Australian Journal of Herbal Medicine 2014 26(1)
10 © National Herbalists Association of Australia 2014
The seeds of Daucus carota L. (DC) have been
described as an abortifacient, emmenagogue,
contraceptive, and aphrodisiac in a variety of publications
throughout European history. These documents also
indicate use by women for over 2,000 years as a means
to control fertility.1,2 More recently, ethnobotanical
investigations have documented the use of DC seed as a
method of fertility control by women in India3 and North
American grassroots herbalists have documented its use
for contraception.4 Scientic investigations have begun
to assess the efcacy of DC seed as an anti-fertility agent
and indicate between 40-100% anti-implantation activity
in rodents.5 This paper aims to review the historical,
traditional and scientic evidence in an attempt to identify
the mechanisms of action and evaluate the efcacy of DC
seed as an anti-fertility agent.
The following electronic databases were searched:
Pubmed/Medline, Scopus, Web of Knowledge, Science
Direct, AMED, CINAHL, EBSCO and Google Scholar.
The search was conducted in May 2012 and search
terms included “Daucus carota”, “Queen Anne’s
Lace”, “Wild Carrot” AND/OR “seed”, “anti-fertility”,
“fertility”, “contraceptive”, and “hormone”. Additional
texts were included when referenced in aforementioned
publications, as were a range of classic historical texts.
Daucus carota belongs to the family Apiaceae
(Umbelliferae). Common names include wild carrot,
Queen Anne’s lace, and Gajar in Hindi.6 Unlike the
cultivated carrot, wild carrot has a small, white, eshy
taproot. The root can be eaten before the plant owers.
DC is a biennial herb with a branched stem rising 30-120
cm, leaves are nely divided, twice or thrice pinnate
with upper leaves reduced in size; stems are rough with
tiny hairs.7,8 The white owers are densely clustered
in terminal umbels, some containing a central purple
ower which is regarded in herbal lore as an indicator of
medicinal quality.9 The umbels almost completely atten
whilst in bloom but close up as the seeds ripen, to take
on a nest-like appearance, giving rise to another common
name, ‘Bird’s Nest’ (Figure 1). The seeds are 2-4 mm
long, oblong with bristly hairs, brown in colour and have
an aromatic avour.
DC is one of 22 species in the genus Daucus, ten of
these are found in Europe. Wild carrot is sometimes
referred to as the subspecies carota, whereas the
carotene-rich, orange-rooted cultivated carrot is D.
carota subsp. sativa (Hoffm.) Arcang., with some modern
cultivars crossed with D. capillifolius Gilli.10,11 It has
been suggested that the carrot has been in cultivation
for over 5,000 years, and it was possibly depicted in
Egyptian temple drawings around 2000 BCE. DC was
also discussed by ancient Greek medical writers in the
Carrot seed for contraception: a review
Jansen, Gabrielle Claire1, 2 and Wohlmuth, Hans3,4
1 School of Health and Human Sciences, Southern Cross University, Lismore NSW 2480, Australia.
2 Goulds Naturopathica, 73 Liverpool Street, Hobart TAS 7000, Australia.
3 Division of Research, Southern Cross University, Lismore NSW 2480, Australia.
4 Integria Healthcare, 8 Clunies Ross Court, Eight Mile Plains QLD 4113, Australia.
Abstract: The seeds of wild carrot (Queen Anne’s Lace, Daucus carota L., Family Apiaceae) have a long history of use relating to
fertility, especially as an anti-fertility agent.
Objectives: A literature review was conducted in an attempt to evaluate the potential efﬁcacy of carrot seed as a contraceptive and
to more clearly identify the mechanisms of its reported actions.
Methods: Databases, including PubMed, Scopus, and Science Direct were searched, as were authoritative herbal and historical
texts including Culpeper, Eclectic texts and Indian pharmacopoeias.
Results: The use of carrot seed for contraception and abortion is recorded throughout European history, with contemporary reports
from India and the United States. Scientiﬁc in vivo and ex vivo studies suggest that several modes of action may contribute to the
anti-fertility effect, including an effect on the oestrous cycle and anti-progestogenic activity.
