Experts list malaria herbal remedies harmful for men’s fertility

Experts, in a new study, have discouraged the indiscriminate use of antimalarial plants by men because of their potential to affect their fertility level. They had listed common malaria herbal remedies that are harmful for men’s fertility.

The researchers, in a review of 28 antimalarial plants, stated that although many men consume herbal preparations containing these plants in large or excessive quantities believing that it is safe, it is better discouraged when male contraception is not desired.

Many malaria herbal remedies are prepared with at least the leaf, bark or root of one of these medicinal plants. A large number of the people consume these antimalarial herbal remedies in large or excessive quantities, making them vulnerable to any male-factor antifertility effects of such plant remedies.

Globally, male factor is responsible for more than 50 per cent of infertility. It is a growing global health concern. In Nigeria, researchers are concerned that heavy dependence on antimalarial plant remedies may be a contributing factor to male infertility.

This review of commonly used antimalarial plant remedies experimentally validated as having male-factor antifertility effects in the 2019 Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine involved Kayode Ezekiel Adewole and Alfred Francis Attah.

The 28 antimalarial plants include Abrus precatorius (Oju ologbo in Yoruba or Damar Zaya in Hausa), garlic, Annona senegalensis (Abo in Yoruba, Gwandan daaji in Hausa and Uburu Rocha in Ibo), Alstonia boonei (Stool wood or Ahun in Yoruba), neem leaf and seed, Bridelia ferruginea (Kimi Hausa, Iralodan in Yoruba, and Ola in Igbo), Cajanus cajan (fio fio in Igbo, waken-masar in Hausa, and otili in Yoruba), pawpaw leaf and root, Chromolaena odorata (Christmas bush or Akintola-ta-ku (Yoruba), Tithonia diversifolia (Mexican sunflower)  and Crossopteryx febrifuga (kashin akuya in Hausa).

Others are Cryptolepis sanguinolenta (Akpaoku in Igbo and Gangamau in Hausa), turmeric, Cylicodiscus gabunensis (Okan), Ficus thonningii (wild fig), Khaya senegalensis (mahogany in English), Lippia multiflora (bush tea or ‘Efinrin Ajase’), Morinda lucida(Òruwó), Nauclea latifolia (Egbo egbesi in Yoruba, Ubulu inu  in Ibo and Tabasiya in Hausa), scent leaf, Phyllanthus amarus (Iyin Olobe in Yoruba), Picralima nitida (Osu-igwe in Igbo and Erin in Yoruba), Quassia amara (bitter-wood), Sphenocentrum jollyanum (Akerejupon in Yoruba  or Ibong Isong in Igbo), bitter leaf and Solenostemon monostachyus (Ntorikwot  in Ibibio and Olojogbodu in Yoruba).

The male-factor antifertility effects of these plants include reduction of sperm quality, regulation of reproductive hormone levels and induction of lipid peroxidation.

According to the review, for instance, the ingestion of garlic for one month negatively affected testosterone secretion and sperm production. Furthermore, garlic powder consumption has been shown cause arrest of sperm production in rat following 70-day administration.

Similarly, root and leaf extract of paw paw extract made with water or alcohol decreased sperm counts, increased percentage of abnormal sperms, reduction in the testosterone level in the blood and severe destruction of the lining and cells of the of the testes.

It was reported that administration water extract of Annona senegalensis leaf for 21 days led to a significant decrease in the testis-body weight ratio and total protein content in the testes, an increase in testicular concentration of cholesterol, glycogen and malondialdehyde and degeneration of seminiferous tubules in rats.

In another study, the water wood ash extract of the whole plant taken significantly reduced sperm motility, sperm count, live/dead sperm as well as increase in abnormal sperm cells.

Furthermore, the administration of extract of neem stem bark soaked in ethanol for 10 weeks caused decrease in weights of testis, seminal vesicle and epididymis in experimental rats. The extract altered sperm count, morphology and viability and caused reduction in serum testosterone and luteinising hormone in rats such that the animals were unable to impregnate female rats during the experimental period.

Likewise, intake of bitter leaf extract soaked in ethanol for 56 days has been shown to cause testicular toxicity in rats. Its water extract when given for 15 days was reported to have adverse effects on sperm parameters (sperm count, morphology and viability) and caused degeneration of testis.

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