A Herbal Answer to Natural Birth Control

Western Stoneseed (Lithospermum rudeale) was identified by the Shoshone of Nevada as being a successful natural birth control method. Originally titled "The Indian's Herbal Answer to the Pill" in the May/June 1970 issue of Mother Earth News.

| May/June 1970


Lithospermum rudeale, commonly called "western stoneseed" was identified by the Shoshone of Nevada as being a successful natural contraceptive.

Illustration by Mother Earth News staff

The Shoshone of Nevada are said to be sophisticated in herbal medicines, collecting their own plants in nearby mountains. It was among these people in the 1930's that the use of Lithospermum rudeale as a contraceptive was discovered.

The first reports indicated that a cold water infusion from the roots taken daily as a drink for a period of six months would ensure sterility thereafter.

Under U.S. Department of Agriculture auspices, pharmacological research was carried out on this plant, and in 1945 a laboratory study was published confirming the effectiveness of this plant as a contraceptive.

Since 1945 a dozen or more serious laboratory studies on animals have been made, all confirming the contraceptive properties of the plant. The active principle, called Lithospermic Acid (LA), in low concentration acts specifically on the pituitary gland, suppressing the production of gonadotropins (hormones which stimulate the sex glands) and certain pituitary hormones.

This type of "antihormonal" action is said to be pharmacologically unique and the effects of the drug do not seem to be duplicated by other known compounds. LA is highly soluble and may be extracted by cold water. The resulting solutions are usually yellow or brown in color.

The use of Lithospermum extract produces suspension of the estrus cycle, (the entire sequence of changes in the female reproductive organism and a dimunution or inhibition of the secretion of estrogens and androgens (sex hormones).

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