Conclusions: Historical and ethnobotanical evidence make essential contributions to multidisciplinary research on herbal
medicines. Further research is required to conﬁrm the anti-fertility action of carrot seed and to provide a better understanding of the
mechanism(s) of action and the compound(s) responsible.
Keywords: Daucus carota, wild carrot, carrot seed, anti-fertility, abortifacient, contraceptive
Australian Journal of Herbal Medicine 2014 26(1)
11© National Herbalists Association of Australia 2014
rst century CE. The ancestor of the cultivated carrot is
native to present-day Afghanistan from where it spread to
China in the 13-14th centuries and subsequently reached
Europe by the 15th century. It was later introduced to
North America by European settlers.8 The population
of DC in North America grew from introduced weedy
materials rather than escaped cultivated varieties.12 DC
is now found almost worldwide and is considered an
environmental weed in many temperate areas, including
parts of Australia and most North American states
Most of the literature does not clearly identify the
taxonomic status of the plant material used, and it has
therefore not been possible to discriminate between
results obtained with “wild carrot” and cultivated forms
of the plant. Most chemical and pharmacological work
on carrot seed has undoubtedly been conducted using
cultivated material, but information is not available to
establish the degree to which this may differ from “wild
carrot” seed in terms of chemistry and pharmacological
Chemistry of carrot seed oil
The chemical composition of steam distilled carrot
is complex and variable. Most published analyses have
been of seed oil distilled from cultivated plants or from
various subspecies of D. carota.
Steam distilled carrot seed oil typically contains
signicant amounts of the sesquiterpene alcohol carotol
(<67%) and the monoterpenoid ester geranyl acetate
Figure1: Daucus carota umbels: ﬂat umbel of ﬂowering stage
(left); curled up umbel of post-ﬂowering stage (right).
Photo: H. Wohlmuth.
Figure 2: Wild carrot growing by Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada. Photo: H. Wohlmuth.
Australian Journal of Herbal Medicine 2014 26(1)
12 © National Herbalists Association of Australia 2014
(<25%) (Figure 3), with highly variable amounts of
the monoterpenoids alpha-pinene (2-25%), sabinene
(<32%) and linalool (<6%), and of the sesquiterpenoids
β-bisabolene (<16%) and daucol (<10%).
avones, luteolin, luteolin 3′-O-β-D-glucopyranoside
and luteolin 4′-O-β-D-glucopyranoside have been
isolated from a methanol extract of carrot seed.17
A note on identity
Confusion and debate surround the correct
identication of the carrot in the classical era and it is
possible that varieties of carrot and the closely related
parsnip were used interchangeably. The writings of
Galen and Dioscorides suggest the actions of Staphilinos,
Daucos and Pastinaca were so similar one could be used
in place of another. These herbs are discussed as having
both fertility and anti-fertility activity, yet these ancient
works do not form consensus.2
Ancient Greece to the Middle Ages
A work attributed to Hippocrates (c. 460 - 370
BCE) appears to be the oldest reference to the anti-
fertility activity of DC seed, which are described as
an abortifacient.1 Similar uses were later recorded by
Pliny, Dioscorides, Scribonius Largus and Marcellius
Empericus. According to Riddle1, Pliny (Gaius Plinius
Secundus 23 CE - 79 CE, also known as Pliny the Elder)
was against contraception and abortion and therefore
stated that DC was an emmenagogue, so as not to transmit
the lore relating to its anti-fertility action. Around
the same time DC appeared in an abortion-inducing
recipe by Scribonius Largus (47 CE), a Roman court
physician.18 DC was regarded as a strong emmenagogue
by Constantine the African and was recorded in a work
by Petrus Marancius later in the 13th century as an
emmenagogue, but not as an abortifacient.18
The late Middle Ages and witch trials
The confusion regarding the origins, applications and
identication of DC has not been helped by the great
loss of herbal knowledge believed to have occurred in
the Middle Ages. It is widely accepted that information
regarding birth control was orally transmitted and
therefore, as a consequence of the persecution of
‘witches’, who were often female midwives, herbalists
and healers, much of this information was lost.1
Culpeper’s Complete Herbal was rst published in
England in 1653 and was considered the herbal authority
for the common people of its time. Culpeper noted that DC
