Last Editorial Review: 6/11/2021
Other Name(s):

Coton Velu, Cotonnier Herbacé, Cottonseed Oil Extract, Extrait d'Huile de Coton, Gosipol, Gossypium herbaceum, Gossypium hirsutum, Karpasa.


Gossypol is a substance that is found in the cotton plant. It is removed from the seeds and used for medicine.

Men take gossypol for birth control. Women take it for disorders of the uterus including endometriosis, abnormal bleeding, and cancer; as well as for ovarian cancer. Gossypol is also used for treating HIV/AIDS.

Sometimes women use gossypol cream or gel as birth control. It is applied to the inside of the vagina to kill sperm.

How does it work?

Gossypol interferes with sperm development and function.


Which of the following are methods for contraception? See Answer

Uses & Effectiveness

Possibly Effective for...

  • Male contraception (birth control), when taken by mouth. Taking gossypol by mouth seems to reduce sperm count and function in 60% to 100% of men. In 50% to 77% of men, sperm recover within 3-24 months after treatment is stopped. In about 10% of men, sperm counts remain very low for over 4.5 years. In some men, continual use of gossypol can cause permanent loss of the ability to father a child.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Cancer. Early research suggests that taking gossypol by mouth does not help shrink tumors in people with advanced cancer.
  • Problems of the uterus (womb) and ovaries.
  • Killing sperm, when applied inside the vagina.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of gossypol for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

Side Effects

Gossypol is POSSIBLY UNSAFE for use without close supervision by a healthcare professional. When men take gossypol by mouth, the effects on sperm are unpredictable and might cause permanent inability to father a child (sterility) with long-term use. When women take gossypol by mouth, it might be toxic to cells lining the uterus and could prevent normal function of the ovaries.

Gossypol can also cause loss of energy, changes in appetite, decreased sexual desire (libido), changes in body potassium levels, and digestive tract problems. High doses of gossypol (100 times the dose used for birth control) can cause malnutrition, blood circulation problems, heart failure, changes in hair color, and other problems.

There isn't enough information to know whether gossypol is safe to use directly on the skin. It can cause a burning sensation.


Sex-Drive Killers: The Causes of Low Libido See Slideshow

Special Precautions & Warnings

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: It's LIKELY UNSAFE to take gossypol if you are pregnant. It might cause a miscarriage. It is POSSIBLY UNSAFE to take gossypol if you are breast-feeding.

Low potassium levels (hypokalemia): Gossypol may make low potassium levels worse. Avoid using it if you have this condition.

Urinary tract irritation: Gossypol may make urinary tract irritation worse. Avoid using it if you have this condition.


Digoxin (Lanoxin)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

Large amounts of gossypol can decrease potassium levels in the body. Low potassium levels can increase the side effects of digoxin (Lanoxin).

NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

NSAIDs are anti-inflammatory medications used for decreasing pain and swelling. NSAIDs can cause irritation to the stomach and intestines. Gossypol can also cause irritation to the stomach and intestines. Taking NSAIDs along with gossypol might increase the chances of adverse effects. Avoid taking NSAIDs and gossypol together.

Some NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin, others), indomethacin (Indocin), naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprelan, Naprosyn), piroxicam (Feldene), aspirin, and others.

Stimulant laxativesInteraction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

Stimulant laxatives speed up the bowels. Overuse of stimulant laxatives can cause low minerals in the body. Gossypol can also decrease minerals in the body. Do not take gossypol along with stimulant laxatives.

TheophyllineInteraction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

Theophylline might decrease some of the effects of gossypol.

Warfarin (Coumadin)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

Gossypol can work as a laxative. In some people gossypol can cause diarrhea. Diarrhea can increase the effects of warfarin and increase the risk of bleeding. If you take warfarin do not to take excessive amounts of gossypol.

Water pills (Diuretic drugs)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

Large amounts of gossypol can decrease potassium levels in the body. "Water pills" can also decrease potassium in the body. Taking gossypol along with "water pills" might decrease potassium in the body too much.

Some "water pills" that can deplete potassium include chlorothiazide (Diuril), chlorthalidone (Thalitone), furosemide (Lasix), hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ, HydroDiuril, Microzide), and others.


The following doses have been studied in scientific research:


  • For male birth control: 15-20 mg is used daily for 12-16 weeks, followed by a maintenance dose of 7.5-10 mg per day. Treatment should be carefully monitored by a healthcare professional, because the effects of gossypol are unpredictable and might lead to permanent loss of the ability to father a child.

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Hu, Y. F., Chang, C. J., Brueggemeier, R. W., and Lin, Y. C. Gossypol inhibits basal and estrogen-stimulated DNA synthesis in human breast carcinoma cells. Life Sci. 1993;53(25):L433-L438. View abstract.

