Caution the information contained in this page may not be suitable for minors. If you should not be reading this page click here to go back to the Museum foyer.
PLEASE NOTE: The Carrot Museum does not recommend self diagnosis or self medication. The information contained in this web site has not been verified for correctness. Some of the information contained herein is hearsay and may not be correct. Use the information from this page only at your own risk! If in doubt consult a doctor.
IMPORTANT Disclaimer: If you try any methods used on this page you do so at your own risk.
Many species in the parsley family have estrogenic properties, and some, such as wild carrot, are known to act as abortifacients.(reference Riddle, John M. (1994). Contraception and Abortion from the Ancient World to the Renaissance. Harvard University Press. p. 58)
The seeds of wild carrot (Queen Anne’s Lace, Daucus carota L., Family Apiaceae) have a long history of use relating to fertility, especially as an anti-fertility agent. The seeds of Daucus carota L. (DC) have been described as an abortifacient, emmenagogue, contraceptive, and aphrodisiac in a variety of publications throughout European history. These documents also indicate use by women for over 2,000 years as a means to control fertility. (emmenagogue - a substance that stimulates or increases menstrual flow)
A note on identity - Confusion and debate surround the correct identification of the carrot in the classical era and it is possible that varieties of carrot and the closely related parsnip were used interchangeably. The writings of Galen and Dioscorides suggest the actions of Staphilinos, Daucos and Pastinaca were so similar one could be used in place of another. These herbs are discussed as having both fertility and anti-fertility activity, yet these ancient works do not form any consensus.
Historical Evidence - The first oral contraception consisted of potions made from plants and bark. One of the oldest known plants used for contraception was Silphium, a member of the giant fennel family, described in the 4th century BC. The extract was purportedly very effective, causing the plant to be used to extinction by the 3rd or 4th century AD. More than 2,000 years ago, Hippocrates described the use of wild carrot as an oral contraceptive and abortifacient (any drug or chemical preparation that induces abortion). The reference by Hippocrates (c. 460 - 370 BCE) appears to be the oldest reference to the anti-fertility activity of Daucus Carota seed.
Dioscorides knew about Wild carrot and stated that it brought forth the menses and aborted an embryo. to do this he said take its seed. Scribonius Largus (ad 47) (a physician who accompanied the Emperor Claudius to Britain) and Soranus (a Greek physician in Rome) one of the earliest writers to talk about carrot seed and fertility and was the first to include wild carrot seeds in a recipe for contraception. His concoction for inducing sterility included cabbage, rue, mint, dittany, birthwort (!), wild carrot, silphium, myrrh and pepper. Scribonius was in fact opposed to abortion, as was Pliny.
Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus 23 CE - 79 CE, also known as Pliny the Elder) was against contraception and abortion and therefore stated that daucus carota was an emmenagogue, so as not to transmit the lore relating to its anti-fertility action. Around the same time daucus carota appeared in an abortion-inducing recipe by Scribonius Largus (47 CE), a Roman court physician.18 DC was regarded as a strong emmenagogue by Constantine the African and was recorded in a work by Petrus Marancius later in the 13th century as an emmenagogue, but not as an abortifacient. Pliny stated in his work Natural History that:
“ the seed of this plant, pounded and taken in wine reduces swelling of the abdomen… to such a degree as to restore the uterus to its natural condition"
Recent concerns about the Hippocratic Oath with regard to abortion have an early precedent. In the first century A.D., Scribonius Largus considered Hippocrates's provision that forbade giving a woman an abortive pessary.
Scribonius Largus cited the Hippocratic principle that medicine is the art of healing, not harming, to support his position in favour of the prohibition of all abortions.
Soranus, meanwhile, decided that the Oath prohibited only abortive pessaries and that other abortions were permitted if the life of the mother was in danger. He added, however, that he would never prescribe an abortive agent to preserve a woman's beauty or to cover up her adultery. (Soranus of Ephesus (98-138 AD) was a Greek physician, born in Ephesus but practiced in Alexandria and subsequently in Rome, and was one of the chief representatives of the Methodic school of medicine. Several of his writings still survive, most notably his four-volume treatise on gynaecology, and a Latin translation of his On Acute and Chronic Diseases.)
