Asparagus–The Unlikely Birth Control?Chaunie Brusie
Did you hear the one about the lady who eschewed hormonal birth control and wound up pregnant all the time?
That would be me.
I will openly admit that hormonal birth control, for various reasons that we really don’t need to get into, has never worked for me. But after finding out that I am currently expecting our fourth child in six years, I started to do a little more serious research on some more natural forms of birth control. Although both my husband and I wanted to have a family of six, we are both pretty sure that this is it. And by “pretty sure,” I mean 99.99% sure.
Just for fun, I started digging around into the medicine files on our computer system, where I work as a labor and delivery nurse, and much to my surprise, I found that there are a lot of little-known natural forms of birth control.
Including that green, stalky vegetable…
Image via jamesonf/Flickr
According to the research I dug up, historically, in Europe and Asia, the red berries of the asparagus plant “were reported to have contraceptive properties,” especially India’s asparagus species.
Researchers performed strict animal-only studies (like this one and this one), using both asparagus seeds and root extracts to examine the contraceptive claim of asparagus. They found that asparagus seeds caused “significant” fetal abnormalities in mice and the root extract inhibited fetal implantation in mice, rats, and rabbits, as well as “significantly changed” the weight and length of the fetuses. One study stated, “the asparagus extract significantly and dose-dependently impaired fertility.” Overall, researchers concluded that asparagus may act as a contraceptive primarily for its ability to inhibit implantation of the embryo, as well as preventing fertilization from occurring in the first place.
Along with some rather conflicting evidence of the effectiveness of asparagus as a method of birth control is the use of asparagus as an aid in milk production for breastfeeding mothers. According to various studies, asparagus has a long history of use as a galactagogue in folk medicine. At least two clinical trials showed promising results of using asparagus as an aid for promoting healthy milk production without any adverse affects. Which, I guess makes sense, as the asparagus must have some kind of effect on the hormonal balance of a woman’s body–helpful for the breastfeeding phase, perhaps not-so-helpful for the growing-a-baby phase.
Although the birth control properties of the elusive spring vegetable might have some pregnant women fearing its consumption during gestation, The Mayo Clinic says not to worry; it lists asparagus on its approved list of foods for folic acid. Furthermore, the German Commission E and the American Herbal Products Association found no reason to restrict asparagus from a pregnant woman’s diet, providing the consumption falls under the “moderate” category.