Scientists may have decoded ancient death-smile potion

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Washington, June 3 (ANI): Scientists have determined how Phoenician colonists on the island of Sardinia used to force gruesome smiles on the faces of the dead some 2,800 years ago.

Mauro Ballero, a botanist at the University of Cagliari in Sardinia, has revealed that the ancient seafaring traders used a plant-based potion for the purpose.

This finding attains significance as, according to the researchers, someday that plant might be used to Botox-like effect, perhaps reducing rather than adding smile lines.

Now, in the latest study, lead scientist Giovanni Appendino and colleagues claim that they have unearthed the identity of the potion.

Researchers claim they've discovered a sardonic grin-inducing compound in a plant called hemlock water-dropwort. The white-flowered plant grows on celery-like stalks along ponds and rivers on the island, now part of Italy, reports National Geographic news.

To reach the conclusion, Ballero and colleagues detailed the molecular structure of the plant's toxin and determined how it affects the human body.

Appendino, an organic chemist from the Università degli Studi del Piemonte Orientale in Italy, said, "The compound is highly toxic and causes symptoms similar to those described by the ancients for the sardonic smile, including facial paralysis."

Appendino believes that the plant may prove to be a blessing in the cosmetic world.

"It relaxes the muscles," he said, "so it removes wrinkles."

The study has been published in the Journal of Natural Products. (ANI)

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