Romans used an alleged wonder plant of the carrot and parsley family called silphium (now extinct), a plant which looked very similar to Wild Carrot. It was a sort of giant fennel that grew wild near Cyrene, an ancient coastal city in North Africa. Silphium had many uses — perfume from its flowers, food from its stalk, and medicine from its juice (or resin) and roots. The Romans didn't discover the plant's properties — there's evidence the Greeks and Egyptians used it as a contraceptive as early as the seventh century BC on the advice of physicians, who recommended a monthly dose that mixed a lump of resin the size of a chickpea with water. The Roman scholar Pliny the Elder described use of the resin (called laser or laserpicium) "with soft wool as a pessary to promote the menstrual discharge." Menstrual discharge, of course, means no pregnancy. One physician in the second century AD named Soranus claimed a special recipe using silphium had been used to terminate pregnancies. In Contraception and Abortion from the Ancient World to the Renaissance (1992), medical historian John Riddle claims that modern studies show the recipe and others like it would work. (photo, right, shows ancient silver coin from Cyrene depicting a stalk of Silphium)
When herbal lore such as this survives the test of time, there is a good
chance there is some truth behind it.
John Riddle writes in Eve's Herbs, that Wild Carrot seeds are one of the more potent antifertility agents available, and a common plant in many regions of the world. "The seeds, harvested in the fall, are a strong contraceptive if taken orally immediately after coitus." (penis/vagina sex) Research on small animals has shown that extracts of the seeds disrupt the implantation process, or if a fertilized egg has implanted for only a short period, will cause it to be released. There has been some research done on wild carrot seeds mostly in other countries, the results of those experiments have been encouraging. The Chinese view wild carrot as a promising post-colital agent, "recent evidence suggests that terpenoids in the seed block crucial progesterone synthesis in pregnant animals." When asked about the contraceptive effects of wild carrot, some herbalists have described it as having the effect of making the uterus "slippery" so the egg is unable to implant.
Nicholas Culpeper’s Complete Herbal was first published in England in 1653 and was considered the herbal authority for the common people of its time. Culpeper noted that carrot possessed both pro- and anti-fertility actions. According to Culpeper, the carrot root and seed work similarly to promote menstrual flow (“women’s courses”) and can be used to treat “the rising of the mother”, which may refer to menstrual obstructions. Culpeper also suggested that the seed boiled in wine may help conception. Culpeper advised that "carrot is governed by Mercury, which is said to rule wind (colic and spasm), and remove stitches in the sides, provoke urine and women’s courses…I suppose the seeds of them perform this better than the roots".
Progesterone is essential for pregnancy to occur, progesterone's function is to prepare the uterine endometrium to receive an egg, if the endometrium isn't ready, the egg will find implantation very difficult. If the egg can't implant then the opportunity is missed, and the egg begins to breakdown and is no longer viable. Menstruation arrives as usual. Scientific confirmation is helping to further validate our ancestral knowledge
There has not been a lot of research done on fertility inhibiting herbs, especially in this country. But there has been some in other countries. In Chinese laboratory tests, the seeds have been shown to block progesterone synthesis in pregnant animals. Which deprives the uterine tissues of the progesterone needed to make a nutritive bed for the fertilized egg. This gives scientific credence to the actions our ancestors. Robin Bennet conducted an experiment, in which 12 women from New York City used 1 teaspoon of QAL seeds chewed well for 12 months for contraceptive purposes. "During the study there were three women apparently conceived; one confirmed her pregnancy with a laboratory test and terminated it clinically. She had been using the carrot seeds daily until the month she conceived when she used them on only three of the recommended 7-8 days around ovulation. The others felt pregnant but did not confirm their suspicions. The both used herbal emmenagogues and menstruated. One of the two women used seeds for 7-8 days around ovulation. The other women used them daily. None of the other women in the study became pregnant, and half were using QAL as their only method of birth control."
Based on the results her conclusion was the seeds were a very good method of contraception for those women who were willing to pay close attention to their cycles. The majority of women in the study reported no side effects. A few women have noticed an occasional side effect of slight constipation, from the seeds being a bit too drying in the colon, which can be remedied by increased water consumption.
