For centuries, the Indonesian plant called gandarusa has been recognized by locals for its medicinal qualities.
Typically, it has been used as an herbal remedy for stress and anxiety, but now people are drying the leaves, chopping them up, extracting the active chemical and putting it in capsule form to see if it works as a reliable form of male contraception.
PBS NewsHour reports there is growing confidence that this is a find that's eluded scientists for decades: a cheap, easy-to-make, over the counter daily birth control pill, for men.
Bambang Prajogo, who directs the project at Airlangga University said all of the testing has shown it is safe, effective and has few side effects.
So how exactly does it work?
Gandarusa changes the chemistry on the tip of each individual spermatozoon, making them unable to pierce the outer wall of a female egg, or oocyte. It does not alter male hormones and the pill's effect is not permanent. On average, men were fertile again just two months after they stopped taking the pill.
"We've done two rounds of testing on humans and so far, no pregnancies have resulted," Prajogo said. "We are now starting Phase 3 testing with 350 couples and we are hoping we will continue with our 100 percent success rate."
Dr. Sugiri Syarief, director of the Population and Family Planning Board, said he is optimistic gandarusa will be available in Indonesian stores as early as next year. He is less confident the drug will be sold in the United States any time soon since strict food and drug regulations would require years of additional testing.
"Family planning, oh that is the woman's responsibility. Right now we try to make awareness among the men that family planning is not only for women, but it is a decision made by couples, husbands and wives." - Dr. Sugiri Syarief.
1. What is an herbal remedy?
2. What is an oral contraceptive?
3. Are birth control pills usually associated with men or women? Why? Discuss.
1. What makes this story unique?
2. How does gandarusa work?
3. Why will regulations require years of additional testing in the United States?
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