possessed both pro- and anti-fertility actions. According
to Culpeper, the carrot root and seed work similarly to
promote menstrual ow (“women’s courses”) and can be
used to treat “the rising of the mother”, which may refer
to menstrual obstructions. Culpeper also suggested that
the seed boiled in wine may help conception. Culpeper
advised that DC is governed by Mercury, which is said to
rule wind (colic and spasm).19
The nineteenth and early twentieth century
DC is mentioned in a number of publications during
the 19th century, including those written by the American
Eclectics and Physiomedicalists. However, some
publications that include DC do not refer to either pro-
fertility or anti-fertility activity,20,21,22,23,24 while other such
publications contain no reference to DC at all.25,26,27,28,29,30
King’s American Dispensatory includes DC, stating that
it may possess emmenagogue properties.31 Culbreth32
asserted that DC was indicated for amenorrhea, while
others regarded it as a useful “deobstruent”.33,34 The
recommended remedy to be taken when menstruation
was absent was one third to one teaspoonful of bruised
seeds, repeated as necessary.33A late nineteenth century
“pharmacographia” of the medicinal plants of India
includes DC and states, “In India, the seeds are popularly
supposed to cause abortion and are kept by all the native
DC has been included in a number of Indian
materia medica and medicinal plant texts. The taproot
was considered an aphrodisiac, and a decoction of the
leaves and seeds was used as a uterine stimulant during
parturition.36 Throughout India and specically in the
north-west state of Punjab and south-west state of
Konkan the seeds were considered an aphrodisiac; in
Punjab they were also given for uterine pain.36,37,38 The
seeds have also been listed for procuring abortion.39,40
Ethnobotanical investigation has reported that the
seeds of DC, commonly known as Gajar in India,
have been traditionally used as an abortifacient.6 Tribal
peoples of southern Rajasthan have used DC seed to
regulate menstruation and in higher doses as an effective
abortifacient.41 Tribal people in the north-west Himalayas
and central Uttar Pradesh also used Gajar seeds for
female fertility control; here a decoction of seeds along
with old jaggri (a sugar additive) was prepared as an
The modern use of DC seeds for female contraception
Figure 3: Major constituents of the essential oil of carrot seed:
carotol (above), geranyl acetate (below).
Australian Journal of Herbal Medicine 2014 26(1)
13© National Herbalists Association of Australia 2014
has been documented in North America. Here some
herbalists have described DC seeds as an ‘implantation
preventer’, suggesting that oral administration of the
seeds causes the endometrium to become inhospitable
for the implantation of a fertilized embryo to occur. The
suggested method of using DC seeds for the prevention of
pregnancy is to chew one teaspoonful of seeds once daily
for up to one week at the time of ovulation or immediately
following unprotected intercourse during the fertile period
of the menstrual cycle.9,43 An anonymous gynaecological
self-help publication lists DC seeds as an emmenagogue,
an implantation inhibitor or abortifacient, and states that
this activity may be attributed to oestrogenic activity
and/or inhibition of progesterone synthesis.44 Traditional
evidence is regularly cited as informing dosage, viz. one
teaspoonful chewed after intercourse or daily around
There have been a number of anecdotal reports of
contemporary women in the Appalachian mountains and
Watauga County, North Carolina, using DC seeds for
their anti-fertility activity. One such report concerns a
woman who allegedly took one tablespoon of DC seeds
with water immediately following intercourse for over
ten years, and only became pregnant once when she had
been on holidays with her husband and left the DC seeds
Uncontrolled human studies
Two ‘grass-roots studies’ using DC seed as an anti-
fertility agent have been reported by North American
herbalists. These trials have not claimed to be scientic
and lacked the rigour to be considered as such (e. g.
they were uncontrolled and did not use a standardised
intervention or a standardised dosage regimen), and they
do not provide evidence for DC seed being an effective
contraceptive in women. However these observational
studies remain the only documented attempts at
investigating the efcacy of DC seed as a sole means of
contraception in a human population and they highlight
the continued usage of this herb by contemporary women.