It is possible that you experience a very annoying side effect of inflammation
and irritation of the inner and outer lips of the vagina. Accompanied with
a very painful itch, which at first looks like a yeast infection, but it
is not. It may begin two days after taking a tsp of seeds a day and disappears
two days after you stop taking them. Based on this experience it may take
two days for the herb to circulate through the body.
If you are interested in using Wild Carrot seeds, you will have to harvest them yourself in the late summer/autumn after seed have matured. Most herb stores do not carry them, though they are available through a couple of mail order herb companies.
Women with a history of kidney or gallstones should consult with an herbalist
before using Queen Anne's Lace seeds. QAL contains estrogen and can cause
estrogen-like side effects, and may encourage the growth of estrogen dependent
tumors. Estrogenic herbs should be avoided by anyone taking birth control
pills, other estrogen medications, or blood pressure medications.
Modern wise women recommend one tsp of Queen Anne's Lace seeds chewed daily
during ovulation and continued for up to one week. This dosage has worked
effectively for women of average height and build. If you are above average
height and/or build you might find the seeds more effective if you slightly
raise the dosage. Consult with your herbalist.
Using Queen Anne's Lace - IMPORTANT Disclaimer:
If you try this you do so at your own risk. The seeds, collected from the flower head in fall are thoroughly chewed, swallowed and washed down with water or juice. The taste is heavy and oily, not very pleasant, but doesn't taste terrible. It is the volatile oils contained with in the seed that prevent implantation. Chewing them releases the oils. If you simply swallow them they will pass right through your system, with out releasing their oils and not be effective. One teaspoon is taken per day. The most important time to take them is just before ovulation, during ovulation and for a week following. In Ms Bennet's study, women took the seeds orally and chose from three different time frames, depending on which fits their situation. Some took them every day through out the cycle (though this might not be good on a long term basis, but should be ok for the first few months).
While others, who might have unprotected sex infrequently might take them only after intercourse and for the following week. Then those who are sexually active and familiar enough with their cycles to know when they are fertile, might take them before, during and after the fertile time, which would mean taking them for 10 to 14 days in the middle of the cycle around the time of ovulation. It is very important to use a back up method of contraception particularly during the first two months of using the QAL. It takes time for the body to adjust, as well as for you to develop confidence in such an unconventional method.
Visit one of the many Contraceptive Museums. Click here.
A history of contraception here - Dittrick Medical History Center.
Some reference material:
Article - "Carrot seed for contraception: A review" January 2014 G.C. Jansen & Hans Wohlmuth
1. Riddle J. 1997. Eve’s Herbs: A history of contraception and abortion in the west. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
2. Tobyn G, Denham A, Whitelegg M. 2011. The Western Herbal Tradition: 2000 Years of Medicinal Plant Knowledge. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.
3. Maurya R, Srivastava S, Kulshreshta D, Gupta C. 2004. Traditional remedies for fertility regulation. Curr Med Chem 11(11):1431-1450.
4. Bennett R, Schuler M. 2011. Wild Carrot Study - Final Summary. Retrieved on July 15th, 2012 from http://robinrosebennett.com/articles/wild-carrot-study-final-summary-august-2011/
5. Kamboj V. 1988. A review of Indian medicinal plants with interceptive activity. Indian J Med Res 87(88):336-355.
6. Kumar D, Kumar A, Prakash O. 2012. Potential antifertility agents from plants: A comprehensive review. J Ethnopharmacol 140(1):1- 32.
7. Grieve M. 1931. A Modern Herbal. London: Harcourt, Brace & Company.
8. Ross I. 2010. Medicinal Plants of the World, Volume 3: Chemical Constituents, Traditional and Modern Medicinal Uses. New Jersey:
9. Bennett R. 1993. Wild Carrot Seeds for Herbal Contraception – Summary of findings from a 1992 Study. Wise Woman Healing
Ways. New York. Retrieved on July 15th, 2012 from http://robinrosebennett.com/articles/wild-carrot-daucus-carota-a-plantfor-conscious-natural-contraception/
History Wild Carrot
- SITE SEARCH
History Wild Carrot Today Nutrition Cultivation Recipes Trivia Links Home Contact - SITE SEARCH