Herbal Medicine Male Reproductive System Infertility Anti Infertility Biology Essay

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Herbal medicine sometimes referred to as botanical medicine. The herbs are use for their therapeutic or medicinal value. A herb is a plant or plant part valued for its medicinal, aromatic qualities. Herbal plants produce and contain a variety of chemical substances that act upon the body.1

Herbal remedies formed the basis of traditional medicine for millennia, and have formed the root of modern pharmacology and modern medicine. While science from roughly the 1880's onwards has striven to isolate the active compounds found in medicinal herbs, the list is ever growing.2

Herbalists use the leaves, flowers, stems, berries, and roots of plants to prevent, relieve, and treat illness. From a "scientific" perspective, many herbal treatments are considered experimental. The reality is, however, that herbal medicine has a long and respected history. Many familiar medications of the twentieth century were developed from ancient healing traditions that treated health problems with specific plants. Today, science has isolated the medicinal properties of a large number of botanicals, and their healing components have been extracted and analyzed. Among the healing agents isolated from herbal remedies is salicylic acid (aspirin) isolated from white willow bark.

Many plant components are now synthesized in large laboratories for use in pharmaceutical preparations. For example, vincristine (an antitumor drug), digitoxine (a heart regulator), and ephedrine (a bronchodilator used to decrease respiratory congestion) were all originally discovered through research on plants.1, 2

1.2. Timeline of Herbal Medicine:

No one knows when humans began using herbs for medicinal purposes. The first written record of herbal medicine use showed up in 2800 B.C. in China. Since then the use of herbs has gained, and fallen out of, favor many times in the medical field. The timeline shows some of the key dates and major points in the history of herbal medicine.3

2800 B.C.- The first written record of herbal medicine use showed up. (Titled the Pen Ts'ao by Shen Nung)

400 B.C.- The Greeks joined the herbal medicine game. Hippocrates stressed the ideas that diet, exercise and overall happiness formed the foundation of wellness.

50 A.D.- The Roman Empire spread herbal medicine around the Empire, and with it the commerce of cultivating herbs.

200 A.D.- The first classification system that paired common illnesses with their herbal remedy appeared. This was prepared by the herbal practitioner Galen.

800 A.D.- Monks took over the herbal field with herbal gardens at most monasteries and infirmaries for the sick and injured.

1100 A.D.- The Arab world became a center of medicinal influence. Physician Avicenna wrote the Canon of Medicine, which gave mention to herbal medicines.

1200 A.D.- Black Death spread across Europe and herbal medicines were used alongside "modern" methods such as bleeding, purging, arsenic and mercury with equal, or better, results.

1500 A.D.- Herbal medicine and herbalists were promoted and supported by Henry VII and the Parliament, due to the large number of untrained apothecaries giving substandard care.

1600 A.D.- Herbs were used in treating the poor, while extracts of plant, minerals, and animals (the "drugs"), were used for the rich. The English Physician, an herbal explaining the practice of herbal medicine, was written during this time.

1700 A.D.- Herbal medicine got another high profile endorsement from Preacher Charles Wesley. He advocated for sensible eating, good hygiene and herbal treatments for healthy living.

1800 A.D.- Pharmaceuticals began to hit the scene and herbal treatments took a back seat. As side effects from the drugs began to be documented, herbal remedies came into favor again. The National Association of Medical Herbalists was formed, and later renamed the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH.)

1900 A.D.- Lack of availability of drugs during World War increased the use of herbal medicines again. After the war pharmaceutical production increased and penicillin was discovered. Herbal practitioners had their rights to dispense their medications taken away and then reinstated. The British Herbal Medicine Association was founded and produced the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. People began to express the concern over the large number of side effects and environmental impact of the drugs of the 1950s.

2000 A.D.- European Union took action on regulation and testing of herbal medicines similar to those used for pharmaceuticals.

