Claire Voon, 2017
An exhibition looks at plant remedies that women have used to control their reproductive lives.
AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Delicate and dainty, Queen Anne’s Lace is a popular pick for wedding bouquets — but the white flower also has a long history as a naturally occurring contraceptive. The alleged power of its seeds, when chewed and ingested, to prevent pregnancy after sex, are recorded in ancient writings by Hippocrates to Pliny the Elder to physicians like Pedanius Dioscorides and Scribonius Largus, as historian John M. Riddle chronicles in his book on herbal abortifacients, Eve’s Herbs: A History of Contraception and Abortion in the West. Yet, to turn to these oil-filled pips — or to many of these natural remedies — is to take a risk, as they are, to this day, experimental treatments.