Plants used for reproduction and contraception
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Plants Used for Reproduction and Contraception Plants affecting reproduction Many ways plants used for reproductive system Contraceptives Aphrodiasics Aids in child birth Modern contraceptives Since 1960 effective contraception has been available in the form of birth control pills

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Plants affecting reproduction

  • Many ways plants used for reproductive system

    • Contraceptives

    • Aphrodiasics

    • Aids in child birth


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Modern contraceptives

  • Since 1960 effective contraception has been available in the form of birth control pills

  • The “Pill” was developed by a group of Massachusetts scientists in the 1950s but they built on work of other scientists from 1930s on


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Contraceptives

  • 1933 Corner and Allen isolated progesterone from corpus luteum

  • 1933 Butenandt and Jacobi discover plant chemicals similar to female sex hormones

  • 1934 structural formula determined by Wintersteiner and Allen

  • 1939-1940 Marker described use of plant sources to produce progesterone

    • Disogenin from Dioscorea (wild yam) especially promising


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Contraceptives

  • 1940s Marker and others investigated various species of Dioscorea from Mexico for production of steroids: progesterone, estrogen, etc

  • 1945-1960, Pincus, Chang, Rock worked on development of birth control pill - clinical trials in 1950s and FDA approval in 1960


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Yams - Dioscorea spp.

  • True yams - Tuber crop

  • Important staples in many areas:

    • West Africa, southeast Asia, Pacific Islands, and Caribbean Islands

  • Genus has several hundred species of which ten are major food sources

  • Yams have been cultivated for over 5000 years in tropical Africa.


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Yams

  • Tubers vary from size of potatoes to massive ones often weighing over 80 lbs

  • Prepared in ways similar to potatoes

  • 20% starch with about 2% protein

  • Yams contain diosgenin which is a sapogenin (steroidal glycoside)


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Yams

  • Most species of yams contain large amounts of diosgenin

  • Wild yam root has been used for hundreds of years to treat rheumatism and arthritis-like ailments

  • The discovery of diosgenin in the tuber validated herbal uses


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Yams

  • Wild yams are the only really good source of plant steroids for medicine

  • Animal or human steroids produced in a fairly straightforward multi step process

  • Diosgenin provides about 50 percent of the raw material for steroid synthesis.

  • Without the yams, probably not possible to meet the worldwide demand for synthetic corticosteroids


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Dioscorea - tropical vine


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Tubers of Dioscorea


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Other herbal contraceptives

  • Throughout the world various plants used by women for controlling pregnancy

  • Recent interest in these plants both from ancient tradition of Western medicine and folk medicines around world today

  • Used as oral medication or pessary


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Silphium or Silphion

  • A plant in the genus Ferula – parsley family

  • Related to giant fennel (not the cooking herb)

  • Used by ancient women for contraception

  • During Greek and Roman Civilization, rare plant growing in a narrow 30 mile band along the dry mountain sides facing the Mediterranean Sea in northern Africa near the city of Cyrene (area is now part of Libya)



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Silphium

  • Soranus (early Greek physician) wrote, women should drink the juice from a small amount of silphium with water once a month

  • Writings continue "not only prevents conception but also destroys anything existing"

  • Dioscorides also gave it for both contraceptive and abortive purposes


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Silphium

  • Attempts at cultivation failed and it became extinct

  • As silphium became harder to find and more expensive, ancient women turned to other plants

  • Another species of Ferula (Ferulaassafoetida) became an acceptable substitute for silphium


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Other Ferula species

  • Modern researchers tested Ferula spp and found anti-fertility effects in the family

  • Crude extracts of asafetida and Ferulaorientalis inhibited implantation of fertilized eggs in rats by 40% to 50%

  • Other Ferula species have similar results; one species was found to be nearly 100% effective in preventing pregnancy when administered to female rats within three days after intercourse


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Pomegranate

Queen Anne’s Lace

Pennyroyal

Artemisia

Date Palm

Doom Palm

Juniperus

Myrrh

Squirting cucumber

Aloe

Willow

Cypress

Rue

Chaste tree

Other Plants in Ancient World


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Queen Anne’s Lace

  • Women have used the seeds from Daucus carota (wild carrot or queen anne’s lace) for centuries as a contraceptive

  • Earliest written reference dates back to the late 5th or 4th century B.C. appearing in a work by Hippocrates



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Distribution of Daucus carota


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Queen Anne’s Lace

  • John Riddle says that Queen Anne’s Lace is one of the more potent antifertility agents

  • Available and relatively common throughout the world

  • Strong contraceptive if taken orally immediately after intercourse

  • Seeds have to be chewed


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Queen Anne’s Lace

  • Animal studies have shown that extracts of seeds disrupt implantation

  • Also a fertilized egg that has recently implanted will be released

  • Terpenoids in seed block progesterone synthesis in pregnant animals

  • Some “herbalists” suggests it makes the uterus slippery so that the egg is unable to implant


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Pomegranate

  • Punicia granatum is a shrub or small tree native to southern Asia

  • Attract plant with fragment orange blossoms - produces fruit in late summer to early fall

  • Widely known in ancient times - and used medicinally


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Pomegranate

  • Recognized as an antifertility agent in early civilizations

  • Greek and Roman medicine prescribed pomegranates - Hippocrates, Soranus, Dioscorides, Aetius

  • Both seeds and rind thought to prevent contraception - discrepancies on its use some orally - others as a pessary


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Pomegranate

  • Use declined in Europe during the Middle Ages

  • However, pomegranate is used today for birth control in India, East Africa and Pacific areas

  • Riddle speculates that pomegranate use was abandoned in Western populations because more effective plants found


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Pomegranate

  • Contemporary studies show pomegranate has contraceptive properties

  • Female rates 72% reduction in fertility

  • In another study 50% reduction in fertility

  • Guinea pigs 100% reduction in fertility

  • 40 days after removing pomegranate fertility was restored in both animals


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Male Contraceptive

  • For a number of years researchers looking into the question of the development of an effective oral contraceptive for men

  • Much attention focused on gossypol from cottonseed oil

    • Known to cause male infertility in areas where cottonseed oil used

    • Decades of work on the development of gossypol as a contraceptive – stopped when side effects showed hypokalaemia – low level of K+ in blood


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