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Jaroszewski, J. W., Kaplan, O., and Cohen, J. S. Action of gossypol and rhodamine 123 on wild type and multidrug-resistant MCF-7 human breast cancer cells: 31P nuclear magnetic resonance and toxicity studies. Cancer Res. 11-1-1990;50(21):6936-6943. View abstract.

Jarvis, W. D., Turner, A. J., Povirk, L. F., Traylor, R. S., and Grant, S. Induction of apoptotic DNA fragmentation and cell death in HL-60 human promyelocytic leukemia cells by pharmacological inhibitors of protein kinase C. Cancer Res. 4-1-1994;54(7):1707-1714. View abstract.

Jiang, J., Ghosh, P. K., Kulp, S. K., Sugimoto, Y., Liu, S., Czekajewski, J., Chang, H. L., and Lin, Y. C. Effects of gossypol on O2 consumption and CO2 production in human prostate cancer cells. Anticancer Res. 2002;22(3):1491-1496. View abstract.

Jin, Y., Chen, H. C., Wo, W. H., Yang, M. Z., and Xue, S. P. Effects of gossypol on Na+, K+ transmembrane fluxes in human red cells. Proc.Chin Acad.Med.Sci.Peking.Union Med.Coll. 1989;4(2):91-95. View abstract.

Johnsen, O., Mas, Diaz J., and Eliasson, R. Gossypol; a potent inhibitor of human sperm acrosomal proteinase. Int.J.Androl 1982;5(6):636-640. View abstract.

Joseph, A. E., Matlin, S. A., and Knox, P. Cytotoxicity of enantiomers of gossypol. Br.J.Cancer 1986;54(3):511-513. View abstract.

Joseph, P., Srinivasan, S. N., and Kulkarni, A. P. Purification and partial characterization of lipoxygenase with dual catalytic activities from human term placenta. Biochem.J 7-1-1993;293 ( Pt 1):83-91. View abstract.

Kable, E. P. and Parsons, P. G. Potency, selectivity and cell cycle dependence of catechols in human tumour cells in vitro. Biochem.Pharmacol. 5-1-1988;37(9):1711-1715. View abstract.

Kalla, N. R. and Vasudev, M. Studies on the male antifertility agent-gossypol acetic acid. II. Effect of gossypol acetic acid on the motility and ATPase activity of human spermatozoa. Andrologia 1981;13(2):95-98. View abstract.

Kalla, N. R. Gossypol. Acta Eur.Fertil. 1990;21(1):5-6. View abstract.

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Kanwar, U., Batla, A., Sanyal, S., Minocha, R., Majumdar, S., and Ranga, A. Gossypol inhibition of Ca++ uptake and Ca++-ATPase in human ejaculated spermatozoal plasma membrane vesicles. Contraception 1989;39(4):431-445. View abstract.

Keller, P. A., Birch, C., Leach, S. P., Tyssen, D., and Griffith, R. Novel pharmacophore-based methods reveal gossypol as a reverse transcriptase inhibitor. J.Mol.Graph.Model. 2003;21(5):365-373. View abstract.

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Kim, I. C., Waller, D. P., Marcelle, G. B., Cordell, G. A., Fong, H. H., Pirkle, W. H., Pilla, L., and Matlin, S. A. Comparative in vitro spermicidal effects of (+/-)-gossypol, (+)-gossypol, (-)-gossypol and gossypolone. Contraception 1984;30(3):253-259. View abstract.

Kim, S. H., Kim, J. H., Alfieri, A. A., He, S. Q., and Young, C. W. Gossypol, a hyperthermic sensitizer of HeLa cells. Cancer Res. 1985;45(12 Pt 1):6338-6340. View abstract.

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Kono, H., Lin, Y. C., Yamaguchi, M., Zuspan, F. P., Furuhashi, N., Takayama, K., and Yajima, A. Effects of progesterone and gossypol on monoamine oxidase activity in human term placental explant. Tohoku J.Exp.Med. 1991;163(1):39-45. View abstract.

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Levinsky, H., Singer, R., Sagiv, M., Lehrer, N., and Allalouf, D. Inhibition of sialyl transferase activity by gossypol acetic acid in human seminal plasma. Andrologia 1991;23(2):159-161. View abstract.

Liang, J. C. and Ye, W. S. Clastogenicity of a male contraceptive, gossypol, in mammalian cell cultures with and without the metabolic activation by S9 mix. Environ.Res. 1985;36(1):138-143. View abstract.

Ligueros, M., Jeoung, D., Tang, B., Hochhauser, D., Reidenberg, M. M., and Sonenberg, M. Gossypol inhibition of mitosis, cyclin D1 and Rb protein in human mammary cancer cells and cyclin-D1 transfected human fibrosarcoma cells. Br.J.Cancer 1997;76(1):21-28. View abstract.

Lin, T. S., Schinazi, R., Griffith, B. P., August, E. M., Eriksson, B. F., Zheng, D. K., Huang, L. A., and Prusoff, W. H. Selective inhibition of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 replication by the (-) but not the (+) enantiomer of gossypol. Antimicrob.Agents Chemother. 1989;33(12):2149-2151. View abstract.

