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Alligator pepper, pawpaw widely used herbal male contraceptives
Men for a long time had only a limited choice of contraceptive methods like abstinence, withdrawal, condoms, vasectomy, etc. Despite this, men went on participating in various efforts to control fertility for age. For a long time, man played a prominent role in contraceptive use until the introduction of oral contraceptives and modern intrauterine contraceptive devices (IUDs) in the second half of the 1900s.
With the development of successful methods on females, most of the burden of contraceptive are now on women, thus taking men out from the sphere of contraceptive. Globally, men have not shared the responsibility equally with women for fertility regulation; the lack of male involvement may also reflect the limited options available to men.
The use of herbs is almost universal among non-industrialised societies, including Nigeria. In fact, most Nigerians, especially those living in rural communities still prefer to solve their health problems by consulting traditional healers.
But the patronage of traditional healers by men in Nigeria for contraceptive purposes is not an exception as indicated by the findings of an ethnobotanical survey on herbal male contraceptives used in the South-western part of Nigeria.
This was a survey carried out by Iyabo Mobolawa Adebisi and Shaibu Oricha Bello from the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto. It was a 2011 study published in the African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. It took inventory of plants used as male contraceptives in the region.
Using convenient sampling, one local government was selected from each of four states. These were Sagamu Local government area in Ogun State; Ibadan Southwest LG in Oyo State; Ede LG in Osun State and Ofa local government in Kwara State. The investigation was conducted by direct interview of 15 traditional healers and medicinal plant sellers, documenting consultations for contraception by male, names of medicinal plants used, methods of preparation and doses of administration.
Traditional healers are person recognised by the community as persons competent to provide health care by using vegetable, animal and mineral substances and other certain methods based on the social, cultural and religious background. Similarly, traditional medicinal ingredient traders are those involved in buying and selling of plants, animals and insects used in making herbal preparations.
The results of the survey, which indicated that over six different plant materials were used either as single preparation or in combination as male contraceptives, found that alligator pepper and pawpaw bark were the most widely used herbs as male contraceptive. Their common methods of application include oral decoction, dried powder applied to skin incisions and as rings soaked in herbs and worn on the fingers.
The plants used as male contraceptives include leaves of Boehaavia diffusa (commonly referred to as Hogweed or Etiponla); Parkia biglobo seeds (commonly referred to as locust beans or Iru); decoction of Pawpaw bark (Ibepe in Yoruba); Alligator pepper seed (Ataare in Yoruba); decoction of Xylopia aethipica (commonly referred to as Eeru Alamo in Yoruba or Negro or Ethiopian pepper); decoction of Tetrapleura tetraptera fruits (Aidan in Yoruba); and lime juice (Osan wewe in Yoruba).
The leaves of Hogweed, locust beans, pawpaw bark and alligator pepper seed were used in the ring form by the men. Ring form of application involves boiling a metal ring in water extract of the plant for hours. The ring is then worn on the finger during sexual activities.
However, some of these plants were also used in the combination for male contraception. The combination of Hogweed, locust bean and alligator pepper as well as pawpaw and alligator pepper were used in the ring form. Also, the combination of pawpaw bark and Tetrapleura tetraptera was used as incision while the combination of lime juice and potash were taken as decoction. Incision involves making up to seven cuts on the leg and applying the dried powder of the plant to the fresh wound.
Nonetheless, all the traditional healers and medicinal plant sellers interviewed stated that all plants and methods of application were equally effective.
The researchers remarked that even in traditional medicinal practices, male contraceptive is not in vogue because only 26.7 per cent of interviewees have ever been consulted for or offer male contraceptives. According to them, “the availability of female orthodox hormonal contraceptives that are either frequently free or are offered at a very low cost may have discouraged the continued practice of traditional contraceptive methods, especially in case of males, with loss of knowledge of its practice.”
“This possibility makes it very important to conduct further studies to document available knowledge of medicinal plants used for male contraception. The use of medicinal plants as decoction and incision may be consistent with pharmacological effects but the wearing of rings that have been boiled in herbal extracts or concoctions for contraception may be difficult to explain,” they indicated in their report.
According to them, trans-dermal delivery of the active chemical(s) may be an explanation but the requirement for putting on the ring only during sexual activities makes this explanation unlikely.
Quite a number of medicinal plants like Achyranthes aspera (èèmá àgbò in Yoruba and óòdådå ngwèlè in Igbo) and pawpaw have already been shown previously by researchers to have male anti-fertility properties. Pawpaw seed extract has been shown to possess in vitro sperm immobilising effect on human sperm.Share