Image Courtesy of Westchester Magazine
Couples with infertility, no doubt face a lot of trying times, especially in Africa, where it is not culturally accepted that a couple does not have a child of their own. Little wonder prayers are made at wedding ceremonies that the new bride would give birth to both the male and the female child.
Globally though with few exceptions, the desire of every couple is to become parents within the first or second year of married life. While many couples have this dream fulfilled, there are quite a number of others who do not; no matter how hard they try.
Unfortunately, many homes are going through the agony of childlessness with the problem of infertility fast becoming a plague in this part of the world. While many couples have this dream fulfilled, there are quite a number of others who do not; no matter how hard they try.
The prevalence of infertility in Nigeria is put at between 20 and 25 per cent among married couples, according to experts. However, 40 to 45 per cent of all consultations in gynaecological clinics are infertility-related.
Experts say while 75 per cent of infertility cases are caused by biological make up such as sperm count, its motility and volume, ovulation (the monthly release of an egg), blockage of the fallopian tubes and endometriosis, about 25 per cent of the cases are due to complications caused by sexually transmitted diseases resulting from unprotected sex with multiple partners. 10 per cent of the cases are caused by Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.
Sperm motility refers to the forward motion capacity of the sperm. The shape of the sperm, technically referred to as sperm morphology is another crucial factor in male fertility. 70 per cent normally-shaped sperm indicates good morphology; and abnormally shaped sperm appear with malformed heads, (including two heads, tiny heads, round heads) and tails (two tails, short tails). These shapes tend to affect their motility.
Again, weight is an issue in male infertility. Fertility doctors are of the opinion that increased body mass may be associated with decreased fertility, as obesity creates relatively high levels of the female-associated hormone oestrogen.
In Cameroon, traditional practitioners use medicinal plant materials to treat male factors (erectile impotence, disorders of ejaculation and oligozoospermia) responsible for male infertility, including the seeds of Aframomum melegueta.
Cameroonian researchers in a study that evaluated the effects of dry seeds of the aqueous extract of Aframomum melegueta on some reproductive parameters of mature male rats found that it could cause an increase in the secretions of epididymis and seminal vesicle, which are accessory sex organs.
The 2012 study was entitled “Effects of the aqueous extract of dry seeds of Aframomum melegueta on some parameters of the reproductive function of mature male rats.”It was documented in the journal, Andrologia.
Mature male albino wistar rats were used for the study. They were given aqueous extract of dry seeds of alligator pepper for a period lasting between eight and 15 days. This was performed in two doses: 115 and 230 mg kg”1 during for days and 115 mg kg”1 during 15 days. Control rats received distilled water during the same periods.
The animals were sacrificed and their blood, as well as testis, epididymis, seminal vesicle and prostate were collected and analysed.
The researchers reported that alligator pepper at doses of 115 and 230 mg kg”1 stimulated the production of testosterone. This might be because of the presence of flavones in the seeds of alligator pepper.
Aside this, they said intake of extracts of alligator pepper also causes a significant increase in testicular cholesterol after eight and 15 days of treatment. This is physiologically important, as cholesterol is the primary substrate for androgen and especially testosterone production.
Given that alligator pepper stimulated the secretions of the testis, epididymis and seminal vesicle after eight days and this stimulatory activity was maintained 15 days later, they wrote, “these findings supported the traditional use of this plant as solution for male reproductive problems, especially those linked to the secretion of the sexual glands.”
Alligator pepper is widely used by many ethnic groups in Nigeria for various purposes. It is served along with Kolanuts to guests for entertainment, as communion and used for religious rites by diviners for invoking spirits. It is a common ingredient for preparing pepper soup, a spicy delight in most parts of West Africa.
For ages, alligator pepper, also referred to as grains of paradise or atare in Yoruba has been used in traditional medicine for the treatment of many diseases. The extracts of its seeds has been used for years against intestinal infections, infestations, haemorrhoids, to calm indigestion and heart-burn.
In West African folk medicine, grains of paradise are valued for their warming and digestive properties. A report has it that in Ghana, the seeds of alligator pepper are chewed to cure dysentery, as a sedative against toothache, anti-rheumatism, migraine and to cure fever.
Iwu M. (1993) in the book entitled Handbook of African Medicinal Plants confirmed uses of alligator pepper for the treatment of leprosy, taken for excessive lactation and post partum hemorrhage, galactogogue and as a worm expeller.
According to the Medicinal Plants of Nigeria- South West Nigeria Volume 1 compiled and published by Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency (NNMDA), Victoria Island, Lagos, alligator pepper seeds are chewed to improve sperm count in men. Also its leaf juice is used to improve fertility in women and also to regulate menstrual flow.
Meanwhile, researchers have also shown that extracts of walnut tree are effective anti-microbial agents, could be used to boost sperm count, fertility, menstrual flow, treat uterine fibroids, and bring relieve in hiccups. In Nigeria, African walnut is called asala or awusa in Yoruba; ukpa in Ibo; and okhue or okwe in Edo.
Cissus populnea and Sesamum radiatum are two tropical medicinal plants used to correct male infertility factor in South-Western part of Nigeria.
Experts’ evaluation of these herbs found they have antimicrobial activity, which may cure some sexually transmitted infections that could be responsible for male infertility.
An investigation on these herbs used in folkloric medicine to treat male infertility in the 2009 edition of Research Journal of Medicinal Plant showed that the essential oil from the stem powder of C. populnea and the leaves of S. radiatum inhibit the growth of several germs of bacteria origin and as such may correct male infertility factor arising from bacterial infection.
Cissus populnea (Ogbolo or Ajara (Yoruba) or Daafaaraa (Hausa) is used extensively in medicinal preparations in West Africa. Sesamum radiatum commonly referred to as benniseed is used for the treatment of catarrh, eye pains, bruises and erupted skins.
The study entitled “Assessment of Antimicrobial Activity of the Essential Oil from the Stem Powder of Cissus populnea and the Leaves of Sesamum radiatum, Herbal Medications for Male Infertility Factor” was carried out by Osibote, E.A.S., M. Ogunlesi, W. Okiei, T. Asekun and O.B. Familoni, all from the Department of Chemistry, University of Lagos.
Mucuna pruriens (Werepe in Yoruba and Agbala in Igbo) which is also used as a male fertility enhancer in phytomedicine, has been found to contain L-dopa, an important brain chemical involved in mood, sexuality, and movement. It is commonly called cowitch, cowhage, velvet bean, cow-itch or buffalo bean.
In one study, oral intake of the seeds in 56 human males was able to improve erection, duration of coitus, and post-coital satisfaction after only four weeks of treatment.
The seed also has ability to induce the formation and development of spermatozoa in human males, being able to improve sperm count and motility.