Rome, May 16 (ANI): Scientists have traced the roots of a potion that was used to intoxicate condemned men to smile before dying, to a plant commonly found on the Italian island of Sardinia, during the time of Greek poet Homer.
According to Roman news agency ANSA, the association with Sardinia has often been disputed, but Cagliari University botanists think they have settled the case, and the plant in question could have beneficial properties as well.
The plant, tubular water-dropwart (oenanthe fistulosa), is common in Sardinia, where it is popularly known as 'water celery'.
"Our discovery supports what many cultural anthropologists have said about death rituals among the ancient Sardinians," said Cagliari University Botany Department chief Mauro Ballero.
"'The Punics were convinced that death was the start of new life, to be greeted with a smile," he added.
Ballero's team, whose work appears in the latest edition of the US Journal of Natural Products, have established that a toxic substance in the dropwart plant does, in fact, cause facial muscles to contract and produce a grimace or rictus.
According to Ballero, the discovery could have a brighter side, leading to drugs that might help certain conditions where parts of the face are paralyzed.
"The good news is that the molecule in this plant may be retooled by pharmaceutical companies to have the opposite effect," he said. (ANI)