An incantation in the Rig Veda says: “A man with many children succumbs to miseries.” This is perhaps the oldest statement with a suggestion against a large family. Even today, population explosion, unintended pregnancies, sexually- transmitted diseases etc. continue to cause major public health issues world-wide. It will be interesting to know how an ancient healthcare system like Ayurveda dealt with such problems. Vaidya Lakshmi Anoop gives details about Ayurvedic contraceptives.
Procreation or no creation, Ayurveda has ways to deal with them.
Ayurveda suggests Vajikarana therapy for those who wish to conceive. On the other hand, Ayurveda has many suggestions for those who are in need of natural contraceptives.
Like in other areas of healthcare, Ayurveda has developed many methods in the practice of contraception. Safe period, coitus interruptus and other contraceptive methods have been described very well in Ayurveda texts. References about practice of contraception have been available since the period of the Vedas. On animal experiments and through clinical studies, these drugs have been found to be very efficacious for the purpose of contraception without causing side effects.
In today’s world, halting conception is not that difficult, for we have various contraceptives like condoms, spermicidal gels, intra-uterine devices and also we have many surgical measures in this regard. Not all contraceptive methods are appropriate for all situations, and the most appropriate method of birth control depends on a woman’s overall health, age, frequency of sexual activity, number of sexual partners, desire to have children in the future, and family history of certain diseases. Except for pills, intra-uterine devices and surgery, the failure rate of various other contraceptive methods is high. Hormonal contraceptives and intra -uterine devices like Copper – T are reported to generate incidents of the highest side- effects. Surgical sterilization in males can also cause side -effects. Available local contraceptive measures do not give 100% surety of prevention of conception.
Contraceptives in Ayurveda
Ayurveda suggests low- cost, user- friendly, reliable, and side-effectfree approach for family planning, which is the need of the hour. Many research works are ongoing in this area. Even the Government of India has recognized the role of indigenous systems of medicine in population control. The Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha, New Delhi, and the Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow, are undertaking a lot of research projects on indigenous contraceptive methods.
Regulated sexual life or abstinence from sex was considered as the method of contraception in Ayurvedic classics. Ayurveda treatises like Bhava Prakash, Yoga Ratnakara, Bhaishajya Ratnavali, etc have mentioned about different combinations of herbal and herbo-mineral contraceptive preparations for local as well as oral use by men and women.
Some of the preparations have been tested scientifically and some are yet to be tested. To confirm scientific validity of these herbal and herbo-mineral preparations, a number of pharmacological and clinical studies have been carried out by scientists of different faculties of life sciences.
Single herbal drugs mentioned in Ayurvedic texts are found to have anti- ovulatory and anti- implantation activities on pharmacological screening. Research on the properties of the herbs showed that these herbs are effective in contraception.
Vidanga (Emblica ribes) – Research studies show that it possesses 83% anti- fertility activity.
Talisa (Abies webbiana) – Research showed that it possesses 51% antiimplantation activity.
Chitraka (Plumbago zeylanica) – It showed anti – fertility, anti -implantation, anti- oestrogenic, anti -ovulatory, anti – gonadotrophic activities.
Nimba (Azadirachta indica) – Its bark extract possesses spermicidal activity. It also showed significant decline of sperm motility and sperm density. Fructose concentration of seminal vesicles was significantly reduced.
Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) – It possesses anti -implantation, anti -zygotic, abortifacient properties. Nagakesara (Mesua ferrea) – It possesses anti- implantation properties.
Japakusuma (Hibiscus rosasinensis) – Research studies showed that benzene extract (total) has 100% anti- fertility effect. It also possesses anti -spermatogenic, anti -ovulatory, anti -implantation, abortifacient properties. It exhibited post coital anti- fertility effect in 80% treated rats.
Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) leaves – They significantly reduce sperm count and motility, increase testosterone levels and decrease LH and FSH. They possess spermatogenic effect. Studies showed that the contraceptive effect of Tulsi in male was comparable to female contraceptive pills, which were also reversible.
Haridra (Curcuma longa) – Studies showed that intra-vaginal administration of curcuma caused reduction in fertility. Studies also showed that it causes reversible suppression of spermatogenesis and fertility, thereby suggesting the potential of this plant in the regulation of male fertility. They produce anti-androgenic effect.
Local contraceptives for females
Vaginal application of moistened Saindhava lavana (rock salt) with Tila taila (Gingely oil) before coitus.
Fumigation of vaginal canal with wood of Neem before coitus.
Filling vaginal canal with Dhattura root (Datura metal) powder which is uprooted during 14th day of first fortnight of lunar month.
The seed of shireesha (Albizzia lebbeck) is a potent spermicide. It immobilises the human sperm in one minute. It possesses anti-ovulatory and anti-fertility effect. Females can use it as local application.
Neem oil (Azadirachta indica) when applied locally, acts as vaginal contraceptive. It possesses spermicidal, anti-ovulatory and anti-implantation effects.
Oral contraceptives for females
Talisapatra powder (Abies webbiana) and Gairika (Red Ochre, Fe2O3) powder in equal parts in the dose of 1 karsha (12 gm) acts as a contraceptive.
Paste of chitraka (Plumbago zeylanica) root mixed with Nirgundi (Vitex negundo) juice and administered in the dose of one karsha (12 gm) is an effective contraceptive.
Powder of sarshapa seeds (Brassica campestris), Tandulam (Amaranthus spinosus), Sarkara (Sugar candy) pound with Tandulodaka (rice water) when taken with milk prevents conception.
Powders of Amla (Emblica officinalis), Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) and Abhaya (Terminalia chebula), along with water ,make the follicular development ineffective.
Haridra (Curcuma longa) rhizome , having knot, is to be given one rhizome per day during the 3 days of menstruation and continued for another 3 days.
Powder of Krishna Jeeraka (Carum carvi), Kachooram (Hedychium spicatum), Nagakesara (Mesua ferrea), Haritaki (Terminalia chebula), Kalonji (Nigella sativa), Kayaphala (Myrica nagi) is to be mixed and given as pills in the size of ziziphus fruit for 7 days.
Flowers of Japa (Hibiscus rosasinensis), if taken immediately after the delivery of a child, is said to prevent future conception. The anti-implantation activity of this was tested scientifically.
The entire seeds of the cotyledons of white variety of Gunja (Abrus precatorius), after removing the epicarp are to be soaked in water for one night. Administration of the potion on the fourth, fifth and sixth day of menstruation is stated to prevent conception for three years. Interesting scientific studies were conducted on this regimen. It produces absolute infertility effect which is also reversible on withdrawal.
Pippali (Piper longum), Vidanga (Embelia ribes) and Tankana (borax), made into a powder in equal quantities and taken with milk during the fertile phase, is an effective contraceptive. Experimental studies proved its efficacy and there were only two failures amongst 458 users. There is no adverse effect on lactation or any other side -effects. The reversibility of fertility is stated to be immediate after withdrawal of medication.
Oral contraceptive for males
The herb Arka (Calotropis gigantea) inhibits spermatogenesis and acts as oral contraceptives for males. Calotropin, a novel compound, is responsible for its fertility control.
Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) leaves when administered in the dose of 2 gm daily acts as an effective anti -fertility agent in males.
Haridra (Curcuma longa) extracts induce fertility control in male.
The natural birth control methods mentioned in Ayurvedic texts help to minimize chances of unwanted pregnancies and prevent sexuallytransmitted diseases. Contraceptive methods were in use since the time of Vedas. Unlike hormonal contraceptives or other contraceptive methods, Ayurvedic contraceptives are free from side- effects and are very effective. So this vast field has to be researched more for benefiting mankind