Turmeric milk or “Golden” milk is a popular DIY creation on many social media sites and internet-based project boards. Turmeric supplements have maintained popularity as natural anti-inflammatories and pain relievers, and as one of many immune-boosting antiviral herbs. This common cooking spice is also readily available in supermarket baking aisles. Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant herb beneficial for fertility.
So, what’s all the fuss about Turmeric (Curcuma longa) acting as birth control?
With a few internet searches, I believe I have found four of the more prominent resources for this information (although there may be others) and want to share with you what they say, as well as my thoughts.
1. The Global Journal of Research on Medicinal plants & Indigenous medicine, December 2012 publication. The paper highlights the use of medicinal plants for birth control by the indigenous tribes and other rural peoples living in the Bargarh District of Western Odisha, India.
This article shares that turmeric is:
“traditionally used as a contraceptive tool to prevent pregnancy… The ethno-medicinal information was gathered through interviews and discussions with village headmen, traditional healers and elders of the clan. In general, the traditional healers and elders are conservative in nature and do not share all the information regarding the use of plants as medicine.” Authors report, “In terms of turmeric (Curcuma long L.), ‘A piece of rhizome is grinded and taken once daily on an empty stomach for two weeks from 5th day of menstrual cycle to check possibilities of pregnancy for a period of one year.’”
- This report does not specify the size of the piece of turmeric rhizome taken, or document effectiveness of this practice in preventing pregnancy.
- There is no mention of whether this practice is/was effective within one month of using turmeric, several months, or only effective after consistent use after the full year.
- I by no means wish to discount the historic use of a plant as medicine! After all, much of what we know about plant medicine comes from herbalist and healer accounts of the effectiveness of herbs for their clients. The authors of this particular paper share, however, that the report possibly lacks important details due to the conservative nature of village headmen/healers. We simply don’t know enough from this one report to make definitive statements about turmeric as a contraceptive.
2. The journal of Molecular Reproduction and Development, Volume 78 from 2011, shares:
“Sperm (human and murine) were collected and incubated with curcumin to examine the effect on motility, capacitation/acrosome reaction, and in vitro fertilization. The effect on in vivo fertility using the mouse model was also examined. Incubation of sperm with curcumin caused a concentration-dependent decrease in sperm forward motility, capacitation/acrosome reaction, and murine fertilization in vitro. At higher concentrations, there was a complete block of sperm motility and function within 5-15 min. Administration of curcumin, especially intravaginally, caused a significant (P<0.001) reduction in fertility.”
- This study used curcumin, an isolated constituent of the whole Turmeric rhizome, at large doses for mice.
- Sperm were also incubated with the curcumin. We know that the average person wouldn’t incubate their sperm with an herb or even just one part of an herb.
- The researcher’s methods of administering the curcumin don’t represent how a human would usually consume this supplement.
- Many herbalists often suggest whole herbs versus their constituents alone. This is because we understand that nutrients taken from the whole plant can lose their synergy – their ability to work together as a whole. Whole herbs contain everything (nutrients, catalysts, enzymes) to help the body properly use the herb’s medicine.
3. The Asian Journal of Pharmacy and Life Science, Vol. 1 (4), Oct-Dec, 2011, shares:
“For studying antiovulatory effect of curcumin albino rats were chosen as experimental animal. Twenty female vergin albino rats weighing 125g-150g were housed in cages for acclimatization in the laboratory environment for two weeks. After normal periodicity was established curcumin in propylene glycol was given to two groups of animals of six in each, in 25mg/kg and 50mg/kg doses respectively orally, daily for 10 consecutive days… “The result obtained from this study provide evidence that curcumin has antiovulatory effect probably by its antioestrogenic activity through suppression of negative feedback effect of estrogen on pituitary.”
- This is another study where rats were given curcumin alone at doses potentially inappropriate for their size.
- While the dose of curcumin is shared, the study does not report how many doses were given daily.
- We also do not know possible side effects of propylene glycol (not commonly used to make herbal medicine) in fertility.
4. Turmeric For Health: How Turmeric Benefits Female Reproductive System. This article states:
“Curcumin is proven to have a concentration dependant spermicidal effect and when administered intravaginally it can reduce fertility. This antifertility effect is reversible. Thus, turmeric can be used to block conception… “According to Ayurveda, taking 4-5 gms of turmeric every day during periods will prevent pregnancy during next ovulation period! I have no way to confirm this, but Ayurveda is an ancient medical science and my past experience with it gives me confidence to believe it.”
- This is yet another account of the use of curcumin alone and the use of curcumin inside the vagina is not the way turmeric is suggested to be used by most herbalists or in common herb texts.
- Ayurvedic usage stated in this report may be true, at this extremely high dose. The math is this: 4-5 grams equals 4,000-5,000 milligrams (mg). The general recommended use of turmeric is 400 to 600 mg three times a day (meaning between 1,200-1,800mg per day). To take 4-5 grams of turmeric a day is almost three times the general suggested daily usage of turmeric.
Turmeric For Fertility
Whole turmeric rhizome may be effective for many fertility health issues, specifically those accompanied by pain and inflammation, such as dysmenorrhea or painful periods, endometriosis, Ashermans Syndrome and uterine fibroids, etc… It may also be supportive of normalizing menstruation. I share more including tasty recipes in my guide The Benefits of Turmeric for Fertility Health.
As a food herb, seasoning, and in beverages, or when taken in supplement form as suggested, Turmeric is known to be safe to consume while trying to conceive without concern that it will stop ovulation, harm sperm, or act as a contraceptive. I feel it’s safe to say that more research is needed before conclusions can be made about the ability of whole Turmeric, as it is commonly used, to act as a contraceptive.
- Ghosh, A.K. & Das, Abhijit & Patra, K.K.. (2011). Studies on antifertility effect of rhizome of curcuma longa linn. Asian Journal of Pharmacy and Life Science. 1. 349-353. Retrieved from: http://www.ajpls.com/admin/Issues/PIssue127.pdf
- How Turmeric Benefits Female Reproductive System. (2013). Retrieved from: http://www.turmericforhealth.com/turmeric-benefits/how-turmeric-benefits-female-reproductive-system
- Kumar, S., Rabindranath, P., Ranjan, P., & Mohan, B. (2012, December). Traditional knowledge of medicinal plants against birth control by the tribals and other rural people of Bargarh district in Western Odisha, India. Retrieved from: https://issuu.com/ayurharivenkatesh/docs/gjrmi_-_volume_1__issue_12__december_2012
- Naz, R. K. (2011). Can curcumin provide an ideal contraceptive? Molecular Reproduction and Development, 78(2), 116-123. doi:10.1002/mrd.21276 Retrieved from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/mrd.21276