Natural Contraception in the Ancient World?
December 7, 2006 5:09 PM   Subscribe

Silphium was the wonder plant of the ancient world. Originally identified by Greek colonists in North Africa, the plant - a species of Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) - grew only in a dimunitive area near the coast and could not be cultivated. Silphium was popular as a spice for cooking, but its notoriety stems from its alleged medicinal qualities, particularly its use as an herbal contraceptive (the "I love you" heart symbol may have originated from the shape of silphium's seed pods and its use in sex). So valuable was Silphium that it became an important component of the ancient world's economy and appears on coins. It's also among the first species recorded (by Pliny the Elder) as going extinct, probably by grazing sheep or uncontrolled harvesting. Or is it?
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot (21 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is a great post!
posted by caddis at 5:44 PM on December 7, 2006


Silphion was later called silphium or laserwort, and its juice was called laser, and everybody wanted some.

I want some laser juice!
posted by furtive at 5:52 PM on December 7, 2006


This is a great post! Thank you!
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:06 PM on December 7, 2006


furtive wants some laser juice
posted by revgeorge at 6:13 PM on December 7, 2006


The horticulturalist in me needs to say - very well done, indeed.
posted by vers at 6:54 PM on December 7, 2006


Fabulous post!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:14 PM on December 7, 2006


Great post! This is utterly fascinating stuff!
posted by bunglin jones at 7:54 PM on December 7, 2006


Very cool to read about, thanks.
posted by teece at 8:00 PM on December 7, 2006


Good post, yah!
posted by parki at 8:00 PM on December 7, 2006


FennelFilter.
Awesome FennelFilter, that is! Thanks!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:03 PM on December 7, 2006


Completely fascinating and completly unknown to me, thanks so much for putting this together!
posted by mediareport at 8:48 PM on December 7, 2006


Well done, thanks.
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:10 PM on December 7, 2006


To me, the obvious source for the heart shape is a yoni with the labia held open.
posted by ottereroticist at 10:38 PM on December 7, 2006


Excellent post on two or three points - thanks!
posted by darkstar at 11:33 PM on December 7, 2006


A little more on the heart symbol and silphium here.
posted by darkstar at 11:39 PM on December 7, 2006


It sounds good, but "deadly poisonous to Camels" is a deal-breaker for me.

[Don't forget to flag this post as fantastico!]
posted by pracowity at 2:36 AM on December 8, 2006 [1 favorite]


Cracking post.

Oddly, herbs with an influence on the insides of women are following me at the moment - artist Christine Borland's new show has a fascinating work concerned with ecbolic plants, an annotated 16th Century herbal, and a never-planted physic garden.
posted by jack_mo at 3:10 AM on December 8, 2006


great post, very interesting!
posted by rubyeyo at 5:04 AM on December 8, 2006



A little more on the heart symbol and silphium here.


Why link to the add-filled ask.com mirror of the Wikipedia page?
posted by delmoi at 6:18 AM on December 8, 2006


well done
posted by Mick at 6:27 AM on December 8, 2006


OOps...sorry, delmoi. Linked to the wrong tab! Thanks for the redirect.
posted by darkstar at 7:40 AM on December 11, 2006


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