In the rst of these studies, thirteen women charted
their menstrual cycles including times of ovulation and
instances of intercourse.9 Also recorded was the dose and
mode of administration of DC seeds. Reported dosage
regimens for the study were: (1) one teaspoon of DC
seeds chewed once daily, or (2) one teaspoon of DC
seeds chewed once daily prior to, during and three days
post ovulation, or (3) one teaspoon of DC seeds chewed
once daily for seven days immediately following sexual
intercourse. DC seeds were not always the sole form of
contraception used by the participants. Three pregnancies
were reported during the eleven month study.
A second study assessed DC seeds taken postcoitally.4
Thirty women aged 18-50 years participated in the year-
long study. Women consumed alcoholic tincture made
from seeds and owers of DC, 15 drops of ower and
15 drops of seed extract taken after each occasion of
intercourse, three times with doses eight hours apart.
Women also kept a record of menstrual cycles and charted
occasions of intercourse and DC usage. Five participants
completed the entire year with no pregnancies reported.
Nine pregnancies were recorded amongst the greater
cohort, some occurring when DC was not used as
indicated. No abnormalities were recorded in infants
born to mothers who had used DC seeds.
The anti-fertility activity of DC seed has sparked
interest in the scientic community, and a number of
animal studies have been conducted in an attempt to
elucidate its pharmacological actions and potential
efcacy. The following section reviews current scientic
understanding. It should be noted that almost certainly,
all scientic studies have employed carrot seed obtained
Ex vivo studies
Ex vivo studies have been carried out to study the
activity of DC seed extract on isolated tissues.
An early study isolated choline from the alcoholic
extract of DC seeds, but it was unclear if this was a
native constituent of the seed or an artefact formed
during the multi-step isolation process.45 Predictably,
the isolated choline had a spasmodic effect on smooth
muscles of rabbit, guinea pig ileum and dog trachea, an
inhibitory effect on the force and rate of contraction of
perfused frog’s heart, and caused a hypotensive effect
in the anaesthetised dog. In a later study, the effect of
the methanolic fraction of a petrol (sic) extract of DC
seed on the isolated rat uterus was evaluated, with both
spontaneous and oxytocin evoked responses being
inhibited.46 Spontaneous activity was inhibited at 0.2
mg/mL, and a dose of 0.5 mg/mL signicantly reduced
responses evoked by low and high concentrations of
oxytocin. Additionally, the extract caused a marked
reduction of histamine-induced contractions in isolated
guinea pig ileum. Inhibitory effect on the rat uterus was
concluded to contribute to the anti-fertility activity of
carrot seeds, though the mechanism was not elucidated.
In vivo studies
Animal studies of the anti-fertility activity of DC began
in the 1970s, with scientists attempting to demonstrate
efcacy and understand the actions of DC extract in
rodents. The anti-fertility action of DC seed successively
extracted with petroleum ether, 95% ethanol and water
was tested on early pregnancy in albino rats.47
At 100 and 500 mg/kg body weight (BW), the
ethanolic residue prevented implantation in 40% and
67% of animals, respectively. The corresponding gure
was 60% for the aqueous residue at 100 mg/kg BW,
but the number of animals in each group was low.
Petroleum ether extract at 100mg/kg BW did not prevent
implantation in any rats, whilst 500mg/kg inhibited
Australian Journal of Herbal Medicine 2014 26(1)
14 © National Herbalists Association of Australia 2014
implantation in 40% of animals. Abortifacient activity of
the extract was also noted in some animals. When the
aqueous residue was administered at 500 mg/kg BW,
implantation was inhibited in only 20% rats, while the
abortifacient activity increased to 60%. The decrease
of implantation inhibition and increase in abortifacient
activity at a higher dose of the aqueous residue was not
explained and may have been a product of the small
number of animals used. In follow-up research, the
effects of different chromatographic fractions of DC
seed on fertility in albino rats were investigated.72 Rats
were fed DC seed extracts in gum acacia for 1-7 days of
pregnancy. Results showed that pregnancy was inhibited
most effectively by chloroform and methanol fractions
of the petroleum ether extract; of ve rats fed 20 mg/kg
BW orally for days 1-7, none littered. Another ve rats
were fed a chloroform+methanol (9:1 v/v) fraction of the
alcoholic extract at 50 mg/kg BW with one rat littering
three pups. The chloroform and ethyl acetate fractions of
the aqueous extract showed similar results with one rat
littering three pups (chloroform) and no littering in the
ethyl acetate group. No abnormalities were detected in
young born to treated mothers, tested up to one month
Further research was undertaken by Garg49 to assess
the time course of anti-fertility activity in rats. The
chloroform and methanol fractions of the petroleum
ether extract and chloroform:methanol (9:1 v/v) fraction
of the alcoholic DC seed extract signicantly inhibited
pregnancy on days 1-3 of pregnancy at 50 mg/kg BW.
