Silphium – Herbal Birth Control Plant of the Ancients



The world is going through a great revival.  People are finally waking up to the fact that most of our prescriptions are more dangerous than the diseases they are meant to treat.  Notice the key word, treat, in the last sentence.  Modern medicine isn’t interested in curing anything, only treating it.  Offering people a cure doesn’t generate the same revenue stream as a treatment plan; some which are already situated to last for an entire lifetime.  Due to the lack of real help from the medical community, we’re seeing a shift back to the old ways.  A shift back to when a healer provided people with natural herbal mixtures that were meant to alleviate problems and without horrendous side-effects.  A shift to when the needs of the patient came before the almighty dollar.

As the shift to more natural, organic, and earth-based methods of healthcare increases, things that were lost to the annals of time are once again being sought out.  Across the world, healers, herbalists, and holistic practitioners continue to search the ancient records for any knowledge or growing information relating to ancient herbs and plants which were purported to actually help people.  One of the top subjects in which many couples search for alternative methods is birth control.  The contraceptives available today are effective, but require either a daily commitment or an invasive injection or implant.  In some cases a woman is unable to physically handle the high doses of hormones and may experience numerous complications.

If we look back into the history of humanity, we can learn about many different types of birth control used; some were effective while others didn’t fare so well.  The ancient Greek’s had a few methods that really didn’t work such as inserting ground pomegranate, or juniper berries, or any of a number of herbs into their vagina to reduce the chances of pregnancy.  Some very ancient cultures used mixtures of animal excrement in a similar fashion.  Ancient Chinese concubines would drink heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, and lead to basically make themselves sterile, but the cost was heavy in life-expectancy.  Yet of all the options, there was one plant that was effective, so much that the ancients overused it into extinction.  It was known as as Silphium (also known as laserwort.)   History tells us that it was a type of giant parsley or fennel plant, originally cultivated for its resin, which had multiple uses.  Our ancestors used that resin as a food additive, a perfume, a topical ointment, as medication for several ailments, and as an effective form of birth control and in larger doses as an abortifacient.  Sadly, what was known about the plant has mostly been lost; only it’s reputation remains.  It’s no longer found anywhere on earth and much of the data has been lost.

Although there were no scientific studies done on the effectiveness of silphium, we do know that it was widely used in Rome and there was an abnormally low birth rate for a city of that size.  Women would juice and then drink an extract made from the plant’s heart-shaped seeds once each month to regulate their menstrual cycle, plus they would soak pieces of wool with plant juice and use them like a pessary, prior to intercourse.    From records, we believe the plant went extinct sometime around the 1sdt or 2nd century AD.  We also know that silphium was cultivated in North Africa, mainly in Cyrene.  The plant was so important to the economy of Cyrene that it was pictured their money.   Roman farmers attempted to cultivate the plant in other areas, but were unsuccessful.  If we compare all herbal contraceptives, silphium appears to be the most effective one known to humankind.

Early historical records first mention silphium around the year 630 BCE, when Greek colonists, escaping drought and overpopulation, “discovered” it along the Cyrene coastline.  It was very abundant and quickly became one of the most sought-after herbs known to the ancient world for the aforementioned reasons.  It was said that silphium would remedy just about anything.  The list included symptoms of the common cold, snake bites, epilepsy, excessive coughing, stomach ailments, sore throat, corns and bunions, and even as a treatment for leprosy and wart removal.   The entire plant was utilized in different ways resulting in zero waste.  It’s easy to understand why the particular strain that was so effective was over-cultivated into extinction.

Although the highly potent strain of silphium is extinct, many historians have attributed the seeds of the plant to be the origin of the modern day symbol love love and romance.  In addition to all the other qualities it possessed, silphium was also consider an aphrodisiac and more.  The seed pods are a double teardrop heart-shape and since it was so closely associated with lovemaking, could be the considered strong evidence for making the case.  There are pictures of the seed on different coins from Cyrene to support the heart shaped theory.




Additional Herbal Medicine Topics

Motherwort – An Amazing Herb for Women

Purslane – Edible Green Disguised as a Weed

Comfrey – Healing at Home for 2000 Years


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