`Go green` with herbal contraceptives

Men could soon be popping contraceptive pills made of plants if the results of experiments carried out at Rajasthan University are anything to go by.

The zoology department of the university has been experimenting on rats for the last five years and the results have been encouraging.

"We want to develop a safe, cheap and reversible orally active male contraceptive agent from traditional medicinal plants which will have no side effects," said P.C. Mali, assistant professor at the university`s zoology department.

He said the experiments were at a preliminary stage but results so far have been very promising. "It will take some years to experiment it on humans," Mali said.

The plants being used for the research are scientifically known as citrullus colocynthis, maytenus emargineta and peganum harmala.

Citrullus colocynthis is a common type of weed found in the sandy lands of northwestern and central India and is also known as tumba, colocynth, gardmuda or Indian wild gourd.

Maytenus emargineta, known as kankeram, is a small, compact tree with purple branches with leaves and flowers on the spines. It is commonly found in the open fields of semi-arid areas.

Peganum harmala L. belongs to the zygophyllaceae (ruteaceae) family and is also known as Gandhaya and wild Rue. The plant is distributed over semi-arid areas of the Middle East and North Africa, northwestern India, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana and Rajasthan.

All these plants have necessary ingredients to control male fertility. Interestingly, these plants are found in abundance in Rajasthan and are currently being used only as fuel.

Mali said the objective of the study is to find a reversible contraceptive from traditional medicinal plants, which interferes with the production of sperms and morphological structures.

"After successfully testing it on rats, we will test it on rabbits and monkeys. Then if everything goes fine, it will be tested on humans," Mali said.

Rajasthan University, established in 1947, has 36 postgraduate departments, 15 research centres, six colleges and 500 affiliated colleges spanning six districts.