Herbal medicines have been documented for almost 4000 years. These medicines have survived real world testing and thousands of years of human testing. Some medicines have been discontinued due to their toxicity, while others have been modified or combined with additional herbs to reduce side effects. Many herbs have undergone changes in their uses.3

1.3. Herbal Medicine Today:

Herbal medicine is the use of medicinal plants for prevention and treatment of diseases. It ranges from traditional and popular medicines of every country to the use of standardized and titrated herbal extracts. Traditional medicinal System may indicate safety, but not efficacy of treatments, especially in herbal medicine where tradition is almost completely based on remedies containing active principles at very low and ultra low concentrations, or relying on magical-energetic principles.4

In the age of globalization and of the so-called 'plate world', assessing the 'transferability' of treatments between different cultures is not a relevant goal for clinical research, while are the assessment of efficacy and safety that should be based on the regular patterns of mainstream clinical medicine.

The other black box of herbal-based treatments is the lack of definite and complete information about the composition of extracts. Herbal derived remedies need a powerful and deep assessment of their pharmacological qualities and safety that actually can be realized by new biologic technologies like pharmacogenomic, metabolomic and microarray methology. Because of the large and growing use of natural derived substances in all over the world, it is not wise to rely also on the tradition or supposed millenarian idea; explanatory and practical studies are useful and should be considered complementary in the acquisition of reliable data both for health care contributor and patients.4

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 75-80% of the world population, mainly in the developing countries, uses the herbal medicine for primary health care because of better cultural acceptability, better compatibility with the human body and lesser side effects. Herbal medicine is a major component in all indigenous peoples, traditional medicine and a common element in Ayurvedic, homeopathic, naturopathic, traditional oriental, and Native American Indian medicine. WHO notes that 119 plant-derived pharmaceutical medicines, about 74% are used in modern medicine in ways that correlated directly with their traditional uses as plant medicines by native cultures. Major pharmaceutical companies are currently conducting extensive research on plant materials gathered from the rain forests and other places for their potential medicinal value.1, 5, 6

Rather than using a whole plant, pharmacologists identify, isolate, extract, and synthesize individual components, thus capturing the active properties. This can create problems, however. In addition to active ingredients, plants contain glycosides, alkaloids, bioflavonoid, minerals, vitamins, volatile oils, and other substances that are important in supporting a particular herb's medicinal properties. These elements also provide an important natural safeguard Isolated or synthesized active compounds can become toxic in relatively small doses; it usually takes a much greater amount of a whole herb, with all of its components, to reach a toxic level. Herbs are medicines, however, and they can have powerful effects. They should not tee taken lightly.

Substances derived from the plants remain the basis for a large proportion of the commercial medications used today for the treatment of heart disease, high blood pressure, pain, asthma, and other problems. For example, ephedra is an herb used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for more than two thousand years to treat asthma and other respiratory problems. Ephedrine, the active ingredient in ephedra, is used in the commercial pharmaceutical preparations for the relief of asthma symptoms and other respiratory problems. It helps the patient to breathe more easily.1

1.4. Future of Plant Drugs:

The plant kingdom has long supplied us with large number of excellent drugs. But solid scientific research in this field is languishing today and some have explored concern for its future. American health food stores sold more than $190 million worth herbs in 1985 and books and pamphlets describing the putative use of these products amounted to another $33 million in sales. Research and development in the field of herbals continue to flourish in Germany. There new plant drug preparations (Phyto pharmaceutical) and even new plant constituents are continually being introduced into the market by a relatively large number of manufacturers. A survey showed that nearly 76% of women interviewed drank herbal teas for their beneficial effect and about 52% of then turned to herbal remedies for their initial treatment of minor illness.

Within the next quarter century the achievement of science and technology will be so great that, when brought to bear upon the mysteries of nature that have long puzzled us, those mysteries will yield their secrete with amazing rapidity. It will be a fascinating and eventful period. We will know not only the cause of disease but also the cure for most. The plant and animal kingdom will continue to save mankind in the 21st century just as they have done since the dawn of the history. Significant new drugs of natural origin and new methods of producing them will continue to be important parts of that service.7, 8


The organs of the male reproductive system are specialized for the following functions:

To produce, maintain and transport sperm (the male reproductive cells) and protective fluid (semen)

To discharge sperm within the female reproductive tract

To produce and secrete male sex hormones

The male reproductive anatomy includes internal and external structures.9


Most of the male reproductive system is located outside of the man's body. The external structures of the male reproductive system are the penis, the scrotum and the testicles.


