DISCLAIMER: CONSULT WITH A DOCTOR BEFORE DECIDING ON A TREATMENT PLAN FOR ANY DISEASE OR INJURY.
Neem, otherwise known as Azadirachta indica, Indian lilac, or dogoyaro, is a flowering, fruit-producing tree in the mahogany (Meliaceae) family. Most westerners who have heard of neem are likely familiar with its usage as a natural insect repellent and anti-malarial, but native populations in India, Africa, and other countries where neem grows know that neem tree actually has a surprisingly wide variety of medicinal actions. In fact, among people in eastern Africa, the need tree is called “40 cures”, alluding to its diversity as a healing plant.
This article will focus on neem’s use as a male and female contraceptive, but readers should not that some of the other medicinal actions of neem include:
- Pain relief
- Parasitic treatment
- Antibacterial effects
- Antifungal treatment (including treatment of Candida albicans infections)
- Stomach ulcer treatment
NOTE: Before continuing onward, female readers in particular should not that neem is an abortifacient, meaning that it can cause spontaneous abortions. While this article is indeed about contraception, women in particular should note that use of neem during pregnancy is highly likely to cause an abortion. So, if you’re trying to conceive or if you’re currently pregnant, put any neem products (oil, capsules, teas, etc) to the side for now. Men, if you’re trying to conceive, you should also avoid neem since it has a contraceptive effect for you too!
Neem as a Male Contraceptive
Since there are very few conventional contraceptives available to men (at the time of this writing, there are only 2-3 methods), neem is an interesting plant. Neem offers a highly effective, reversible form of birth control to men who need it. Even more compelling, neem not only reduces male fertility but does so without affecting side effects such as loss of libido or impotence (which in the case of the one male birth control pill that is available, are extremely common and unfortunate side effects).
One small Indian study on the effects of neem as a male contraceptive demonstrated nearly 100% efficacy after 6 weeks of neem seed oil administration. In this study, a few drops of neem seed oil were administered daily to a group of 20 married, male soldiers in the Indian army over the course of one year. During the study, none of the men’s wives became pregnant, and additionally, the soldiers reported that their libido and sexual abilities remained the same during the entire year. The contraceptive effects of neem were completely reversed 6 weeks after the soldiers stopped taking the herb.
A different study analyzed the basis of the male contraceptive effects of neem. This study observed that neem leaf extracts and oils worked not by inhibiting spermatogenesis (sperm creation), but rather by impeding the motility of the sperm (meaning that the sperm became slower or generally less mobile). In contrast, neem bark extract and neem seed oil dramatically reduce or even stop spermatogenesis when used continuously over the course of two months. They also decrease the number of Leydig cells that the body manufactures (these cells are responsible for testosterone production), which although may seem worrisome to some men, it’s worth noting that other studies into neem have shown no change in sexual desire or performance when this plant is used as a contraceptive.
Various other studies in rats and other mammals have produced the same kinds of results as the studies done in humans described above. The leaves, seeds, or bark of neem may be used as an oral contraceptive for men, but whatever part of the plant is used, it must be administered for at least 6 weeks (11 weeks was reported in one study done in rats) in order to become 100% effective. Afterwards, if the man wants to regain his fertility, he must stop taking the neem for 6 weeks before the contraceptive effects will wear off fully.
In India, neem is popular as both an oral male contraceptive (in the form of neem leaf tablets sold in pharmacies and other stores) as well as an intravaginal contraceptive for women (which I’ll discuss more below). For men, neem leaf should be taken internally daily for at least 6 weeks before attempting to have sex without another form of contraception.
Neem as a Female Contraceptive
Neem has been studied fairly extensively in India as a female contraceptive as well. For example, in another study done in 1992, the wives of 20 Indian soldiers were instructed to administer neem oil intravaginally each time after they had sex, which was shown to be successful as a contraceptive option.
More recent studies show that neem oil administered this way is successful because the oil is able to kill any sperm in the vagina within 30 seconds. Additionally, these spermicidal effects last for 5 hours after application, meaning that neem may work well not only as a post-coital contraceptive, but also as an option that can be administered before having sex. In rats, neem oil that was administered intravaginally was shown to be able to prevent embryonic implantation and cause abortion in the case that a sperm did indeed meet with the female’s egg.
One milliliter of neem oil (no more than this) should be applied intravaginally soon before having sex if it is to be used as a contraceptive. Ideally, in this case, the oil should be administered far up inside the vagina, close to the cervix. Because neem has a distinctive (and occasionally unpleasant) smell resembling peanuts or garlic, a lot of women choose to add lemongrass essential oil or another suitable essential oil (lavender is another good choice) to the neem to improve its scent.
Neem as an Herbal “Morning After” Pill for Women
Neem is a known abortifacient (and a potent one, at that). As noted at the beginning of this article, if you’re trying to conceive, or if you’re currently pregnant (and want to be pregnant), use of neem is STRONGLY contraindicated. However, if you’re actively trying to prevent conception, oral administration of neem may work as a kind of “day after” pill that not only is likely to be effective, but can be administered without risk of the other side effects of pharmaceutical day-after pills (which may include nausea, dizziness, menstrual changes, headache, or abdominal pain, to name a few).
In both men and women, neem’s method of action is attributed to its effects on the immune system. Due to neem’s immune stimulating effect, while it’s taken the body will actually kill sperm (in men) and “reject” an embryo (in women). When a person stops taking neem, the contraceptive effects will reverse and they will regain their fertility once again. But in women, even one dose of neem will have a contraceptive type effect in some cases.
Thus, in situations where a woman may need a “morning after” pill, neem may be a good choice. Some studies have demonstrated that reabsorption of an embryo may occur up to 18 days post-coitus when neem oil is administered intravaginally (oral administration of neem may also work similarly when used for this purpose).
Safety of Neem
Overall, neem is an vey safe contraceptive option for both men and women. It has been used by native people in many areas of the world for contraception with relatively few adverse effects.
Readers should be aware, though, that there have been some reports of kidney failure among people who drank neem tea over particularly long periods of time as an antimalarial treatment, and that some people have observed negative effects on the liver when neem is taken for many years at a time. Some studies have observed the toxicity level of neem to be between 14-24ml of neem per kilogram of body weight (other studies, though, have noted that neem leaf may be taken in doses of 12,000mg daily for the prevention of pain). In infants, doses as small as 5ml can be toxic, and therefore neem should only be used with extreme caution in children and babies specifically.
 Bakare, Tolulope M.D. (2019). ‘The pill’ for guys: Male birth control option passes safety tests. Retrieved January 20, 2022 from: https://utswmed.org/medblog/pill-guys-male-birth-control-option-passes-safety-tests/
 National Research Council (US) (1992). Neem: A Tree for Solving Global Problems, Chapter 7: Medicinals. Retrieved January 3, 2022 from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK234637/
 Shweta, Gediya, et. al. (2011). Review Article: Herbal Plants Used as Contraceptives. Retrieved January 3, 2022 from: http://impactfactor.org/PDF/IJCPR/2/IJCPR,Vol2,Issue1,Article7.pdf
 Suryawanshi, Jyotsna A. Saonere (2011). Neem – natural contraceptive for male and female – an overview. Retrieved January 3, 2022 from: https://productosdeneem.com/ebooks/Neem-natura-contraceptive.pdf
 WebMD (2022). Levonorgestrel Emergency Contraception. Retrieved January 20, 2022 from: https://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/plan-b