Saturday, July 02, 2005

Aphrodisiac Lettuce
Giorgio Samorini has suggested that the lettuce depicted so frequently in ancient Egyptian depcitions is the wild lettuce Lactuca serriola. Lettuce in Ancient Egypt was part of the dietary intake and frequently shown among the offerings for the deceased. It was also considered to be an aphrodisiac. "The ancient Egyptians used lettuce as an aphrodisiac, according to an Italian researcher who claims to have solved a century-old archaeological puzzle . . . . The plant has oblong, prickly-edged, leaves with a milky sap that runs when broken off . . . . Samorini tested the phytochemicals present in the latex, or lactucarium, with a series of experiments, and discovered that lettuce has a double, opposite effect, depending on the dose. 'Tests showed that 1 gram of lactucarius induces calming and pain killing effects because of the presence of lactucin and lactucopicrin. At the highest doses [2 to 3 grams], the stimulating effects of tropane alkaloids prevail,' says Samorini. This finally solves an ethnobotanical riddle and explains the association between Min and lettuce." See the article for more.


Notseri said...

Very interesting Andie. A few years ago I did a research project for one of my classes. I used a concentrated infusion L. verosa to test the effects of lactucarium on mice. My data never showed any kind of aphrodisiac reaction though. Just lethargy, low attention, and other characteristics of a narcotic. I could be wrong but I do believe that the Egyptians used the seed of the L. serriola for aphrodisiac purposes. They would collect the seeds then press them and drink the oil for the aphrodisiac.

Andie said...

Fascinating. I wouldn't be surprised. It has also been suggested that the mandrake, which turns up in New Kingdom tombs and in tomb paintings, was also narcotic and was used in festivals and celebrations.
Thanks very much for posting this - I will bear it in mind. I have been doing quite a bit of research into agriculture and end-products, and I have included medicines as well as secondary products and foodstuffs in this - I will bear in mind that narcotics are also a possible product.