One seemingly strange observation I found while reading studies on curcumin and turmeric is that researchers have noticed curcumin has strong contraceptive properties. In 2003, a UCSD Division of Urology study cited that curcumin is an effective contraceptive at high concentrations by impairing sperm motility. That study also mentioned promising anti-HIV activity, too.
Can curcumin provide an ideal contraceptive? is another paper on similar contraceptive findings written in 2011.
The concentrations necessary for total impairment of sperm motility probably could not be reached via normal diet or oral supplementation unless many capsules of very high bioavailability curcumin were consumed.
Beyond the data published in those papers, there’s additional reason to believe that the impact of normal use of curcumin on fertility can’t be as drastic as the papers hint. For instance, consider the rapid population growth rate in India. India is one area where turmeric and curcumin are widely consumed. It has even been noted that their age-adjusted rate of Alzheimer’s Disease seems notably lower (only around 20% to 25% of Western nations by some studies) than that of populations that do not consume so much turmeric and curcumin. So if curcumin is such a potent contraceptive, then why is India’s population growing so rapidly?
The answer may lie in the widely known facts that curcumin is normally poorly absorbed and mostly stays in the digestive tract rather than reaching the blood and reproductive organs. But obviously if there is an effect with increased rates of curcumin consumption resulting in reduced rates of Alzheimer’s, some of it must be absorbed.
Although this seems contradictory, what it may mean is that if curcumin is eventually developed into a marketable contraceptive product, it may not be as a simple oral contraceptive. That is unless some means are found to control where the curcumin ends up concentrated in the body to potentiate its effect on sperm motility.
Instead, curcumin might be combined with other contraceptive products to improve their effectiveness. For instance, consider spermicidal gels and how they are often used with both male and female contraceptives. But one big obstacle to this is that curcumin is the compound responsible for the yellow color of turmeric. A yellow-staining contraceptive gel would obviously have some problems with market appeal.
Every one of the curcumin variants discussed in the article High Bioavailability Curcumin Supplements from Indena, Dolcas Biotech, and Verdure Sciences appear to wash out of the blood within less than 24 hours. For those trying to conceive, both partners should simply avoid taking curcumin for a few days before and after ovulation. This would probably eliminate most or all of any contraceptive effort even if you had been taking huge dosages of curcumin. The contraceptive effects are believed to be entirely reversible as the curcumin concentration drops back to typical zero to low levels seen in basically everybody not taking high dosage curcumin supplements.
If that’s not reassuring enough, a simple sperm count and motility test could help judge whether your curcumin dosage could present a significant problem for fertility. If you decide to use high dosages of curcumin and are worried about impact to your fertility, be sure to get a test that looks at the motility and not just the count as high dosages of curcumin would leave the count the same but the motility would be severely impaired.
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