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The juicy red fruit known as pomegranate has been used from the time of classical antiquity as a contraceptive. Most of the documents mentioning this fruit were written at during this time, its use dramatically faded by the middle ages, however it is still used in some parts of the world today, like India and East Africa.

The ancient forefathers of medicine, Hippocrates, Soranus, Dioscorides, to name a few, prescribed the seeds and rind of the pomegranate to prevent conception.

Medical writings of that time indicate they were used as a pessary, (the ancient term for a vaginal suppository, sounds much nicer I think) only one of the ancient texts documented the use of pomegranate seed being taken orally as a post-coital (meaning following penis/vagina intercourse) contraceptive.

During the middle ages use of pomegranate faded, in its place other plants, presumably more effective ones, were used. Experimentation was always happening, what plants were used depended much on what was available in the region. There were many plants that had their surge of popularity, one that comes to mind is silphium which was in great demand in ancient Greece, being so effective in preventing unwanted pregnancy it was harvested out of existence.

Modern testing has shown that pomegranate does have contraceptive effects. However the effectiveness has varied between species, in two studies sited pomegranate reduced fertility in female rats by 50% and in female guinea pigs by an impressive 100%. This does not mean that pomegranate will have the same effect in women, but the possibility for a reduction in fertility defiantly exists.
Both animal types regained their fertility forty days after they stopped receiving pomegranate.

Research has also shown that the highest concentrations of the active substances are found in the seed pulp. Just as the ancients told us in the writings they left behind. They left clues for us to discover, but rarely left specific instructions, like when to harvest the plant, how to process it and use it, not to mention how much to take.

One such clue might be the background I used on this page. The painting was done by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, it was done in 1877 five years before his death at the age of 54. He called it Proserpina. We see a somber woman holding the pomegranate from which she has taken a bite, rind, seeds and all. Such a subtle clue. One a few short months ago I would have missed, if it hadn't been for John Riddle's work.

There are still many unanswered questions with the use of this fruit. It seems that the fruit and seeds were eaten, but how much? and what exactly were the effects? did it reduce fertility? did it stimulate menstruation? how long do the effects last? And when pomegranate was used as a pessary....did it work as a contraceptive? or did it have abortifacient qualities? as most pessaries were abortifacients. How was it prepared? was the fruit simply mashed, perhaps wrapped in gauze, like a tampon and inserted? how long was it left in? how often was it used to effectively reduce fertility? how long did the effects last?

Information about pomegranate was gathered from John Riddle's Book Eve's Herbs. I want to thank Mr. Riddle, his research of ancient documents is invaluable. He does us a great service in helping us to rediscover what our ancient grandmothers once knew. His book is a great source of historical information about which herbs were used for abortion and contraception. We can support him by purchasing his book. Letting him know that there are people who are interested in the work he is doing, that it is a good thing and we would like to see more.

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