So I think this is a cool time to make a thread about the history of the search for effective birth control throughout the ages. Was this a universal endeavor for every society? Feel free to post some great sources. I have a few from ancient Rome. For some reason placing some deer hide with spider worms on a woman was seen as effective according to Pliny the elder.
Also smearing honey in a chick's vag by Soranus .
I think the idea was to create somehow close the entrance of the uterus itself by constriction of tissue (in the case of Soranus) or a type of spermicide. I can imagine a lot of women getting massive yeast infections or even UTI's instead though....
The ancient Greeks had Silphium, which was a plant that induced abortions at a pretty reliable rate. It basically was the staple product of the Cyrene colony in Libya, and the demand was high enough that they over-harvested it not only to extinction, but their poor farming practices caused massive desertification in the area.
It's hard to say, as the records of it's use are largely reliant on Pliny's accounts on the matter. Given it's similarities to other extant plants we think it might be related to, it either worked by inducing premature menstruation, or it was simply cytotoxic and thus would simply kill the rapidly-dividing fetal cells. So really it would depend on how late in the pregnancy it was used when it comes to immediate health risks. The former mechanism probably would probably have similar risks as the pill today does if it was estrogen-based.
Also fun tidbit: the origin of the heart may have originated not only as a fertility symbol for it's resemblance to the female buttocks, but also might have been in the shape of the Silphium seeds or fruit.
The latter "tidbit" is quite undeserving considering it resulted in killing an unwanted baby...
Yeah they say it was an estrogen like plant like parsley so perhaps it did work like birth control. I should look up if there any gynecologists' recommendation against eating large amounts of certain plants or parsley when pregnant like mercury in fish.