Ricinus communis-linn (castor plant), male contraceptives and reproductive health of women

RT McNeil, A Adebesin, E Ekwere

Abstract

The medicinal use of castor plant is extensive. Castor oil is most commonly used as a laxative, and the leaves and seeds have been used to augment labour, promote lactation and to treat syphilis and leprosy. Its use for contraception is an ancient practice among the Rukuba women of Plateau State in Nigeria, who would chew 2-3 seeds for contraceptive coverage of one year. The acute and chronic spermatogenic effect of the minor seed variety of ricinus communis-linn is hereby reported. Thirty male rats weighing 200–250g were grouped (n = 5) and treated with the n-hexane extract of the seeds, each made up to 1ml with physiological saline, and given as a single dose, intraperitoneally.  Control groups had 1 ml physiological saline. Semen was collected 72 h and 6 weeks after treatment and analyzed within one hour of collection. The seed extract suppressed spermatogenesis and sperm motility up to six weeks after treatment. But semen parameters reverted to normal values in the 7 weeks of treatment, showing primary spermatocytes and spermatids in the seminiferous tubules. Our results showed ricinus communis-linn to be a potent but reversible anti-spermatogenic agent with significant anti-motility properties. Moreover, being of plant origin, it is readily available and affordable. We hereby present ricinus communis-linn as a possible male contraceptive agent that can relieve women of their reproductive burden globally. (Afr J Reprod Health 2021; 25[4]: 135-141).

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