Can neem oil prevent pregnancy? There is increasing interest in the potential of neem oil as a contraceptive.
A safe and effective method of birth control, with no side effects, that on top of preventing pregnancy may also protect from some sexually transmitted diseases...
Is it too good to be true?
The results of recent and not so recent research of neem oil as a contraceptive are outlined below.
To use neem oil for birth control in developing countries seemed to be THE solution. A neem oil contraceptive would be safe, cheap, and easily available, since neem can be grown in most poor countries struggling with population growth.
Many reports of research into the use of neem oil as a contraceptive (mostly conducted in the mid eighties to mid nineties) conclude with the prediction that neem will be widely accepted as a means of birth control, and that the developments will have huge global impact.
When you dig through the experiments and results of neem birth control studies, it's obvious why researchers were excited.
Let me outline some of their findings in plain language. (If you are interested in the scientific details you can find the individual studies listed below.)
Several small studies showed that neem oil appears to be a safe and very effective contraceptive, pre and post coital (before and after sex).
The way it was applied in the studies it was 100% effective in preventing pregnancies. During in vitro experiments (meaning, in a dish in the lab, not in real life) neem oil also totally immobilized sperm cells within 20 to 30 seconds of being in contact with neem oil.
Impressive, huh? But nothing new...
"In the first century B.C., Charaka, the Indian physician, gave a detailed method for using neem for contraception. Cotton soaked in neem oil was kept in the vagina for fifteen minutes before intercourse. This killed the sperm."
Newer studies showed that neem oil contraceptive indeed kills sperm in the vagina within 30 seconds and remains active for five hours. It causes no irritation or discomfort like the chemical based spermicidal foams do. (Apart from the awful smell.)
In addition neem oil acts as a lubricant, and it may also offer some protection from vaginal and sexually transmitted diseases.
"Vaginal creams and suppositories made with neem oil are quickly becoming the birth control method of choice in India". A headline from 1993...
But as we know now, this didn't spread around the world as predicted.
There were other studies as well:
Researchers also showed that the effect of neem oil on the immune system is responsible for those results. The body's immune system gets stimulated to a degree where it kills the sperm and rejects (or rather resorbs) the embryo.
(This explanation is somewhat simplified for easier understanding. See the individual neem studies below if you want to know which aspects of the immune system exactly are involved and how.)
A widely reported (misreported?) experiment took place in 1992: twenty married soldiers of the Indian Army took part in an experiment. The men took a small, daily dose of neem oil in a gelatine capsule for one year.
After six weeks the neem oil was 100% effective in preventing pregnancies, and the men remained infertile for the whole year of the trial. Not one wife fell pregnant. The soldiers did not experience any adverse side effects, and no change in their capabilities or desires. Six weeks after the soldiers stopped taking the capsules they regained their full fertility.
Impressive, huh? Neem makes the perfect male birth control pill it seems.
Well. I'd say definitely maybe.
There is no documentation of hard facts. And after some digging it seems that it may have been the wives of the soldiers who took the capsules, as a post-coital treatment!! Which would be the equivalent to some of the experiments on rats that were mentioned above...
But even if the experiment had happened as described above, it is only one tiny experiment on humans, and not even a scientific study. All scientifically documented studies into the effect of neem oil on male fertility were done on animals. (The same is true for neem oil birth control studies on females.)
Those research studies, however, show that neem oil does indeed decrease sperm count and mobility, without affecting sperm production or libido. (Neem leaf extracts were shown to reduce fertility as well.) But we know nowhere near enough about those and other possible effects of neem oil when taken internally.
The great majority of all studies of neem birth control was done on rats, some studies used guinea pigs, rabbits or monkeys.
Obviously you can not, under no circumstances, take results from animal studies and apply them to people!
And before you go and start self medication with neem oil or extracts regardless, note that in one of those studies most of the guniea pigs and rabbits died!
All the information on this page is for information only. To satisfy your curiosity. No more. Men or women, as interesting as all these studies are to read, do not attempt to self experiment with neem oil or extracts internally!
And have a whiff of the smell first before you decide to rely on a vaginal neem oil contraceptive. It may very well prevent pregancy, but not quite in the way you had planned...
Indian researchers had developed products, but until you can get similar tested and approved products here, stick to what you know if you want to be sure to avoid pregnancy.
I get many questions regarding the use of neem oil and neem products during pregnancy or when trying to conceive.
Please read the questions and answers below before asking the same question again.
Update: even better, see the new page about the safety of neem in pregnancy.
Click below to see questions from other readers and the answers and comments...
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J Basic Clin Physiol Pharmacol. 2003;14(4):387-95. Azadirachta indica adversely affects sperm parameters and fructose levels in vas deferens fluid of albino rats.
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