The fact that we still don’t have a viable birth-control prescription option that puts the burden of responsibility on the person who produces semen is… questionable. Perhaps men generally don’t want to take hormones, don’t want to deal with side effects or don’t want the responsibility, but apparently we don’t give a shit about that when people with uteruses are experiencing it. Whatever, fine, I’m over it. But! We may have recently taken another step toward a future where men, too, can have a sense of control and responsibility over their reproductive functions via a birth-control pill.
According to a report published in early March from the Lundquist Institute, a U.S.-based biomedical research institute, a compound originating from a Chinese herb called Tripterygium Wilfordii Hook, or “thunder god vine,” has had promising results in trials as a form of birth control. The compound, triptonide, can either be purified from this herb as a “natural” option, or chemically synthesized. Regardless of origin, triptonide provides a non-hormonal method of birth control by essentially rendering sperm cells immobile. With sperm unable to produce the forward movement necessary to reach the egg, men essentially become infertile after three to four weeks of taking the compound. And of course, the results aren’t permanent — after four to six weeks of ceasing the medication, sperm regains forward motility and patients can once again produce healthy children.
Per the report, triptonide hits all the necessary marks as a viable contraceptive candidate, including safety, efficacy, bioavailability and reversibility. So far, tests have only been conducted on primates who, for the record, have greater sperm motility than humans. However, people have already long been taking Tripterygium Wilfordii Hook in herbal supplement form as treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, psoriasis and a variety of other conditions linked to inflammation and immune response. Currently, WebMD lists the herb as “possibly safe” for humans, with potential side effects including upset stomach and vomiting.
It should go without saying, but don’t start taking this supplement assuming it will allow you to bone without child-creating consequences until we know much more about it. For now, it’s just a promising development in creating something more reliable than just condoms or the pull-out method.