Pharmaceutical contraceptives, such as hormonal control pills, are among the more commonly used means to prevent pregnancy. Another popular tactic would be the use of “blocking” contraceptives, such as condoms and diaphragms. Among the more religiously inclined, discipline-based methods such as abstinence and the Creighton model are slowly gaining prominence. However, there are other birth control methods apart from the ones listed above. Among these birth control methods would be the use of herbal supplements and alternative medicine techniques, which borrow from the accumulated wisdom of the ancient civilizations that first utilized their effectiveness.
It should be noted that these alternative birth control methods often have variable success rates, with modern medical science finding that some of these ancient secrets don’t work at all. Also, all of these herbs and plant extracts are taken differently from one another, with varying methods of preparation. Most of these herbal birth control methods have no scientific documentation to back up their claims and rely solely on centuries’ worth of compiled user “testimonials” and folklore. It is generally advisable for anyone who uses an herbal contraceptive to use a more conventional form of birth control such as the pill or a condom to further minimize the risks of unwanted pregnancy.
One herbal treatment is wild yam, which is said to have contraceptive properties if prepared and used correctly. This is one of those herbal medications that must be taken twice a day every day to work, provided an ample amount of time after the first dose is taken for the herb to get to work. Some reports that the herb can prevent pregnancy for up to a year or two before something happens and the female gets pregnant. There is a lack of hard, scientific data to prove or disprove the supposed contraceptive properties of the herb. It is possible that the body merely develops a tolerance for the effects of wild yam over time, though this theory has never been tested.
Pomegranate has been used by various cultures for centuries, but most herbalists and medical experts believe it to be more of a historical curiosity than something that deserves to be listed among other birth control methods. Oestrone, a compound that is identical to estrogen, is found in high levels in pomegranate seeds. According to tests, the seeds have the highest concentration of oestrone among all plants. What that may mean in terms of using the seeds as a contraceptive is currently uncertain, though artwork and records as far back as the Roman Republic have shown women with pomegranate seeds in hand. This, combined with a number of cultural clues, have led some historians to believe that the seeds were used to prevent pregnancy. Whether or not they actually worked, or how effective they were for the ancients, is still subject of debate and testing.
Queen Anne’s Lace seeds are also known to have been used as a contraceptive, but has the distinction of being one of the few that has scientific data to back the claim. The herb is best used as a “morning after” contraceptive, which means it allows the user the freedom to use it as needed. Usually, the herb is taken in tincture form within the first eight hours of exposure to sperm, though two or three additional doses afterwards are not uncommon. One thing that has been noted about Queen Anne’s Lace is that it relies heavily on hormone balance in the body to work, which means that there are some situations where it would not work. For example, women who have just given birth or just came off the pill are likely to have hormone levels that would make the herb ineffective.