Weed Seeds Prevent Pregnancy

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Wild Carrot Hobby gardeners and nature lovers look forward to seeing this biennial plant with the tender umbels and long, pinnate bracts that resemble fine lace. This gave the plant one of its Using marijuana during pregnancy may cause harm to your baby and increase the risk of premature birth. It may also affect fertility before pregnancy. Learn about the effects of marijuana and, if, seek help to quit. PHARMACOLOGY After they have sex, some of the Appalachian women of Virginia and North Carolina take a teaspoonful of seeds from the common weed called Queen Anne’s lace, crush them, stir them

Wild Carrot

Hobby gardeners and nature lovers look forward to seeing this biennial plant with the tender umbels and long, pinnate bracts that resemble fine lace. This gave the plant one of its names, Queen Anne’s Lace: according to legend, Queen Anne of Great Britain (1665-1714) pricked her finger and blood dripped onto the white lace collar she was sewing at the time.

In the 1970s, the wild carrot could be found in nearly every meadow. As a result of overfertilization and excessive mowing, the frequency of its appearance has been greatly reduced, and the plant has completely disappeared from some areas. Once considered a noxious weed, the wild carrot is currently being planted for decorative reasons. For many insects, the wild carrot represents an important food source, because it blooms for several weeks in the summer and provides an abundance of pollen and nectar.

The roots are edible, but woody and hard when mature. In the spring, the young leaves can be used for salads. Because of its high sugar content, the root was used by some cultures to sweeten puddings and other dishes.

The wild carrot closely resembles the poison hemlock, and physical contact can cause phytophotodermatitis or contact dermatitis in individuals with allergies.

Its seeds are used for medical purposes. When the plant’s brown and dry, the stem’s cut several centimetres below the flower head, which are then rubbed together until the seeds fall out. They’re rinsed in water, dried, and stored in an airtight container.

The plant contains a number of pharmacological agents that are ascribed the following effects, among many others: analgesic, antiarthritic, antidepressant, antipsychotic, antischizophrenic, antidotal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anticonvulsant, antidiabetic, antiestrogen, antihistamine, antioxidant, antiseptic, anticonvulsant, antiepileptic, anxiolytic, antistress, anti-PMS, anti-hangover, antiviral, anticancerous, expectorant, fungistatic, immunostimulating, as an MAO inhibitor, sedative, tranquilizing, aphrodisiac and stimulation of pituitary gland.

When used as a contraceptive, the seeds are ground or brewed as a tea and taken for several days when having unprotected sex. When larger doses are taken as a contraceptive after having sex, they are assumed to prevent a pregnancy. In contrast to the morning-after pill, these seeds don’t block fertilisation of the egg, rather they prevent the fertilised egg from attaching to the uterus wall.

John M. Riddle, Eve’s Herbs: A History of Contraception and Abortion in the West, 1997

John M. Riddle, Contraception and Abortion from the Ancient World to the Renaissance, 1992

Helga Dietrich and Birgitt Hellmann, Vom Nimbaum bis zur Pille, 2006

Marijuana and pregnancy

No amount of marijuana has been proven safe to use during pregnancy.

Using marijuana during pregnancy may cause problems for your baby, like premature birth, problems with brain development and stillbirth.

It’s not safe to use marijuana to treat morning sickness. Talk to your health care provider about treatments that are safer for your baby.

If you use marijuana, don’t breastfeed. You may pass chemicals from marijuana to your baby through breast milk.

Talk to your provider if you need help to quit using marijuana or any other street drug.

What is marijuana?

Marijuana (also called pot, weed and cannabis) is a drug that comes from the dried leaves, flowers, stems and seeds of the cannabis plant. Marijuana is the most commonly used street drug during pregnancy.

Marijuana has more than 500 chemicals, including tetrahydrocannabinol (also called THC). This chemical can affect how your brain works and make it hard to think clearly. THC and other chemicals in marijuana may change your sense of sight, sound and touch.

Using marijuana during pregnancy may cause problems for your baby before and after birth.

What is medical marijuana?

Medical marijuana (also called medicinal marijuana) is sometimes used to treat certain health conditions, like cancer or severe pain. In many states, medical marijuana is legal to use with a recommendation from your health care provider. It can be smoked, vaped or eaten. The Food and Drug Administration (also called FDA) has not approved marijuana as a safe and effective medicine for any health condition.

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In some states, marijuana is legal for personal use that’s not for medical reasons.

Even if it’s legal where you live for either personal or medical use, no amount of marijuana is safe to use marijuana during pregnancy, even to treat morning sickness. There is also no safe way to use marijuana. If you’re thinking of using marijuana to help with morning sickness, talk to your provider about other treatments that are less harmful to your baby.

Is it harmful to use marijuana before pregnancy?