It was suggested that these fractions were anti-zygotic.
It was also concluded that the chloroform fraction of the
aqueous extract acts as a blastocystotoxic and/or anti-
implantation agent, as pregnancy was inhibited in most
rats when it was administered orally on days 4 and 5, or
6 and 7. The ethyl acetate fraction of the aqueous extract
showed 80% anti-fertility activity when administered on
days 1-3 and days 4-5 of pregnancy. Hence, this fraction
may be an anti-zygotic and/or blastocystotoxic agent.
Another study assessing the efcacy of different
extracts and their fractions was undertaken, demonstrating
that alcoholic (500 mg/kg BW) and aqueous extracts (100
mg/kg BW) of DC seeds inhibited pregnancy in rats by
67% and 60%, respectively.50 Interestingly, anti-fertility
activity increased to 80% when rats were administered
50 mg/kg BW of the chloroform-methanolic (9:1 v/v)
fraction of the alcoholic extract. At the higher dose of 100
mg/kg BW the chloroform and ethyl acetate fractions of
the aqueous extract showed 80% and 100% anti-fertility
activity, respectively. The chloroform and methanol
fractions of the petroleum ether extract (100mg/kg BW)
demonstrated 100% efcacy, however the number of
animals in each experimental group was low (5-10).
Complete anti-implantation activity was found for the
chlorofom and methanol fractions of a petroleum ether
extract at 20 mg/kg BW.51
The (presumably steam distilled) oil of DC seed had
40% anti-implantation activity when administered 1-7
days post-coitally in rats at 500 mg/kg BW.51 The volatile
oil of DC seeds was also found to terminate pregnancy
in mice and rats, with an ED50 of 2.9 mL/kg BW in mice
for the terpenoid fraction administered subcutaneously.
The peripheral plasma concentration of progesterone in
pregnant rats decreased signicantly 24 and 48 hours
after subcutaneous injection, suggesting the anti-fertility
activity may be related to the inhibition of progesterone.52
An alcoholic extract of DC seed was evaluated for
oestrogenicity and anti-implantation effects in mice.
The extract completely inhibited implantation when
given orally at doses of 80 or 120 mg/mouse 4-6 days
post-coitally, whereas when administered 8 to 10 days
post-coitally pregnancy remained unaffected.53 DC
seed extract at doses of 60 and 120 mg/mouse caused
a signicant (p<0.001) increase in uterine weight of
ovariectomised mice, indicative of oestrogenic activity,
but this effect was very weak compared with that of
oestradiol. Conversely, when administered concurrently
with the hormone, the DC seed extract signicantly
inhibited the uterotrophic effect of estradiol and thus
exhibited anti-oestrogenic activity, likely via competitive
inhibition at the oestrogen receptor.
A study of the anti-ovulatory activity of an alcohol
extract of DC seeds in rabbits showed a 40% inhibition in
ovulation with 100 mg/kg BW orally once daily for three
days.54 Ovulation was stimulated using a 0.4% solution of
cupric acetate i.v. A petroleum ether extract of carrot seeds
(0.2-0.8 mL per 100 g BW) administered subcutaneously
on days 7-13 of pregnancy caused abortion in most rats,
with profuse vaginal bleeding within three days. Uterine
and ovarian weight was considerably reduced, and
adrenal weight signicantly increased, although it was
difcult to ascertain whether adrenal hypertrophy was
caused by stress, toxicity or weak oestrogenic effect.55
Another study evaluating the abortifacient effect of
DC seed extract found that pregnancy was terminated in
rats subcutaneously administered petroleum ether extract
of DC at 0.2 mL/100 g BW from day 7 of pregnancy
onwards.56 The same study found that progesterone
administered at 4-6 mg/100 g BW maintained pregnancy
in 82-89% of rats when given alongside the DC extract
on days 7-19 of pregnancy. Progesterone treatment also
increased ovarian and uterine weight that had decreased
with DC treatment. Adrenal glands hypertrophied with
both DC and progesterone treatment, though this may
have been an indicator of stress.
