Please, for the love of comprehensive sex education, do not use wild yams for birth control.
In an unfortunate now-deleted Bad Tweet, podcast host @MissBriaJanay called a variety of fruits and herbs “natural birth control options.” The accompanying graphics suggested using the plants instead of clinically-tested contraceptive, and included head-scratchers like injecting neem oil into “uterine horns” and eating dried figs after unprotected sex.
@MissBriaJanay, by the way, does not promote herself as a medical professional or experienced herbalist.
In case the public education system failed you, too, none of the fruit suggested above have been clinically tested or backed by scientific evidence to prevent pregnancy.
Some of these plants have been historically used to prevent or terminate a pregnancy, from papayas in Sri Lanka to pennyroyal in ancient Grecian women-only festivals. According to Planned Parenthood, Mexican yams were used to extract progestin for the first birth control pill.
But while some of @MissBriaJanay’s recommendations aren’t necessarily harmful, aside from not actually preventing pregnancy, certain suggestions can be deadly. Pennyroyal oil, for example, was an insecticide used to induce menstruation and abortion. It’s incredibly toxic and ingestion can lead to fatal liver and kidney failure.
Many of the plants listed in this graphic are abortifacients, which mean that they can induce miscarriages. A 2003 study in the Journal of Toxicology examined calls related to herbal-induced abortions from a poison control center and concluded that “the ingestion of plants to induce abortion involves the risk of severe morbidity and mortality.”
While herbalists still perform underground abortions, medical professionals strongly recommend against it. A representative for the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists told Vice that the organization “does not consider herbal abortion as an appropriate way to end a pregnancy” and pointed out the significant health risks.
While many laden with the burden of having a uterus are turning away from hormonal birth control methods — the side effects range from inconvenient to lifestyle altering — there are still non-hormonal contraceptives out there, too. Condoms and copper IUDs are both very effective, and you don’t need to brew some sketchy tea to keep buns out of the oven.
Other Twitter users did call out @MissBriaJanay for encouraging women to use potentially unsafe methods.
THESE DO NOT WORK
— i fucking love abortion (@hannahtraining) June 11, 2019
Or “dead”. Pennyroyal is extremely toxic.
— rosamundi (@rosamundi) June 10, 2019
If these things were effective they’d have been made into a pill and sold. There is a name for traditional or natural medicine that has an evidence base for working: medicine.
— Witness (@Kundesteria) June 11, 2019
It is a disservice to women to recommend ineffective plants – & potentially fatal poisons – as birth control then try to shirk responsibility when called out on your errors. Please look to great projects like @DecoloniseContr if you want to learn about BC from reliable sources. https://t.co/UNsrvlUvBX
— Alix Fox 🏳️🌈 (@AlixFox) June 11, 2019
Instead of constipating yourself with dried figs or giving yourself some casual organ failure through herbal teas, please consider all the different types of FDA-approved contraception. Choosing a birth control method is a personal choice, but there are numerous options to try out before you start foraging for poisonous plants.