Ethnopharmacological relevance: Moringa oleifera Lam. (Moringaceae) is an important plant based staple food, known for its nutritional and medicinal value and is usually prescribed by herbal practitioners in Nigeria and in other tropical countries for the treatment of male infertility problems and reproductive diseases in females. Although the aphrodisiac properties and fertility enhancement potential in males have been reported, the underlying mechanisms for the activity remain unclear. In this study, we investigated the influence of supplementing the diet with M. oleifera Lam. leaf powder on reproductive hormones and semen quality of New Zealand White (NZW) rabbits.
Materials and methods: Thirty-two (32) NZW rabbits of 50:50 ratio bucks to does, were randomly distributed to four treatment groups (n = 4 bucks, n = 4 does per group). Graded levels (0, 5, 10 and 15 g/kg) of M. oleifera Lam. leaf powder was incorporated into rabbit growers pellet. The does and bucks were housed separately in hutches and sheltered under the same environmental conditions with free access to their respective treatment diets for a period of 12 weeks.
Results: In female rabbits, treatment revealed significant (P < 0.05) dose-dependent reduction in the concentration of serum FSH, LH and oestrogen. While in contrast the highest dose of leaf powder significantly (P < 0.05) increased progesterone and prolactin concentrations remained unaffected. On the other hand, the concentration of FSH and LH in bucks was significantly (P < 0.05) increased in treatment groups compared to the control group. Serum testosterone concentrations were significantly lower in the 5 and 10 g/kg treatment groups. Semen volume, sperm count and motility were significantly improved in a dose dependent manner with increasing amounts of M. oleifera Lam. leaf powder in the diet.
Conclusions: We conclude that M. oleifera Lam. leaf powder supplementation to the diet was more beneficial to male rabbit fertility than the female, where it tended to have a negative impact through the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. However, with the varying impact of M. oleifera Lam. leaf powder on the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis of male and female animals, further investigation is necessary to determine the mechanism through which it operates.
Keywords: Fertility hormones; Moringa oleifera Lam. leaf; Rabbit; Semen quality.
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