Yes. Before pregnancy, using marijuana can affect your fertility and make it hard for you to get pregnant. Marijuana can affect:

  • Hormones that your body needs to get pregnant. Hormones are chemicals made by the body.
  • Your menstrual cycle. This is the process of your ovaries releasing an egg every month.
  • A man’s sperm count (the number of sperm he makes). A man’s sperm fertilizes a woman’s egg to begin a pregnancy.

Can using marijuana during pregnancy cause problems for your baby?

Yes. When you use marijuana during pregnancy, THC and other chemicals can pass through the placenta to your baby. The placenta grows in your uterus (womb) and supplies your baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord. Chemicals from marijuana also may pass to your baby’s brain.

Researchers are continuing to study the effects of marijuana use during pregnancy. Women who use marijuana may smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol or use other street drugs, making it hard to know exactly how marijuana affects pregnancy. Some studies suggest that if you use marijuana during pregnancy, your baby may have problems, including:

    . This is birth that happens too early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Fetal growth restriction (also called growth-restricted, small for gestational age and small for date) and low birthweight. Fetal growth restriction is when a baby doesn’t gain the weight she should before birth. Low birthweight is when a baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces. Your baby also may have short body length or small head size.
  • Anencephaly. This is one of the most severe neural tube defects (also called NTDs). NTDs are birth defects in the neural tube, the part of a developing baby that becomes the brain and spine. Babies with this condition are missing major parts of the brain, skull and scalp. Most do not survive long after birth, usually for just a few hours. Babies exposed to marijuana during the first month of pregnancy are at increased risk of having anencephaly. . This is when your baby doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body.
  • Problems with brain development. . This is when a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

If you use marijuana during pregnancy, your baby can have problems after birth and may need to spend time in the neonatal intensive care unit (also called NICU). A NICU is the nursey in a hospital where sick newborns get care. These problems include:

  • Withdrawal symptoms, like tremors (shakes), seizures, vomiting, slow weight gain or long periods of crying after birth. These symptoms usually go away within the first two weeks after birth.
  • Problems with sleeping.
  • Problems with behavior, memory, learning, problem-solving, depression and paying attention.

How does using marijuana affect breastfeeding?

If you breastfeed your baby and smoke marijuana, you may pass THC and other chemicals to your baby through the breast milk. Than can make your baby more likely to have problems with brain development. Marijuana also may affect the amount and quality of breast milk you make. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that breastfeeding moms stay away from marijuana to help keep breast milk safe and healthy.

Can using marijuana harm your general health?

Yes. The more marijuana you use, the more likely you are to have problems, including:

  • Very fast heart rate
  • Lung problems, including bronchitis and chronic cough (like a smoker’s cough)
  • Trouble paying attention or thinking clearly
  • Memory problems
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Clumsiness and poor coordination and balance
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How can you get help to quit using marijuana?

Talk to your health care provider. He can help you get treatment to quit. Or contact:

PHARMACOLOGY

After they have sex, some of the Appalachian women of Virginia and North Carolina take a teaspoonful of seeds from the common weed called Queen Anne’s lace, crush them, stir them into a glass of water and drink the gritty preparation. They say it keeps them from getting pregnant.

As it happens, the same plant grows in rural parts of India’s Rajasthan state and peasant women there chew and swallow the seeds dry. They, too, rely on it as a form of contraception.

Though a world apart today, women in both regions possess knowledge that can be traced back at least 2,500 years — to ancient Greek physicians, including Hippocrates, who prescribed seeds of Queen Anne’s lace as both a contraceptive and as an herbal “morning-after pill.”

In fact, according to John M. Riddle, a historian of medicine at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, who unearthed the tradition, evidence is accumulating not only that the venerable methods do work in animal tests but that the knowledge, use and social acceptance of effective, plant-derived birth control drugs was widespread in the ancient world. Riddle recently published his findings in a book, “Contraception and Abortion from the Ancient World to the Renaissance.”

According to Riddle, herbal birth control created much of the wealth of the Greek city-state of Cyrene on the coast of what is now Libya. Cyrenians collected and exported the sap of a plant that the Greeks called silphion and the Romans silphium. An image of the plant even appears on 5th century B.C. Cyrenian coins.

The Roman naturalist, Pliny the Elder, mentions that silphion cost more than its weight in silver and Hippocrates recorded failed efforts to cultivate the plant in Syria and Greece. So well known was silphion that Aristophanes discusses its cost in one of his plays.

Why was the plant so valued? According to the ancient physician Soranus, “Cyreniac juice,” as he called it, when taken by mouth, would prevent conception or induce an abortion, whichever was needed.

Harvested to Extinction

By the 4th century A.D., however, silphium died out, apparently harvested to extinction. Women seeking an alternative turned to silphion’s close relatives in the giant-fennel family, including asafoetida, a key ingredient in today’s Worcestershire sauce. Though said to be less effective than silphium, asafoetida was cheaper and widely prescribed in the ancient world.