The ability of progesterone to maintain implantation
in rats treated with DC seed extract has been evaluated
further. A subcutaneous injection of petroleum ether
extract of DC seeds 0.6 mL/100 mg BW in rats from day
1-7 of pregnancy inhibited implantation, and 2-8 mg/100
g BW of progesterone on the same days was found to
reverse this effect.57 A signicant reduction in the uterine
Australian Journal of Herbal Medicine 2014 26(1)
15© National Herbalists Association of Australia 2014
weight and signicant increase in the adrenal weight
was observed in rats administered the DC seed extract.
These results concur with those found previously and
support the hypothesis that the anti-implantation activity
of DC seed extract could be due to either gonadotrophin
inhibition affecting ovarian steroidogenesis or to a
A study was conducted to further evaluate the post-
coital contraceptive activity of DC seed extract and
assess the mode of action.58 An ethanolic extract of DC
seed was administered intramuscularly to rats for three
consecutive days post coitus at dosages of 50-250 mg/kg
BW. At a lower dose (50 mg/kg BW), the extract produced
an anti-oestrogenic effect, inhibiting implantation with
cessation of the oestrous cycle and continuous diestrus,
suggesting secretion of oestrogen from the ovary was not
occurring. At a higher dose (250 mg/kg BW administered
on day 14-16 post-coitus), the extract had oestrogenic
activity, prolonging the oestrous phase and causing foetal
resorption (89% by day 20). At 100-250 mg/kg BW the
extract caused a dose-dependent decrease in myometrial
and endometrial mast cell populations. The author
suggested this disruption of mast cells may have been
associated with increased release of histamine, which
may in turn have disrupted the luminal epithelium and
attachment of the embryo, causing rejection of the foetus.
Another potential mechanism for the anti-fertility
activity of DC seeds emerged from a study that found
that in mice, a DC seed petroleum ether extract and a fatty
acid fraction thereof (both injected intraperitoneally)
signicantly lowered levels of two key enzymes
involved in ovarian steroidogenesis, 3-β-hydroxy
steroid dehydrogenase and glucose-6-phosphate
dehydrogenase.59 This study also found that both the
extract and the fatty acid fraction arrested the oestrous
cycle; the extract at 10 and 3 mg/kg BW produced this
effect after six days of treatment, while the fatty acid
fraction (3 mg/kg BW) did so after just two days. Both
treatments signicantly reduced the weight of the ovaries.
Of ve chromatographic fractions of the extract, only the
fatty acid fraction was active; hence it was concluded
that the activity of the petroleum ether extract resided in
More recently, a study investigating the anti-fertility
activity of an aqueous extract and aqueous suspension
of DC seed powder administered orally to female mice
and rats revealed a signicant disruption to the oestrous
cycle in both groups of animals, resulting in a continuous
dioestrous phase.60 This study also found an accumulation
of cholesterol and ascorbic acid in the ovaries, suggestive
of hypofunctioning of the steroidogenic activity of the
ovary. Simultaneously, a considerable reduction in
enzymatic activity of 3-β-hydroxy steroid dehydrogenase
and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase was found,
suggesting this as the possible mechanism for anti-
fertility activity. After withdrawal of treatment, regular
oestrous cycle returned from day 10 post treatment,
and animals showed no abnormalities in hepato-renal
function. This study did employ various chemicals
during the extraction procedures, but failed to adequately
control for any potential effects of these chemicals.
Safety and toxicology
Inadequate evidence exists regarding the safety of
long-term administration of DC seed by women or
children born to those women. However, anecdotal
evidence indicates conception is possible following a
ten-year usage of DC seed for contraception but does
not provide information about potential health impacts
on mother or child.18 In one study no abnormalities were
detected in pups born to rats orally administered DC
seed extract during days 1-7 of pregnancy, with testing
up to one month of age.48 Ethnobotanical evidence
reports the “healthy pregnancy and healthy baby” in the
case of a woman, who stopped taking DC seed in order
to conceive.9 The duration and dosage regime of seeds
was not recorded, neither was the time between ceased
usage of carrot seeds and subsequent conception, nor was
there follow-up data relating to the health of women or
At present there is clearly inadequate information
about the safety and potential toxicity of DC seed, and
until further information is available, DC seed should not
be used during pregnancy.
