Effects of Herbs – Containing Phytoestrogens on Rat Testis: A Histological, Histochemical and Biochemical Study
Iraqi Postgraduate Medical Journal,
2010, Volume 9, Issue 4, Pages 562-572
Estrogens has traditionally been known as the female hormone, but this idea has been challenged in
early 1990’s and an essential physiological role for estrogen in male fertility was identified.
Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring non-steroidal plant chemicals that can act like the female
hormone estrogen. The herbs ( anise alfalfa and vervain ) chosen in this study contain
Previous studies demonstrated controversy of the effects of phytoestrogens on the rat testes .Hence,
the present investigation was undertaken to investigate the influence of typical dose of herbs containing
phytoestrogen on the rat testis.
MATERIALS AND METHODS:
Twenty-four apparently normal mature male rats were divided into four groups of 6 animals each. The
first "control" group received only 4ml of distilled water as a placebo. The second group received
40mg/kg of anise seed; the third group received 53.3 mg/kg of dried herb of vervain and the fourth
group received 400 mg /kg of alfalfa seeds. All experimental groups received the doses through orogastric
tube daily for fourteen days. Testicular histology was evaluated by light and enzyme
histochemistry. Plasma FSH and testosterone concentrations were taken to support our results.
Histological examination of anise, alfalfa and vervain – treated groups showed an increase in the height
of germinal epithelia. There was marked lipoprotein lipase activity in the whole of the interstitial tissue
which is more in amount in experimental groups than that in control group. Acid phosphatase granules
were infiltered the seminiferous epithelia mildly in control group , moderately in anise and vervain
groups and markedly in alfalfa group. The number of interstitial cells showing marked acid
phosphatase activity was higher in all experimental groups than that in control group. Alkaline
phosphatase exhibited intense activity in the boundary tissue of the seminiferous tubules in testes of
control and experimental groups but it appeared thicker in the latter.
The low dose and short duration of treatment used in our study made these phytoestrogen – containing
herbs to have a stimulatory effect on leydig cell steroidogenesis. This study also demonstrated that
aniseed being the most potent of the three herbs followed by alfalfa in stimulating testosterone
synthesis. This is possibly attributed to the coumarin constituent of aniseed and alfalfa
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