Numerous herbs have been used historically to reduce fertility, and modern scientific research has confirmed anti-fertility effects in at least some of the herbs tested. Herbal contraception may never reach the level of contraceptive protection as the pill, but it offers alternatives for women who have difficulty with modern contraceptive options or who just want to try a different way. Very little is known about many of the herbs, or about long term side effects or safety concerns. Most herbalists I've spoken with don't recommend herbs for contraception, because of their potential unreliability.
Michael Tierra wrote in his response to questions about herbal contraception and abortion on his website "I lived and explored communally with a number of women herbal methods for contraception or inducing menstruation at within two weeks of its due time. Many herbal methods were tried with mixed results. People who are not interested in getting pregnant are usually not interested in mixed results." With any method of contraception, there is some risk of pregnancy. Each woman has to decide how much of a risk is too much. Most modern forms of birth control are 70% to 99% effective depending on the method chosen. For women who can't use modern forms of contraception, herbs can offer alternatives, and reducing fertility would be better than no birth control at alp
Before experimenting with herbal contraceptives, I think it's important to spend some time learning to tell, with accuracy, when you are fertile each cycle. Once ovulation occurs, menstruation should follow in about 14 days. If you can identify when fertility passes each cycle, you'll know when to expect menstration - based on signals your body has given you, rather than an estimated guess (calendar methods). This way - you know if and when menstruation is late. The date ovulation occurs can vary from cycle to cycle, even if we cycle very regularly, our bodies can do the unexpected.
There's not a lot of information available on using herbs for contraception, but there are historical references with clues to what ancient women did, and the scientific community has published some studies, mostly on animals, showing some of the herbs do seem to have contraceptive effects. There have also been informal studies where the herbs were tested by women for contraception. If you try any of these herbs, know that you are experimenting on yourself. Consider beforehand what you would do if the herbs were to fail. For those of us who want to minimize the risk of getting pregnant, herbs may not be the best option for our primary method of birth control.
Each herb has its own way of being taken, some are taken daily, while others are used on an as needed bases, after potential exposure to sperm during a fertile time. Generally, herbs that are taken on a daily basis need some time to take effect, an alternative method of birth control should be used during the waiting period to provide protection. So it's important to know how they are used, when to take them, and how much to use. I will supply as much information as I can, but for many of the herbs there's not a lot of information available. I've created pages for most of the herbs, you'll find links below with more information.
If you choose to use herbal contraceptives you do so at your own risk, be sure to follow any instructions to the letter. Know what you will do if they fail. I'd be interested to know of any experimentations, your experiences add to our collective body of knowledge. I can be reached by email, and I love details!! Some may wonder why I have not experimented with these alternatives any more than I have, to put it quite simply, I'm at a point in my life where I'm not willing to take any chances of getting pregnant. My contraceptive method (fertility awareness) works just fine for me. I believe women should know about all possible options and make the choice for themselves.
Herbal Contraceptives & Implantation Inhibitors
Herbal contraceptives is a catch all category for herbs that have an anti-fertility effect. There are many different ways in which herbs can impair fertility. Some herbs may affect the ovary, while others act upon the uterus, affect normal hormone production or block certain hormones, and others we don't really understand their action, or how they got their reputation. Some herbs have the ability to interfere with implantation, these herbs can be taken on an as needed basis, and are useful as an emergency contraceptive. There are also some herbs that have been found to interfere with normal sperm production, or mobility. Each herb is used in its own way, so its important to have some idea of how they are used, or could be used. Lets further define the possible avenues of actions.
Daily Herbal Contraceptives: Some herbal contraceptives have a cumulative effect in the body, they need to be taken regularly (usually daily) to maintain the contraceptive effect. Often needing a period of time to establish effectiveness, so a barrier method should be employed. Examples are, wild yam and neem.
The herbalists I have spoken to however don't have a lot of faith in this herb's ability to prevent pregnancy. Bridgette Mars did an informal study (I never did find out the details) which concluded that the wild yam was not an effective form of contraception. I've also received reports through the grapevine of women who used wild yam, I've heard of both success and failure, I've heard of women using it successfully for a time, then something happens and pregnancy occurs.
Another possibility to consider to increase wild yam's reliability, and to bring your partner into the realm of birth control responsibility, recently, an oral herbal contraceptive for men has come to my attention. Again, I can't verify its effectiveness or safety, but, there has been successful human experimentation conducted in India.
And one final thought to help increase wild yam's reliability, is to ask your lover to withdraw before ejaculation. This way the number of sperm released is considerably less or none, and if there's ever a slip up, you'll be covered. It all depends on how much of a risk you are willing to take when choosing your method of contraception, it can't hurt to do everything possible to minimize the risk.
It works best as a morning after type contraceptive, the big advantage to this is that it can be used on an as needed basis. The first dose taken within 8 hours of being exposed to sperm, followed by another dose or two as needed. It can also be used in tinture form, which elliminates the need to chew the seeds, which for those of us have tried it, know its pretty yucky. Using the herb as a tincture also elliminates the occassional symptoms of vaginal dryness.
QAL seems to work best for women who have their cycle established and cycling normally. This doesn't necessarily mean regularly. QAL seems to fail most for women who have just come off the pill, who have recently given birth, or experienced some other type of hormonal even that interferes with a woman's natural balance.
Its getting easier to find the seeds for sale than it use to be. If you harvest your own plants please make sure you have correct identification as the inexperienced may mistake QAL for other poisonous members of the carrot/parsley family. Once you are familiar with the plant, its very easy to identify, and remember, Queen Anne has hair legs (the stem is hairy rather than smooth) Please follow the links for more information.
Neem Oil has also been found to prevent implantation. Testing so far has involved rats; the implantation inhibitory effects were seen in as many as 10 days after fertilizing intercourse occurred, although it was most effective if used within 3 days of fertilizing intercourse. At this time, I really have no idea what a safe human dosage would be. Its more thoroughly researched uses include a spermacide and oral contraception for men.
Smartweed leaves (Polygonum hydropiper) - Susun Weed also writes in her book, The Child Bearing Year Smartweed grows as a weed all over the world, and is used worldwide as a fertility regulator. It contains rutin, quercitin and gallic acid, all of which interfere with normal pregnancy. An infusion can be prepared using 4 ounces of the fresh leaves or one ounce of the dried leaves in a quart of boiled water. Drinking freely until menstrual bleeding begins. Smartweed may be used to prevent implantation after fertilizing intercourse, or to bring on a missed period. If it does not work - do not carry the pregnancy to term as Susun clearly states it is not safe to do so.3
Apricot Kernels Suspected to have anticancer qualities which might treat the developing fetus as a foreign body.5 Nan Koehler uses them in an early anti-implantation remedy. She says to eat 5-10 apricot kernels three times a day, starting immediately following fertilizing intercourse and continuing until menstruation comes, (hopefully on schedule). This is the first of four steps. For this recipe to work a woman must be aware of her cycle and know when she is ovulating. If she doesn't know fertilizing intercourse has occurred and don't start treatment until menstruation is late, this remedy won't work. I will add the rest of the remedy soon.
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