The quest for a herbal contraceptive

Natl Med J India. 1993 Sep-Oct;6(5):199-201.


PIP: An oral herbal contraceptive would allow couples control their fertility without consulting a health worker, which in turn would likely markedly increase the number of couples practicing family planning. Other advantages of such a contraceptive would include the familiarity rural people have with herbal medicines, the fewer side effects associated with herbal preparations, their ready availability from local sources, and protection of privacy. There are many references to plants in India with antifertility properties. Since 1966, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has been conducting research to identify a herbal contraceptive, as have other organizations. Plants that have exhibited antifertility activity in clinical trials include Hibiscus rosasinensis (benzene extract of the flower petals suppresses implantation); Rudrapushpaka (extract of the flower petals prevents pregnancy); Embelia ribes (pregnancy prevention); Davcus carota, Butea monosperma, and Sapindus trifoliatis (seeds have an anti-implantation effect); and Mentha arvensis (leaves have anti-implantation effect). The Central Drug Research Institute in Lucknow, India, in collaboration with the US National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization, and the ICMR confirm anti-implantation activity in Ferula jaeschkeana, Bupleurum marginatum, Lepidium capitatum, Caesalpinia sepiaria, Lonicera japonica, Juniperus communis, Lotus corniculatus, Lamium allum, and Acacia farnesiana. In China, scientists have evaluated the cotton-seed extract gossypol as a male contraceptive. They are now studying the possible antifertility effect on men of the plant Tripterygium wilfordii. From all the aforementioned plants as well as others under investigation, three possible types of contraceptives could be developed: an anti-ovulatory contraceptive; a postcoital contraceptive; and a male contraceptive. Some obstacles to their development include difficulties in obtaining adequate quantities of the herbs, a shortage of clinical pharmacologists and clinicians interested in conducting clinical trials, and lack of long-term financial support.

Publication types

  • Editorial

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Contraceptives, Oral*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • India
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plants, Medicinal
  • Rats
  • Research


  • Contraceptives, Oral