World’s Worst Weed Was Prehistoric Cavity Fighter

Who knew that chewing what today’s farmers call the “world’s worst weed” could prevent cavities? Seems our early ancestors, who lived during the pre-Mesolithic, Neolithic and Meroitic periods, had a clue. Granted, they didn’t have Coke or Pepsi to fill their mouths with refined sugars. Still, the nagging question remains, what’s in the world’s most prolific weed that saved our ancestors from rotting molars?

Brush Daily and Chew Some Cyperus Rotundus

Stephen Buckley, an archaeological chemist from the University of York in England, believes he’s found the answer. He and his team recently analyzed the hardened plaque in the fossilized teeth of our prehistoric ancestors and concluded that the chemical compounds in purple nutsedge (cyperus rotundus) may have protected them against tooth decay. The highly technical report Buckley and his colleagues published in PLOS One offers a detailed scientific explanation. But here’s the layman’s take: The research, conducted at Al Khiday, a pre-historic site on the White Nile in Central Sudan, revealed that before man developed agriculture and after agricultural plants were harvested, Al Khiday tribesmen ate purple nut sedge to inhibit Streptococcus mutans, a bacterium that contributes to tooth decay. In fact, less than one percent of people who lived in Sudan thousands of years ago had cavities, abscesses, or other signs of tooth decay, in spite of their high grain content diet, which created a hospitable environment for bacteria.

The World’s Worst Weed May be Good for You

While our ancestors enjoyed less frequent visits to their village dentist, they ate these weeds primarily for food. The purple nutsedge’s tubers store energy and carbohydrates, which early man needed to hunt wild game and fight enemies. Turns out, Cyperus Rotundus, (also known as coco grass, Java grass and nut grass) is a pretty amazing plant. It’s hearty enough to grow on every continent, thrives in poor soil, and is resistant to most chemical herbicides. The truth is, purple nutsedge has seemingly endless uses. The plant’s tuber may be bitter to the taste, but it’s packed with trace minerals, nutrients, and the essential amino acid lysine, an antiviral against the herpes. The Chinese steam the tubers, slice them lengthwise and dry them in the sun to make tea leaves that they claim helps resolve grief and resolve stomach pain from anger.

Cyperus Rotundus…the ubiquitous, unstoppable weed that may help prevent tooth decay (and maybe a few other ailments). Who knew?

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Christine J.
Christine J.5 months ago

Weeds are so under-rated. Plenty of them have wonderful qualities.

Vicky P.
Vicky P.2 years ago


Elena T.
Elena Poensgen2 years ago

Thank you :)

ERIKA SOMLAI2 years ago

noted,thank you

Diane M.
Diane M.2 years ago

Many plants need to be investigated for their beneficial properties and not just be thoughtlessly labeled a weed to be eradicated.

Deb L.
Deb L.2 years ago


JL A.2 years ago


Nanette A.
Nanette a.2 years ago


Nils Anders Lunde
PlsNoMessage se2 years ago