Esfand svanta, Esfand(sepand, sepanj, espanj) Proto-Iranian svanta, is a common weed found in Persia, Central Asia, and the surrounding areas. The earliest description of the plant is provided by Dioscorides in the 1st century C.E. , calling it pêganon agrion. Later Greek authors refer to it as persaia botane.
Aphrodisiacal properties have been suggested for the plant. Crushed seeds of esfand may be used in the preparation of a fertility drug for women, while smoke from its burning roots can help determine whether or not the woman is barren..
Folk medicine practices reflect a classical belief in the medical properties of esfand, while attributing a number of magico-medical properties to it. It is considered to be a divinely favored plant which can cure seventy-two varieties of ailments the least severe of which is leprosy. The smoke from its burning seeds is believed to ward off harm from persons or places that are exposed to its smoke. Thus esfand is burned at potentially harmful moments such as during circumcision ceremonies or for the protection of the woman in childbed. The burning of the seeds is accompanied by the recitation of a magical formula. Purely curative uses of esfand are occasionally encountered in folk medicine. For example,
The continuity of Persian tradition has brought the ancient sacred plant into Islamic sources. A Shiite tradition states that there is an angel in each of the plant's leaves and seeds. Its root drives away sorrow and magic, and the devil stays a distance of seventy houses away from homes in which it is kept. Shiite sources tell of the benefits of ingesting esfand or its juice. For instance, drinking a bit of esfand juice every day for forty mornings brings about wisdom in addition to fortifying the imbiber against seventy varieties of diseases. The apotropaic value of esfand is reflected in its burning against evil presence. In a curious ceremony to counteract effects of evil upon a child burning of esfand is required.
The spell-prayer goes:
Aspand bla band
Barakati Shah Naqshband
Jashmi heach jashmi khaish
Jashmi dost wa dooshmani bad andish
Be sosa der hamin atashi taze.
This is Aspand, it banishes the Evil Eye
The blessing of King Naqshband
Eye of nothing, Eye of relatives
Eye of friends, Eye of enemies
Whoever is bad should burn in this glowing fire.
Evidently esfand seeds were also used to produce an invisible ink. The process involved pounding the seeds before soaking them in water for two days. The juice thereafter functioned as an invisible ink when written on paper. In order to read it, the paper is brought close to a flame and the heat make the writing visible.