How did women protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy in antiquity?
Once, back in Soviet times (it seems, during the first teleconference “USSR – USA”), one too zealous party activist declared publicly from a Moscow television studio to the whole world that there was no sex in the USSR. We then laughed at her TVs in unison, twisted our fingers at the temple and sympathized with the poor woman, who, apparently, multiplied by budding.
Unlike this party lady, at all times all over the world people have had sex. And not always this pleasure was without consequences. It’s so programmed by nature that “you love to ride – love and carry a sleigh.”
But, as one song says, “they tear the sweet berry together – I am the only bitter berry.” Therefore, for the most part, it was women who should have taken some kind of action aimed at protecting against an unwanted pregnancy.
In 1889, in the north of Egypt in Kahun, an ancient papyrus was found, whose age is approximately 4000 years. Here was a recipe for a very effective ( also ancient) contraceptive: you had to protect the vagina with a resin, a mixture of honey and sodium carbonate or a paste made from crocodile dung mixed with sour milk.
Another Egyptian document, the Ebers papyrus (c. 1525 BC), describes the use of tampons from a mixture of finely chopped acacia leaves with honey and cinnamon.
Antique Egyptians also used sea sponges soaked in vinegar as tampons.
In the 4th century BC Aristotle suggested that women lubricate the vagina with cedar oil, lead ointment or frankincense moistened with olive oil.
Aristotle and Hippocrates recommended that women use urine douching to remove sperm from the vagina.
Ancient Roman doctors Dioscorides (40−80 years AD) and Galen (129−199 years AD) offered as contraceptive plants such as asafoetida, juniper, mint, wild cucumber and wild carrots. It was also recommended to use the infusion of willow and poplar bark.
Soran of Ephesus (1st century AD) proposed to lubricate the opening of the uterus: – with old olive oil, honey, cedar resin; – the juice of a balsamic tree, it is possible together with lead white; – ointment in myrtle oil and lead white; – wet alum (mineral salt); – tar in wine.
In ancient Jews, contraceptives were banned altogether. An exception was made for women under the age of 12 and nursing mothers, whom the rabbis advised to place a sponge in the vagina. Women were also invited to drink special drinks from gum.
In a collection of medical prescriptions in India (VIII century AD), women were recommended to either lubricate the vagina with a mixture of honey and ghee, or to use corks from crushed rock salt with oil. Vaginal swabs made from acacia leaves and elephant feces were also used.
In Islamic literature of the 13th century, elephant manure was recommended for use (instead of crocodile), since it had more acid. Arab women inserted tampons with feces of ungulates, cabbage, earwax, and cotton swabs and pomegranate pulp soaked in narcotic substances into the vagina. Women ate peas on an empty stomach or made intense jumps after intercourse.
In ancient China, a mixture of vegetable oil and mercury was used, which was injected into the vagina, as well as a mixture of cedar resin, alum and pomegranate.
In the ancient civilizations of the Incas, Mayans and Aztecs, women warned of conception by using infusions and decoctions from the root of a plant called dioscorea.
Women of the Cherokee Indian tribe in America chewed or used poisonous milestone root, and Shoshone women took a passerbill in the form of a decoction called “desert tea”, as well as Paraguayan weed powder, which was washed down with water.
In America, Native American women, even before the advent of Spanish colonizers and other immigrants from Europe, used vaginal lavage after mating with a decoction of mahogany and lemon for contraception purposes.
Hippocrates recommended compatriots, like Indian women, to chew wild carrots.
In the Middle Ages, women in Europe used cotton swabs and paper soaked in acetic acid, drank a decoction or juniper oil, drank tea from marjoram, drank an asparagus decoction, used a bag of crushed shepherd’s milk or plantain powder.
In Malaysia, women drank juice from unripe pineapple for several days after menstruation, while women from the Pacific Islands and Java consumed unripe coconut juice.
In North America, women consumed a decoction of chopped ginger root or burdock tea.
In Malaysia, North and South America, women drank juice, decoctions, or powder from milkweed, mistletoe, and pea.
As they say, the goal of invention is cunning. Nevertheless, many ancient means of preventing pregnancy, although they were not 100% effective, nevertheless fulfilled their purpose to some extent. True, sometimes dramatically: “There is no man – there is no problem” …