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Old 12-10-2004, 11:47 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Birth Control Pills & Its Effect On Nyctinasty

Nyctinasty, the mechanism by which plants close up its leaves/flowers at night and open up in the morning. Thank you to pineapple for using it recently. Learn something everyday.


I have a lot of expired birth control pills (don't ask) and have had good results with them when used with houseplants. I've revived seemingly dead plants with a couple of these pills around the root zones. So I decided to test it out on aquatic plants. I put 1/4 of the pill in a 29G tank. The following day, NOT A SINGLE PLANT opened up their leaves.


This is definitely one of the more humorous and surprising things I have ever encountered in this hobby. Over the next several days, the spots on the Amano shrimps intensified and appeared MUCH MORE numerous near the head region.

The active ingredients in these birth control pills are norgestimate and ethinyl estradiol. I went on Google and did some research on these chemicals to see if there have been any published studies involving them and plants. Two interesting articles popped up: one describing the use of birth control pills to promote the growth of a certain controlled substance and the other detailed how high levels of norgestimate in aquatic systems affect, among other things, the transport of Ca and some other minerals in animals (and plants too I think?). A search on "nyctinasty" reveals that its mechanism involves turgor pressure.

I am not a botanist or am very familiar with the anatomy and physiology of plants. Would someone more fluent in the field shed some light on this interesting phenomenon?
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Old 12-10-2004, 12:44 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Just curious, what else have you thrown into your tanks?
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Old 12-10-2004, 02:07 PM   #3 (permalink)
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There is no substitute for experiment (said Frankenstein's creator).

Endocrine (hormone) pollution is a fairly hot topic in recent years. Most studies have focused on the effect of estrogenic compounds delivered into the environment either via human use (birth control pills) into waste water (sewage) or via petrochemical (organic chemical) production and breakdown and the uptake by and effect on fish . Several studies conclude that waste water entering fish habitats has caused sterility in male salmon and other sea fish, as a result of hormone content.

Birth control pills find their way into the environment in more ways than one. cS's experiment is interesting in that it shows some sort of effect on plant life (as well as the Cardina japonica which might be expected). I think there has been some research done on estrogen and vegetable growth. In places like China (I lived there for a while), it is common to use 'night soil' (human faeces) for fertilizing vegetables. The night soil also contains urine and that contains estrogen from birth control pills. Therefore, this line of research is quite relevant. With regard to the dangers endocrine pollution has for humans, estrogen compounds have been implicated as causes of breast cancer and a decline in male sperm production. (Be careful who starts the siphon for the water change on that aquarium, cS).

"Ethinyl estradiol is a synthetic estrogenic compound and has a molecular weight of 296.4 and a molecular formula of C20H24O2."
"Synthetic ethinyl estradiol, commonly used in estrogen supplements and contraceptives"
Norgestimate is a progestational compound, chemical formula: C23H31O3N. Used in birth control tablets because it minimizes cardiovascular problems.
Important hormones were originally isolated from plants (yams):

For more about Estrogen, this is a good article:

For more about plant hormones, this is a good article:

Andrew Cribb
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Old 12-10-2004, 02:50 PM   #4 (permalink)
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... another reason to drink RO ...
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