The penis is the external sex organ of the male through which both urine and semen pass. It is the organ for sexual intercourse. It has three parts: the root, which attaches to the wall of the abdomen; the body, or shaft; and the glans, which is the cone-shaped end of the penis. The glans, which also is called the head of the penis, is covered with a loose layer of skin called foreskin. The opening of the urethra, the tube that transports semen and urine, is at the tip of the glans penis. The penis also contains a number of sensitive nerve endings.

Semen, which contains sperm, is expelled (ejaculated) through the end of the penis when the man reaches sexual climax (orgasm). When the penis is erect, the flow of urine is blocked from the urethra, allowing only semen to be ejaculated at orgasm.9, 10


The scrotum is the loose pouch-like sac of skin that hangs behind the penis. It contains the testicles, as well as many nerves and blood vessels. The scrotum has a protective function and acts as a climate control system for the testes. For normal sperm development, the testes must be at a temperature slightly cooler than the body temperature. Special muscles in the wall of the scrotum allow it to contract and relax, moving the testicles closer to the body for warmth and protection or farther away from the body to cool the temperature.

Testicles (testes):

The testes are oval organs about the size of large olives that lie in the scrotum, secured at either end by a structure called the spermatic cord. Most men have two testes. The testes are responsible for making testosterone, the primary male sex hormone, and for generating sperm. Within the testes are coiled masses of tubes called seminiferous tubules. These tubules are responsible for producing the sperm cells through a process called spermatogenesis.


The epididymis is a long, coiled tube that rests on the backside of each testicle. It functions in the transport and storage of the sperm cells that are produced in the testes. It also is the job of the epididymis to bring the sperm to maturity, since the sperm that emerge from the testes are immature and incapable of fertilization. During sexual arousal, contractions force the sperm into the vas deferens.


The internal organs of the male reproductive system, also called accessory organs, include the following:

Vas deferens:

The vas deferens is a long, muscular tube that travels from the epididymis into the pelvic cavity, to just behind the bladder. The vas deferens transports mature sperm to the urethra in preparation for ejaculation.

Ejaculatory ducts:

These are formed by the fusion of the vas deferens and the seminal vesicles. The ejaculatory ducts empty into the urethra.


The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to outside of the body. In males, it has the additional function of expelling (ejaculating) semen when the man reaches orgasm. When the penis is erect during sex, the flow of urine is blocked from the urethra, allowing only semen to be ejaculated at orgasm.

Seminal vesicles:

The seminal vesicles are sac-like pouches that attach to the vas deferens near the base of the bladder. The seminal vesicles produce a sugar-rich fluid (fructose) that provides sperm with a source of energy and helps with the sperms' motility (ability to move). The fluid of the seminal vesicles makes up most of the volume of a man's ejaculatory fluid, or ejaculate.

Prostate gland:

The prostate gland is a walnut-sized structure that is located below the urinary bladder in front of the rectum. The prostate gland contributes additional fluid to the ejaculate. Prostate fluids also help to nourish the sperm. The urethra, which carries the ejaculate to be expelled during orgasm, runs through the center of the prostate gland.

Bulbourethral glands:

The bulbourethral glands, or Cowper's glands, are pea-sized structures located on the sides of the urethra just below the prostate gland. These glands produce a clear, slippery fluid that empties directly into the urethra. This fluid serves to lubricate the urethra and to neutralize any acidity that may be present due to residual drops of urine in the urethra.9, 10


Spermatogenesis is the process by which male spermatogonia develop into mature spermatozoa. Spermatozoa are the mature male gametes, in many sexually reproducing organisms. Thus, spermatogenesis is the male version of gametogenesis. In mammals it occurs in the male testes and epididymis in a stepwise fashion and for humans takes approximately 64 days. Spermatogenesis is highly dependent upon optimal conditions for the process to occur correctly, and is essential for sexual reproduction. It starts at puberty and usually continues uninterrupted until death although a slight decrease can be discerned in the quantity of produced sperm with increase in age. The entire process can be broken up into several distinct stages, each corresponding to a particular type of cell.11

Fig. 1. Structure of Sperm


Spermatogenesis produces mature male gametes, commonly called sperm but specifically known as spermatozoa, which are able to fertilize the counterpart female gamete, the oocyte, during conception to produce a single-celled individual known as a zygote.


