Love life like yourself ?!?!?

November 1, 2009, 3:46 pm
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Aside from its uses in Greco-Roman cooking (as in recipes by Apicius), many medical uses were ascribed to the plant. It was said that it could be used to treat cough, sore throat, fever, indigestion, aches and pains, warts, and all kinds of maladies. Chief among its medical uses, according to Pliny the Elder, was its role as a herbal contraceptive. Given that many species in the parsley family have estrogenic properties, and some (such as wild carrot) have been found to work as an abortifacient, it is quite possible that the plant was pharmacologically active in the prevention or termination of pregnancy. Legend said that it was a gift from the god Apollo. It was used widely by most ancient Mediterranean cultures; the Romans considered it “worth its weight in silver.”


There has been some speculation about the connection between silphium and the traditional heart shape (). The symbol is remarkably similar to the Egyptian “heart soul” (ib).The sexual nature of that concept, combined with the widespread use of silphium in ancient Egypt for birth control, and the fact that the seeds of silphium are shaped like a heart as shown in the left illustration, leads to speculation that the character for ib may have been derived from the shape of the silphium seed


Ancient silver coin from Cyrene depicting a seed/fruit of Silphium

The reason for silphium’s extinction is not entirely known. The plant grew along a narrow coastal area, about 125 by 35 miles, in Cyrenaica (in present-day Libya). Much of the speculation about the cause of its extinction rests on a sudden demand for animals that grazed on the plant, for some supposed effect on the quality of the meat. Overgrazing combined with overharvesting may have led to its extinction. The climate of the maghreb has been drying over the millennia, and desertification may also have been a factor. Another theory is that when Roman provincial governors took over power from Greek colonists, they over-farmed silphium and rendered the soil unable to yield the type that was said to be of such medicinal value. Theophrastus reports that the type of ferula specifically referred to as “silphium” was odd in that it only grew in the wild, but could not be successfully grown as a crop in tilled soil. The validity of this report is questionable, however, as Theophrastus was merely passing on a report from another source. Pliny reported that the last known stalk of silphium was given to the Emperor Nero “as a curiosity”

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