Riddle said ancient documents name many other plants used to regulate fertility. Among the more prominent are pennyroyal, rue, willow, date palm, pomegranate, members of the genus Artemisia (such as wormwood) and myrrh. Such concoctions have usually been dismissed by modern medical experts as ineffectual. But tests on laboratory animals in recent years have proved otherwise.

Although silphium can never be tested scientifically, experiments using crude extracts of asafoetida show that it does something. In rats, for example, it inhibited implantation of fertilized ova at rates up to 50 percent. Extracts of asafoetida’s close relatives were nearly 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy when given within three days of mating.

According to Norman R. Farnsworth, a pharmacologist at the University of Illinois-Chicago who has collected the evidence for years, experiments on animals show that some 450 plant species worldwide contain natural substances that prevent ovulation, block fertilization, stop implantation or reduce fertility in some other way.

Many plants contain estrogen-like compounds that alter the subtle balance of hormones needed for conception and maintenance of pregnancy. Some have substances that simply make the fallopian tube transport the egg so fast that it enters the uterus before it can be fertilized, and dies because it cannot survive there in that state. One plant, Farnsworth said, simply inhibits an enzyme that the sperm must release to penetrate the egg.

Birth Control by Food

Even foods in an ordinary diet can have contraceptive effects, Farnsworth found — peas, for example. The clue emerged from the fact that in the history of Tibet the population has been stable for periods of up to 200 years. During those times Tibetans subsisted largely on barley and peas. When mice were fed a diet of 20 percent peas, litter sizes dropped in half. At 30 percent peas, the mice failed to reproduce at all.

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Because natural birth control chemicals exist in so many plants, it is not unreasonable that ancient peoples would have discovered them, Riddle suggested.

He also proposed that the widespread use of these substances would explain periods in ancient history when the population remained stable or even declined. During the first five centuries A.D., for example, historians estimate that the population of Europe fell from 32.8 million to 27.5 million — in the absence of major wars or epidemics.

The population declines have usually been attributed to infanticide, but there is little documentary evidence of the practice. Instead, Riddle cites evidence from the late J. Lawrence Angel, an anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution, that the number of births per woman declined. Childbirth can produce scarring or pitting on the woman’s pelvis as the ligaments tear. Angel’s case is controversial, but when he examined skeletons from ancient cemeteries, he concluded from the scarring that women were having fewer children than needed to maintain the population. Less controversial was Angel’s finding that the lifespan of adults was increasing at the same time.

“Women in those days had a lot more control over their reproductive lives than we used to think,” Riddle said. “They had access to things that really worked.”

Farnsworth agrees. “It’s obvious,” he said. “They were having sex at least as much as at any other time and they didn’t have condoms. But you don’t see all these fair maidens getting pregnant every year.”

Why, then, did the knowledge fade away?

Riddle cites two factors. One was the change of medicine from something that virtually anyone could practice to the special province of men with formal training. Since the use of herbal birth control agents was probably in the hands of women, it remained outside the canon of male-administered medicine, passed on by word of mouth and used mainly by those without access to the costlier professional physicians.

A more brutal form of suppression arose during the Middle Ages, Riddle believes: Women who possessed the secrets of fertility control were burned as witches.

“You look at the things witches were accused of,” Riddle said. “Most of them have to do with fertility. They’re accused of causing sterility, babies born dead, causing impotence, miscarriages.” He suspects the “witches” were midwives who dispensed the ancient wisdom. He cites a statement repeated during the Inquisition: “The devil works through herbs.”

Though much of the wisdom of the ancients must have been lost, some clearly survived, as the women of Appalachia and Rajasthan can testify.

Among the hundreds of plants cited in ancient medical and herbal texts as useful for birth control are many that really do work, according to modern tests on animals. Some prevent conception and some abort an early pregnancy. The tests also show that some can be toxic. Among the best documented are those shown here.

* Coin from 6th to 5th century B.C. Cyrene depicting the silphium plant, which was renowned in Greece and Rome as an effective contraceptive. It was harvested to extinction by the 4th century A.D.

* ARTEMESIA or wormwood, was used in Roman times for birth control. Animal studies show it delays ovulation and prevents implantation of the early embryo. It also has toxic side effects.

* QUEEN ANNE’S LACE a member of the wild carrot family, grows in much of the world. To this day women as far apart as India and Appalachia swallow its crushed seeds as a “morning after” concoction.

* PENNYROYAL widely used in ancient times as a tea, contains pulegone, which causes abortion in humans and animals. In 1978 a Colorado woman trying to end her pregnancy died after taking pennyroyal oil (a more concentrated form of the active ingredient).

SOURCES: John M. Riddle, American Numismatic Society, Royal Horticultureal Society

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