Sardinian scientists have traced the roots of the “Sardonic grin” to a plant commonly found on the Italian island. The plant was made into a potion which forced condemned men as they went to their deaths.
‘The Punics were convinced that death was the start of new life, to be greeted with a smile,” he said.
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.
The discovery could have a brighter side, he said, leading to drugs that might help certain conditions where parts of the face are paralysed.