08. The various types of manna

The term manna indicates some substances deriving from the secretions of different plants, which have in common with the manna of the ash trees, containing mannite, only the appearance and the denomination.
There biblical manna it is identified by some scholars with the thalli of Lecanora esculenta and L. affinis, two lichens with the consistency of small pinkish-greyish truffles, varying in size from the thickness of a pea to that of a walnut. Other scholars believe, however, that it is the secretion caused by the bite of insects on some plants such as Anabasis articulata, Haloxylon schweinfurthii, Tamarix marmifera and some species of Artemisia.
For centuries the term was of exclusive use of the Jews. Only in the first century. A.D. Dioscorides Pedanius in De Materia Medica uses it to indicate the grains or powder of incense and with this meaning it was used by the Greeks and Romans, until with the affirmation of the Christian religion it returned to use to indicate the manna of the Jews. Only in the 9th century, during the period of full affirmation of Arab culture, did the word "manna" reappear in the work of Jahia ben Masiàh, better known in the West as Giovanni Mesue. It is certain that the Arabs acquired its use during the conquest of Persia, a region in which various mannees were known, which they spread among all the peoples placed under their dominion.
During the medieval period the market for various types of manna fueled a flourishing trade, and from Persia it was exported both to the East towards India and to the West. This rich market was maintained until the manna extracted from the ash trees was established. To date we have news of the following types of manna:

  • Brianson's manna or laricina manna: it is a sugary exudate containing melezitose that was collected in the French and Italian Alps on larch plants (Larix decidua). It comes in rounded grains and has laxative properties.
  • Lemon verbena: it is taken from Cedrus libani and is still used in Syria.
  • Manna of Alhagi: it is the manna that the authors of the Middle Ages who knew it as terenjabin or tarandjabine most dealt with. It is the only manna in tears that is still used today in Middle Eastern countries. Produced from the plants of Alhagi maurorum (Photo 3), it is one of the main laxatives and purgatives of the Persian materia medica, usually used dissolved in water or in an infusion of cassia. This type of manna is normally dry and is collected by shaking the plant on a cloth to easily retrieve the concrete and dried tears.
  • Astragalus windfall: it is extracted from some species of the genus Astragalus.
  • Manna del Sinai or tamariscina: it is obtained from the young branches of Tamarix marmifera (Photo 4) later on to the stings of a cochineal (Coccus manniferus. When it comes out, in the hot hours of August, it has the consistency of a thick and transparent syrup that thickens as it cools..
  • Manna of the Caucasus or oak: exudes from: Quercus vallonea; it is rich in mucilage and glucose and contains to a lesser extent starch, tannins and chlorophyll.
  • Willow windfall: it is extracted from different species of willows. It has a starchy-sugary consistency and is collected in brownish, warty pieces of variable size from a pea to a hazelnut.
  • Manna of alkania: it is obtained from Hedysarum alkhago, an indigenous plant of Arabia and the Aegean, used as nourishment by Arab caravans. Manna cystina or ladanifera: it was produced in Greece by some species of cista.
  • Manna d olive or eleomele: it is produced by the young olive branches, damaged during the ripening of the olives, or by the cutting of the older branches.

Finally, manna from Madagascar and manna from Australia are of different origins, sugary substances originating from insect bites, parasites of some Combretaceae and of diverif species of eucalyptus such as Eucalyptus resinifera and E. dumosa.