FunNature & AnimalThey rediscover a 'miraculous plant' that the Egyptians used...

They rediscover a 'miraculous plant' that the Egyptians used to 'cure everything'


‘Resurrecting’ miracle condiments. Silphium was a medicinal plant used by the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians as a curative remedy for all kinds of ailments. It was used both in medicine and for food or even perfumes. It was also used as a powerful aphrodisiac and, according to the texts, had contraceptive qualities.

Traces of this plant had been lost 2,000 years ago, so it had been declared extinct, but it was one of the most valued and sought-after plants in the ancient Mediterranean. Called silphion by the ancient Greeks, the plant features yellow flowers attached to a thick stem that was mashed, roasted, sautéed, and boiled for multiple purposes (in fact, ancient Greek physicians used it for everything from stomachaches to warts) ).


A medicinal plant for everything

There are references to this plant in the Cyrene region of Libya about 2,500 years ago , explained in the 1st century AD. C. by the Roman chronicler Pliny the Elder who described the leaves of the silphium as ” maspetum” , and said that “it bore a considerable resemblance to parsley” . It was used so massively that it occupied an important place in the export economy of ancient Cyrene, a former Greek and later Roman colony near northeastern Libya. In addition, in said work, Pliny the Elder commented that the emperor Nero consumed the last stem of this plant. Historians and botanists alike searched for the plant for hundreds of years, but all efforts failed and they were forced to accept the theory that the plant was voraciously eaten to extinction. However… it might not have disappeared.

A Turkish professor believes that the silphium ( Drudean ferula) that grows on Mount Hasan in Turkey is the elusive ‘miracle’ plant or cure-all of the ancient Greeks and Romans. This Istanbul University researcher found a species of plant in 2021 at three locations in Anatolia, present-day Turkey, that resembled the ancient silphium plant.

The author of the research, which was published in the journal Biological Diversity and Conservation, Mahmut Miski, said that the contemporary species Ferula drudeana matched the description of the ancient plant with yellow flowers and striking appearance.

Although the Drudean cast is hundreds of miles from where it originated, Miski said it has been found in two locations in Turkey, both of which were once home to the ancient Greeks thousands of years ago.

Analyzing the root, Miski determined that it had 30 secondary metabolites within the ferrule that have medicinal purposes , and he hopes further analysis will uncover even more.

There are ancient texts that mention that it was almost impossible to cultivate silphium, forcing the ancients to harvest it only in the wild and, perhaps for this reason, they consumed it to extinction (or so it seemed). There were two attempts to cultivate the plant in Greece, and both failed because it is a very difficult species to transplant.

Miski discovered that the only way to do this was through cold stratification, a process of subjecting seeds to both cold and wet conditions. Using this technique, Miski and his team were able to grow ferula in a greenhouse.

If Miski’s claims are correct, the ancient plant thought to be extinct still survives today. Time will tell if there is a scientific consensus, in this case from the botanical community. But if so, it makes us think about what other species of plants that were thought to be extinct are still alive , hidden in some remote place and that have not yet been identified.

Reference: Sağıroğlu, Mehmet & Duman, Hayri. (2021). Rediscovery of Ferula anatolica and Ferula drudeana (Apiaceae) from Turkey. Biological Diversity and Conservation. 4. 191-197

The potential aphrodisiac effect of Ferula drudeana korovin extracts and isolated sesquiterpene coumarins in male rats. Mohammed H Alqarni, Gamal A Soliman, Mohammed Ayman A. Salkini, Prawez Alam, Hasan S Yusufoglu, Sura Baykan, Bintug Oztürk, Maged S Abdel-Kader. Pharmacognosy Magazine. Year : 2020 | Volume : 16 | Issue : 70 | Page : 404-409 DOI: 10.4103/pm.pm_551_19

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