A Unisex Contraceptive Made From Olives

An olive-based contraceptive, which is harmless to sperm and eggs, could be commercially available within two years for women to take before or after sex. The male version is expected to be developed within four years.

May. 22, 2017
By Julie Al-Zoubi

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A recent study found that lupeol, a nat­ural com­pound found in olives and other plants includ­ing mango, dan­de­lion root and aloe vera acts as a mol­e­c­u­lar con­dom,” pre­vent­ing sperm from fer­til­iz­ing eggs. The report con­cluded that lupeol has the poten­tial to become a nat­ural con­tra­cep­tive that could be taken by women or men.

The olive-based con­tra­cep­tive which is harm­less to sperm and eggs could be com­mer­cially avail­able within two years for women to take before or after sex. Lupeol could be used as a per­ma­nent con­tra­cep­tive in the form of a skin patch or vagi­nal ring. It could also act as an emer­gency con­tra­cep­tive taken either before or after sex­ual inter­course. The male ver­sion of a con­tra­cep­tive made from lupeol is expected to be devel­oped within four years.

Lupeol works by pre­vent­ing sperm from hav­ing their final power kick,” a whip-like action that occurs when a sperm approaches an egg. This move­ment pro­pels the sperm towards the egg and enables the sperm to pen­e­trate the pro­tec­tive cells sur­round­ing it.

Polina Lishko, co-author of the report told the Daily Mail, It [lupeol] is not toxic to sperm cells — they still can move. But they can­not develop this pow­er­ful stroke, because this whole acti­va­tion path­way is shut down. This is a poten­tially safer morn­ing after pill, reg­u­lar Pill, and a future male con­tra­cep­tive. Essentially it is a future ver­sion of a uni­sex con­tra­cep­tive.”

The research team from the University of California dis­cov­ered that human sperm takes five to six hours to mature after they enter the female, which would give lupeol time to take effect as a nat­ural replace­ment for the morn­ing-after pill if taken within five hours of unpro­tected sex.


Incredibly low con­cen­tra­tions of lupeol are effec­tive in block­ing fer­til­iza­tion. This makes it an attrac­tive alter­na­tive to hor­monal based con­tra­cep­tives such as The Pill, which has been linked to an increased risk of can­cer, heart dis­ease, blood clots and depres­sion. Trials of a male pill have shown it to be effec­tive but users have reported side effects includ­ing acne, mus­cle pain and emo­tional prob­lems.

If one can use a plant-derived, non-toxic, non-hor­monal com­pound in lesser con­cen­tra­tion to pre­vent fer­til­iza­tion in the first place, it could poten­tially be a bet­ter option.” Lishko told Laboratory Equipment.

Fertility expert Allan Pacey told the Daily Mail, This is prob­a­bly one of the most inno­v­a­tive approaches to male con­tra­cep­tion, allow­ing men to take equal respon­si­bil­ity for fam­ily plan­ning that we have seen in a long time.”

He added, Scientists have been tin­ker­ing with dif­fer­ent kinds of hor­monal con­tra­cep­tives for men for 30 years and they have not yet got them to the mar­ket­place, so we really need a new kind of approach like this.”

The research team explored nat­ural con­tra­cep­tives, derived from anti-fer­til­ity plants and used by indige­nous peo­ple. This led to the dis­cov­ery of lupeol, which is also found in grapes, man­goes, aloe and dan­de­lion root.

The sci­en­tists warned that eat­ing vast amounts of olives will not pre­vent unwanted preg­nancy.

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