Medicinal plants as potential male anti-infertility agents: a review
© Springer-Verlag 2009
Published: 27 September 2009
For millions of couples, the inability to have a child is a personal tragedy and a large proportion of childless people are confronted with social stigmatization (blame) and personal frustration. Formerly assigned to women, infertility of a couple is nowadays equitably distributed between the two sexes. Among the methods used to treat male infertility problems, medicinal plants have been used empirically as extracts, decoctions, fractions or semi-purified compounds. These herbal products are used in the treatment of a dysfunctioning of the libido, sexual asthenia, erection, and sperm disorders. Pharmacological activities of many of these plants have been shown in vitro using cells, in vivo (on laboratory animals) and human studies. For instance, extracts of Panax ginseng, Panax quinquefolius and Lepidium meyenii have shown positive effects on sexual desire; while extracts of Astragalus membranaceus, Asparagus racemous, Withania somnifera, Andrographis paniculata and Acanthopanax senticosus improved sperm parameters. Plants provide a treatment option that is affordable and available for infertile couples, and phytotherapy is an essential form of treatment in our health system. However, herbal products are still anarchically used in many regions and countries, and a great proportion of medicinal plants used traditionally to solve male reproductive disorders have not yet been scientifically evaluated. Therefore in this review, we have summarized most of the data dealing with the effects of plant extracts on mammalian reproductive functions.