Spermatogenesis takes place within several structures of the male reproductive system. The initial stages occur within the testes and progress to the epididymis where the developing gametes mature and are stored until ejaculation. The seminiferous tubules of the testes are the starting point for the process, where stem cells adjacent to the inner tubule wall divide in a centripetal direction beginning at the walls and proceeding into the innermost part, or lumen to produce immature sperm. Maturation occurs in the epididymis and involves the acquisition of a tail and hence motility.11

The necessity of population control:

Rising human population throughout the world more particularly in developing and undeveloped part has detrimental effects on the life supporting system on the earth.12

Population control is the practice of limiting population increase, usually by reducing the birth rate. The practice has sometimes been voluntary, as a response to poverty, or out of religious ideology, but in some times and places it has been government-mandated. This is generally conducted to improve quality of life for a society or as a solution to overpopulation. While population control can involve measures that improve the lives of poor people giving them greater control of their reproduction some programs have exposed them to exploitation.

It is generally accepted that overpopulation is caused or aggravated by poverty and gender inequality with consequent unavailability, and lack of knowledge of contraception, institutionalized in a document misnamed the "Cairo Consensus", and third world evidence usually bears this theory out.

However, first and second world fertility rates, in the Depression era United States, Modern Russia, Japan, Italy, Sweden, Estonia and France suggest that these populations are responding inversely to poverty and economic pressures especially on women . Thus France is increasing social and women's services like childcare and parental leave, expecting the policy to stop the aging of its population. Italy is regarded as alleviating overpopulation more rapidly than Sweden as a result of less gender equality and fewer children's services.

However, surveys of the prevalence of methods of contraception in different countries have revealed that up to 50% of couples use condoms or vasectomy, despite reservations about their efficacy and convenience. It seems likely that, in many countries, some individuals would find a new male contraceptive method would meet their needs. Moreover, there is an increasing awareness that men should share, to a greater extent, responsibility for contraception. Men and women of reproductive age were asked about their current methods of contraception and whether they thought they or their partners would use a new method of male contraception.

Use of existing methods of male contraception:

Use of existing male contraceptives in developed countries:

Use of existing male contraceptives in developing countries:

These data are from the United Nations Population Division World Contraceptive Use 2003. "Data on contraceptive use were compiled primarily from surveys based on nationally representative samples of women of reproductive age (15 to 49 years old in general).13

Plant chosen for present work:

The possibility of an effective check on human fertility soon be realized through biological means, because from times immemorial human relied on plants and their products as sources of drugs and therapeutic agents, although in recent times, synthetic drugs are used extensively in modern medicine. However many modern medicines are developed through the clues obtained from phytochemicals. More over the phytochemicals even today are important resources for medicine. The plant products are becoming more popular than the synthetic drugs. In recent times it is mainly attributed to their low toxicity and long standing experience of exposure of these drugs in ethnic medicine system like Ayurveda. Family planning has been promoted through several methods of contraception, but due to serious adverse effects produced by synthetic steroidal contraceptives, attention has now been focused on indigenous plants for possible contraceptive effect. Although contraceptives containing estrogen and progesterone are effective and popular, the risks associated to the drugs have triggered the need to develop newer molecules from medicinal plants. Hence, there is a need for searching suitable product from indigenous medicinal plants that could be effectively used in the place of pills.12

Present method used for male antifertility:

The search for new, safe, effective and reversible contraceptive methods for men is being pursued by several agencies. The introduction of more easily reversed procedures of vas occlusion; hormonal means of sperm suppression based on infrequent injections of either androgens alone or combined with other gonadotrophin suppressing agents are the most recent developments. Methods based on new drugs or vaccines are unlikely to be developed by the end of the present decade.14

Currently Available Male Contraceptive Methods



The Hormonal Approach to Male Contraception

Testosterone alone

Testosterone-progestogen combinations

Estrogens in male contraception

Testosterone with GnRH analogs

Non hormonal Testicular and Post testicular Agents

Immunological approach to male contraception