Curcumin as a potential non-steroidal contraceptive with spermicidal and microbicidal properties

Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2014 May;176:142-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ejogrb.2014.01.024. Epub 2014 Apr 1.


Objective: Curcumin, a component of the curry powder turmeric, has immense biological properties, including anticancer effects. The objective of this study was to determine if curcumin can provide a novel non-steroidal contraceptive having both spermicidal and microbicidal properties.

Study design: The effect of curcumin, with and without photosensitization, was examined on human sperm forward motility and growth of several aerobic (n=8) and anaerobic bacteria (n=4) and yeast (n=7) strains implicated in vaginosis, vaginitis, and vaginal infections in women. The effect of various concentrations of curcumin on human sperm and microbes (aerobic and anaerobic bacteria and yeast) was tested. The effect on sperm was examined by counting the sperm forward motility, and on microbes by agar and broth dilutions and colony counting. Each experiment was repeated using different semen specimens, and bacteria and yeast stocks.

Results: Curcumin caused a concentration-dependent inhibition of sperm forward motility with a total block at ≥250μM concentration. After photosensitization, the effective concentration to completely block sperm forward motility decreased 25-fold, now requiring only 10μM concentration for total inhibition. Curcumin concentrations between 100 and 500μM completely blocked the growth of all the bacteria and yeast strains tested. After photosensitization, the effective concentration to completely inhibit microbial growth decreased 10-fold for aerobic bacteria and yeast, and 5-fold for anaerobic bacteria.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that curcumin can block sperm function and bacteria/yeast growth. It can potentially provide an ideal non-steroidal contraceptive having both spermicidal and microbicidal properties against vaginal infections.

Keywords: Contraceptive; Curcumin; Microbicide; Spermicide; Vaginal infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacteria, Aerobic / drug effects
  • Bacteria, Aerobic / radiation effects
  • Bacteria, Anaerobic / drug effects
  • Bacteria, Anaerobic / radiation effects
  • Contraceptive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Curcumin / pharmacology*
  • Curcumin / radiation effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Light
  • Male
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Photosensitivity Disorders
  • Sperm Motility / drug effects
  • Spermatocidal Agents / pharmacology*
  • Yeasts / drug effects
  • Yeasts / radiation effects


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Contraceptive Agents
  • Spermatocidal Agents
  • Curcumin