that can range from irritating to lethal.

So why am I telling you this? What is this historical lesson good for?

One, our ancestors were a bunch of neanderthals when it came to medicine. But... although crude, the doping, drinking, and clobbering approaches, were actually affective.

Two, mandrakes, instead of being used for pain relief, can be used to treat organophosphate poisoning which is a life-threatening condition.

Three, for chronic pain or headache suffers, avoiding the nightshade family altogether (tomatoes, potatoes [especially the green and sprouted spots on potatoes], sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, tomatillos, tamarios, pepinos, pimentos, and paprika), actually does help lessen chronic pain symptoms. (For more information please see http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=62. and see also, http://naturalmedicine.suite101.com/article.cfm/nightshades)

Lastly, I am still looking for natural anesthetics that are safe and available for disaster medicine kits. Sorry. I wish I could have found something more helpful. Apparently, the best things that we can store up are the prescription analgesics and local anesthetics.

So far, I have been unable to find any natural ones that have been scientifically proven to be safe and to actually work. For the sake of my viewers, I will keep looking.



  1. Hmmm, my DH has headaches all the time and most of his favorite dishes include some form of tomato or potato!

    Your conclusion brings another question...can the "storing up" of the RX stuff be done safely, or legally? I figure not, at least not for us non-professionals.

  2. Certain Rx can be stored without problem, such as erythromycin. But other drugs, such as tetracyclines are not safe to store for more than a few months after their expiration date.

    The problems with storing Rx arise from the insurance companies or from pharmacies that refuse to allow people to acquire more than one month's supply of their prescriptions.

    Also, even medical professionals have to have a good reason for storing certain Rx, but usually those are narcotic-type drugs.

    The legality of storing normal non-narcotic Rx is something that I will have to research more.

  3. Thanks Christine! I realy love your blog and I love the fact that you pay such close attention to readers' questions and comments!

  4. For pain relief for such things as headaches, body aches, etc, I have frequently used willow bark tea. Same thing as taking an aspirin.
    Wounds are where it gets a bit tricky. Topical *numbing stuff* is a little harder to find and process for use. Teas won't do, a poultice will.
    You might nose around at :
    and look for the right plant material.
    More than 100 plants are known to have pain-relieving properties, but some are really outstanding. Reporting on herbal painkillers for arthritis, a review of clinical trials in the Clinical Journal of Pain says devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens), capsaicin from hot chiles (Capsicum spp.), gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) from seed oils, and certain blended herbal extracts are especially good. Other studies indicate broader pain-relieving benefits from these as well as two traditional favorites, white willow (Salix spp.) and peppermint (Mentha piperita).(that last bit from http://www.herbcompanion.com/health/the-best-herbs-for-pain-relief.aspx

  5. Thank you, Melinda and Lamb, for your wonderful comments!

    Lamb, thank you for the information and links. They are very appreciated. :)

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  7. Regarding local anesthetics (numbing stuff):
    - I haven't read about how to make novacaine, and other local anesthetics, but researching that is one avenue.
    - Another is honey bee bites. Apparently they secrete an anesthetic chemical into their mandibles when they bite called 2-h (I can only remember the short notation).
    - Cocaine.
    - Orajel and other over-the-counter anesthetics for toothaches. Never tired it, don't know how strong/effective they are.