Brownea (Leguminosae - Caesalpinaceae): A PlantUsed for Contraception in the Ecuadorian Amazon

TitleBrownea (Leguminosae - Caesalpinaceae): A PlantUsed for Contraception in the Ecuadorian Amazon
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication1997
AuthorsPowell, Liette Caryl
Academic DepartmentBiology
Thesis AdvisorLomax, Terri
DegreeBachelor of Arts in International Studies in Biology
Number of Pages31
Date Published06/1997
UniversityOregon State University
Thesis TypeUndergraduate
Keywordscontraceptive, Ecuador, Medicinal plants, traditional plant uses

After traveling to Ecuador's tropical rain forest and learning about medicinal plants from a family of the Quichua tribe, my interest in the applications of these plants increased. The field of ethnobotany specializes in communicating with indigenous groups and documenting their plant use. Often, these plants contain therapeutic properties, and warrant further investigation for new leads in Western medicine.
As a result of my interest in women's health care, I have investigated the possibilities for a plant used for contraception. Historically, there are reports of plants used for contraception, including the synthesis of progesterone from a plant derivative. Two groups of the Ecuadorian Amazon, the Quichuas and the Siona-Secoyas, utilize one common plant for contraception: Brownea.
Currently, several species of Brownea are being investigated biochemically to isolate the compounds responsible for contraception. The team investigating Brownea believe a flavonoid is responsible for its contraceptive properties. Recently, it has been shown that plants contain steroid hormones that have structures similar to mammalian steroid hormones. I believe it is likely that a plant steroid hormone could cause contraception in humans.
If these contraceptive compounds are indeed isolated and proved active, what are the applications? I conclude by discussing the possible of uses of Brownea at local and global levels