Lettuce Uncovered as Sexual Stimulant
- A little end of the month humor for you all... this is totally ridiculous! -pbLettuce Uncovered as Sexual Stimulant
June 28, 2005 Lettuce was the Viagra of ancient Egyptians, according to an Italian researcher who claims to have solved a century-old archaeological puzzle.
Known for its mild sedative and painkilling effects since Greek and Roman times, lettuce owes its Latin name, lactuca, to lac (milk) the bitter white sap or latex produced by the plants which is mentioned in many ancient treatises.
As early as 430 BC, Greek physician Hippocrates described the opium-like effects of the sap.
And according to Dioscorides Pedanios, a Greek naturalist and military surgeon to the armies of the Roman emperor Nero in the first century AD, lettuce would drive out libidinous images of dreams.
Pliny the Elder, in the second century AD, also wrote about lettuce's ability to dampen sexual desire. He wrote in his "Natural History" that lettuce is "sleep-inducing, can cool sexual appetite as well as a feverish body, purge the stomach, and increase the volume of blood."
Yet Egyptian bas reliefs put a different spin on the use of lettuce: the plant appears as an offering to the ancient Egyptian deity Min.
Invariably depicted with a large, erect penis, Min was the god of fertility and sexuality. For more than a century, archaeologists have wondered why a vegetable used to calm dreams was associated with the exuberant Min.
To solve the riddle, ethnobotanist Giorgio Samorini, editor of the journal Eleusis of the Civic Museum in Rovereto, Italy, first identified the type of lettuce represented in the ancient Egyptian bas reliefs.
"I came to the conclusion that it was a wild lettuce, known as Lactuca serriola," Samorini told the Italian daily Il Corriere della Sera.
A dandelion-like weed, the bitter-leaved Lactuca serriola from the sunflower family Asteraceae is the progenitor of cultivated lettuce, usually called Lactuca sativa.
"The two species should really be only one since there is no good reason to separate the cultivated from the wild. They can easily interbreed and there are no major genetic differences between them," biologist Richard Kesseli of the University of Massachusetts at Boston told Discovery News.
First cultivated by the ancient Egyptians, Lactuca serriola can be found throughout Europe, Asia, and North Africa, Canada and the United States in the wild, but also on roadsides and along walls.
Yet it is not easy to recognize it as a lettuce. 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," said Samorini.
"This finally solves an ethnobotanical riddle and explains the association between Min and lettuce, " he said.
Typical tropane alkaloids are atropine, hyoscyamine, scopolamine and cocaine. According to Samorini, tropane alkaloids present in Lactuca serriola can be also found in plants of the nightshade family, such as the legendary mandrake, long reputed for its magic and aphrodisiac powers.
Further tests on the pharmaceutical properties of lettuce are needed to evaluate Samorini's claims. The results are intriguing, said Kesseli, but he has doubts.
"Given that lettuce is the most consumed vegetable in America (on hamburgers) and that no one has ever said that Americans are exceptional lovers, I would think that this would be reasonable proof that lettuce might not be too potent," Kesseli told Discovery News.Warmest Regards,
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