The scientic evidence relating to the anti-fertility
activity of DC seed reviewed above gives rise to three
potential, not mutually exclusive, modes of action. They
are discussed in more detail below.
Disruption of antioxidant protection
Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) was
signicantly inhibited in the ovaries of mice treated with
DC seed extracts.59,60 G6PD is a cytoprotective enzyme
that protects the embryo from oxidative stress and DNA
damage. G6PD plays a role in the hexose monophosphate
shunt (HMS) pathway, which regenerates nicotinamide
adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH). NADPH
is essential for maintaining glutathione, required
for detoxication of reactive free radicals and lipid
hydroperoxides. Ribose is also produced by the HMS and
is relevant for the synthesis of nucleotides used in RNA
and DNA replication, and hence cell division and DNA
repair.61 As G6PD is essential for normal development
of the embryo, the inhibition of this critically important
enzyme by DC seed may result in the blastocyst not being
adequately protected from oxidative stress, with negative
ramications for RNA and DNA replication. Under these
circumstances the blastocyst may not survive.
Progesterone is necessary for the development and
Australian Journal of Herbal Medicine 2014 26(1)
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growth of the embryo, and inhibition of this hormone
may contribute to the anti-fertility activity of DC seed.
The enzyme 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (3β-
HSD) is required for the production of steroid hormones
and is responsible for the conversion of pregnenolone
to progesterone.62,63 Two studies have found DC seed
extract to signicantly inhibit 3β-HSD in the ovaries
of treated mice.59,60 These ndings suggest that ovarian
progesterone production may be impaired as a result of
DC seed administration.
Signicant lowering of progesterone levels and abortion
were seen in rats following subcutaneous injection of
DC seed volatile oil.52 However, co-administration of
megestrol acetate, a potent progesterone receptor agonist,
reversed the abortifacient effect. Similarly, Kaliwal &
Ahamed57 found that co-administration of progesterone
reversed the anti-implantation effect of DC seed extract
in rats. These results strongly suggest that the anti-
fertility effect of DC seed is at least partly due to its anti-
Effect on oestrous cycle
Treatment of ovariectomized mice and rats with DC
seed preparations has shown a signicant increase in
uterine weight.53,58 Since endogenous oestrogen is not
present in ovariectomized animals, this is suggestive of
estrogenic activity of DC seed. However, in comparison
with oestradiol, DC seed extract was only very mildly
oestrogenic, and the extract exhibited anti-oestrogenic
properties when co-administered with estradiol.53 These
results suggest that DC seed extract acts as a competitive
inhibitor of oestrogen binding to oestrogen receptors.
Lower doses of DC seed extract (3-100 mg/kg BW)
arrested the oestrous cycle and prolonged diestrus,
while higher doses (150-250 mg/kg BW) prolonged
the oestrous stage of the cycle.58,59,60 Bhatnagar58 found
that the effects of lower doses were consistent with anti-
oestrogenic effects resulting in anti-implantation effects,
while higher doses produced an oestrogenic response
resulting in abortifacient activity.
These results demonstrate that DC seed affects the
oestrous cycle in rodents, likely through interaction with
oestrogen receptors. Whether this interaction results in
an oestrogenic or anti-oestrogenic response may depend
on the endogenous oestrogen status and the dose of DC
Due to the great loss of oral herbal traditions,
knowledge about fertility herbs and their applications
has diminished. Historical and ethnobotanical evidence
makes an essential contribution to multi-disciplinary
research which broadens our understanding and
appreciation of medicinal plants, and can offer clues to
their therapeutic action.
Carrot seed has an extensive history of use as an anti-
fertility agent, but further research is required to conrm
and evaluate this activity in humans. Current evidence,
based on rodent studies, suggests that the anti-fertility
action of DC seed may be due to anti-progestogenic
activity, disruption of the oestrous cycle, and/or
disruption of antioxidant protection of the blastocyst.
Further research is needed to elucidate the mechanism of
action and identify the compound(s) responsible.
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