The Talmud discusses the "Kos Shel Ikrin" (Cup of the Barren, or Cup of Roots), a potion that rendered a woman or man infertile. The recipe for this potion is on record in tractate Shabbos and there was no question that this potion did exactly what it was purported to do (see Yevamos 65b, Shabbos 110b, and many other sources). In fact, its success was certain (see Tosafos in Shabbos 110b). Apparently the brewing of a Kos Shel Ikrin was still a known process in the days of the Rambam (he describes the ingredients in his Perush LeMishnayos).

Does such a potion exist today?

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    @Shalom, if there was significant risk to life, it would have been prohibited on those grounds. The Talmud in Shabbos only discusses the "Sirus" problem, and some hold that women may take it. But it is possible that a person would become weaker or otherwise impaired.
    – Barry
    Commented Jun 2, 2011 at 20:16
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    The Kos Shel Ikrin was not guaranteed as you can see in Breishis. The Possuk says that Lemech married two wives, Ada and Tzila. Rashi tells us that in that generation they would marry two wives, one for the purpose of having children and the second for her beauty. They would give the second wife a "kos shel ikrin" to make her sterile. Ada was the wife for having children and Tzila was for her beauty. Two verses later we see Tzila having children. This shows it was not guaranteed. Commented Jun 2, 2011 at 20:21
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    @Gershon Medical technology could well have evolved between the pre-Noahide and medieval eras.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jun 2, 2011 at 20:26
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    See the Tosfos I cited, where they hold there was a sufficient degree of certainty, although there may have been rare exceptions. Besides, many things w.r.t. biology were different pre-Mabul.
    – Barry
    Commented Jun 2, 2011 at 22:00
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    I'm pretty sure it's "kos shel akarin"
    – jake
    Commented Jun 2, 2011 at 23:44

1 Answer 1


According to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sterilization_%28surgical_procedure%29#.22Sterilization_pill.22 There is no drug that can cause permanent sterility. However, there are many herbs and plants that act as abortificants. So perhaps that's what it was (although I could not say which specific plant).

For example these:

act as both abortificants and contraceptives.

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