(ORDO NEWS) — Pliny the Elder claimed that Emperor Nero ate the last stalk of the sylphion, which was thought to have died out almost 2,000 years ago. But now a Turkish professor claims to have found this ancient aphrodisiac and panacea for all ills.
Sylphion (Ferula drudeana) was one of the most valuable and sought after plants in the ancient Mediterranean.
Also known as blue tit and sylphium, the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans obtained a healing gum-resin from this golden-flowering plant, which was used not only in medicines, but also in food and perfumery.
And although the plant was widely used as a powerful aphrodisiac, it also had contraceptive properties.
Sylphion grew in the area of Cyrene in Libya about 2500 years ago, and in his book Natural History, written in the 1st century AD, the Roman chronicler Pliny the Elder described the leaves of sylphion as “maspetum” and said that it “has a significant resemblance to parsley “.
In this work, Pliny says that Emperor Nero ate the last stalk of sylphion, but now Professor Mahmut Miski, a researcher of medicinal plants at Istanbul University in Turkey, claims to have discovered a flowering Ferula drudeana near Mount Hasan in central Turkey.
The enumeration of the uses of this plant in antiquity, today would be “endless”. In ancient times, its stems were crushed and roasted, boiled, the roots were dipped in vinegar and eaten fresh, and when the stems were fed to sheep, “their flesh became deliciously tender.”
A scientific paper examining the aphrodisiac properties of F. drudeana roots concluded that experimental evidence suggests that the plant extract “enhances the sexual behavior of male rats.”
And so powerful was the effect of the plant derivative on sexual desire that this group of scientists said their results “confirm traditional claims about the use of Ferula species for the treatment of male sexual dysfunction.”
According to a scientific article on a recent identification of a lost plant, in addition to its use to increase activity in the bedroom, ancient Greek physicians also used sylphion to relieve stomach pain and to remove warts. In addition, during Roman times, the plant was used to spice up food ranging from the everyday “pot of lentils to the extravagant scalded flamingo dish.”
Emperor Julius Caesar, as is known from historical sources, accumulated 500 kg of this plant, which was part of the imperial treasury of Rome. Ah, sylphion seedlings were valued at the same price as silver.
After the plant disappeared from history, until the Middle Ages, researchers were looking for this valuable commodity. However, from every expedition, the seekers returned empty-handed, and the disappearance of the sylphion is still the first in the history of the disappearance of any kind of plant or animal.
In 1983, Professor Mahmut Miski was walking at the foot of Mount Hassan, an active volcano in the Cappadocia region of central Turkey, when he found Ferula drudeana. But two decades passed before he realized that it could be an ancient sylphion.
Last October, after heavy snow melted at this location in central Turkey, Prof. Mahmut Miski returned to the foothills and found the plant in full bloom.
The mountains, riverbanks, and coasts of the ancient Mediterranean abounded in tens of thousands of colorful and often sensational plant species that were used in food, medicine, and perfume.
If Prof. Mahmut Miska’s claims are correct, then the ancient plant thought to be extinct is still with us, and only its identity has been lost in the last 2,000 years.
Only time will tell if the professor’s claims will be accepted by the botanical community, but if so, it raises the interesting question of what other plant species thought to be extinct are still with us, and just haven’t been identified yet.
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