10 Long-Forgotten, Natural Birth Control Methods (PHOTOS)

10 Long-Forgotten, Natural Birth Control Methods (PHOTOS)

woman eating papayaAren't we lucky, ladies? We have quite a bit of freedom when it comes to family planning -- and lots of methods to choose from. After all, when you think about the fact that FDA-approved birth control wasn't widely available until a little more than 50 years ago, it's a bit mind-blowing to imagine what people did for thousands of years prior! Turns out, prior civilizations had all sorts of tricks up their sleeves -- and by tricks, we mean natural, long-forgotten contraceptive methods!

Check out these 10 eyebrow-raising, intriguing forms of birth control from different times and cultures, then tell us: Doesn't #8 sound like a dream come true?!


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  • Cotton


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    According to Norman E. Himes' Medical History of Contraception (published in 1964), an ancient medical manuscript the Ebers Papyrus (circa 1550 BCE) advised Egyptian women to grind dates, acacia tree bark, and honey into a paste, apply it to seed wood, then insert that into the vagina to use as a birth control tampon. Acacia actually ferments into lactic acid (which acts as a spermicide) and the seed wool worked as a barrier method.

  • Lemons


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    Citric acid from lemons has long been thought to act as spermicide. Women used to soak sponges in lemon juice before inserting them vaginally. In fact, the method is even mentioned in the Talmud as the preferred birth control in ancient Jewish communities.

  • Queen Anne's Lace


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    Also referred to as wild carrot, the seeds of Queen Anne's Lace have been used as a contraceptive for over two millenia. The seeds block progesterone synthesis disrupting implantation, and actually work a bit like nature's version of Plan B -- best when taken within eight hours of exposure to sperm. A bonus: They're not associated with any negative side effects, and women who would use the seeds as birth control would go on to have healthy pregnancies.

  • Pennyroyal


    Image via iStock.com/angelsimon

    This kind of mint was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans as a cooking herb and a flavoring ingredient in wine, and also to induce menstruation and act as birth control. There's even a record of this, thanks to first-century physician Pedanius Dioscorides' five-volume encyclopedia on herbal medicine. It bears noting though that the tea could be highly toxic.

  • Blue Cohosh


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    You may have heard of blue cohosh as a root that midwives use to tone the uterus in prep for labor, and turns out it also worked as traditional birth control for Native Americans. That's because the plant contains at least two substances that cause uterine contractions.

  • Black Cohosh


    Image via Miguel Vieira/Flickr

    Often used for female hormone-balancing, especially during menopause, this plant boasts estrogenic properties that when combined with blue cohosh could act as birth control.

    More from The Stir: Woman Uses a Potato as Birth Control With Horrifying Consequences

  • Common Rue


    Image via Apples and oranges/Flickr

    An emmenagogue, this herb was eaten traditionally in Latin America as a contraceptive. Women would drink rue tea for emergency conception. Turns out it worked rather well on a regular basis, because if you were to ingest it regularly, it would decrease blood flow to the endometrium, making it harder to support a fertilized egg.

  • Papaya


    Image via iStock.com/sf_foodphoto

    Don't think there will ever be an effective male contraceptive? Apparently, papaya seeds were used in South and Southeast Asia to cut a man's sperm count when taken daily. Get this -- the sterility was reversible! Stop taking the seeds, and the sperm count goes back up. And women in Sri Lanka and India would eat a papaya a day to prevent pregnancy. Researchers found that it worked, because the fruit's phytochemical papain interferes with progesterone.

  • Silphium


    Image via Cranbook Science/Flickr

    Back in the seventh century BCE, a flowering plant called silphium became a popular contraceptive, according to a 1994 article in Archaeology magazine. It was apparently so reliable that it ended up being extremely pricey in shipping ports all over the ancient world.

  • Onion Juice


    Image via iStock.com/cjp

    This one crops up not once but twice over the course of time! Ancient Egyptians recommended that men apply onion juice to their penis before having sex, and in the 1400s, Italians would drink it to prevent a pregnancy.

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