Herbs used as folk therapy contraceptives contain chemicals that block a key step in fertilization, a study has found. This is a very interesting study which shows that two natural compounds can knock out a key molecule on sperm that regulates how they swim in the final moments before fertilization.
According to researchers from the University of California (UC) Berkeley in the US, plant chemicals may serve as an emergency contraceptive taken either before or after intercourse or as a permanent contraceptive via a skin patch or vaginal ring.
In tests, chemicals called pristimerin and lupeol stopped fertilization by preventing human sperm from whipping its tail and propelling itself towards and into the woman’s egg.
In other words, they successfully blocked progesterone, which triggers the sperm’s forceful swimming, but didn’t damage the sperm.
“It doesn’t kill basal sperm motility. It is not toxic to sperm cells; they still can move,” said Polina Lishko, assistant professor of molecular and cell biology from the University of California, Berkeley.
Both pristimerin and lupeol stopped progesterone opening the vital calcium channel, the scientists discovered.
Lupeol is found in plants such as mango, Dandelion root and aloe vera, while pristimerin is from the Tripterygium wilfordii plant (also known as “thunder god vine”) and is used in traditional Chinese medicine.
It may be used to make next generation of molecular condoms that may serve as a safe alternative to today’s hormone-based contraceptives.
The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.