Liu, G. Z. and Lyle, K. C. Clinical trial of gossypol as a male contraceptive drug. Part II. Hypokalemia study. Fertil.Steril. 1987;48(3):462-465. View abstract.

Liu, G. Z. Clinical study of gossypol as a male contraceptive. Reproduccion. 1981;5(3):189-193. View abstract.

Liu, G. Z., Ch'iu-Hinton, K., Cao, J. A., Zhu, C. X., and Li, B. Y. Effects of K salt or a potassium blocker on gossypol-related hypokalemia. Contraception 1988;37(2):111-117. View abstract.

Liu, G. Z., Lyle, K. C., and Cao, J. Clinical trial of gossypol as a male contraceptive drug. Part I. Efficacy study. Fertil.Steril. 1987;48(3):459-461. View abstract.

Liu, G. Z., Lyle, K. C., and Cao, J. Experiences with gossypol as a male pill. Am.J.Obstet.Gynecol. 1987;157(4 Pt 2):1079-1081. View abstract.

Liu, S., Kulp, S. K., Sugimoto, Y., Jiang, J., Chang, H. L., Dowd, M. K., Wan, P., and Lin, Y. C. The (-)-enantiomer of gossypol possesses higher anticancer potency than racemic gossypol in human breast cancer. Anticancer Res. 2002;22(1A):33-38. View abstract.

Liu, Y. Endometrium implantation and ectopic pregnancy. Sci China C.Life Sci 2004;47(4):293-302. View abstract.

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Meng, G. D., Zhu, J. C., Chen, Z. W., Wong, L. T., Zhang, G. Y., Hu, Y. Z., Ding, J. H., Wang, X. H., Qian, S. Z., Wang, C., and . Follow-up of men in the recovery period immediately after the cessation of gossypol treatment. Contraception 1988;37(2):119-128. View abstract.

Meng, G. D., Zhu, J. C., Chen, Z. W., Wong, L. T., Zhang, G. Y., Hu, Y. Z., Ding, J. H., Wang, X. H., Qian, S. Z., Wang, C., and . Recovery of sperm production following the cessation of gossypol treatment: a two-centre study in China. Int.J.Androl 1988;11(1):1-11. View abstract.

Moh, P. P., Li, P. K., Darby, M. V., Brueggemeier, R. W., and Lin, Y. C. Characteristics of covalent gossypol binding to microsomal proteins. Res.Commun.Chem.Pathol.Pharmacol. 1992;76(3):305-322. View abstract.

Mohammad, R. M., Wang, S., Banerjee, S., Wu, X., Chen, J., and Sarkar, F. H. Nonpeptidic small-molecule inhibitor of Bcl-2 and Bcl-XL, (-)-Gossypol, enhances biological effect of genistein against BxPC-3 human pancreatic cancer cell line. Pancreas 2005;31(4):317-324. View abstract.

Montero, M., Garcia-Sancho, J., and Alvarez, J. Comparative effects of cytochrome P-450 inhibitors on Ca2+ and Mn2+ entry induced by agonists or by emptying the Ca2+ stores of human neutrophils. Biochim.Biophys.Acta 6-6-1993;1177(2):127-133. View abstract.

Morris, I. D., Higgins, C., and Matlin, S. A. Inhibition of testicular LDH-X from laboratory animals and man by gossypol and its isomers. J.Reprod.Fertil. 1986;77(2):607-612. View abstract.

Mushtaq, M., Kulp, S., Chang, W., and Lin, Y. C. Gossypol inhibits human chorionic gonadotropin-stimulated testosterone production by cultured canine testicular interstitial cells. Res.Commun.Mol.Pathol.Pharmacol. 1996;91(3):259-272. View abstract.

Nakamura, M., Ikeda, M., Komukai, M., Suyemitsu, T., Okinaga, S., and Arai, K. Presence of a 16 kd protein in human seminal plasma counteracts the effects of the anti-fertility agent, gossypol. Hum.Reprod. 1991;6(5):714-721. View abstract.

Nordenskjold, M. and Lambert, B. Gossypol induces DNA strand breaks in human fibroblasts and sister chromatid exchanges in human lymphocytes in vitro. J.Med.Genet. 1984;21(2):129-132. View abstract.

Oliver, C. L., Bauer, J. A., Wolter, K. G., Ubell, M. L., Narayan, A., O'Connell, K. M., Fisher, S. G., Wang, S., Wu, X., Ji, M., Carey, T. E., and Bradford, C. R. In vitro effects of the BH3 mimetic, (-)-gossypol, on head and neck squamous cell carcinoma cells. Clin.Cancer Res. 11-15-2004;10(22):7757-7763. View abstract.

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Reidenberg, M. M., Gu, Z. P., Lorenzo, B., Coutinho, E., Athayde, C., Frick, J., Alvarez, F., Brache, V., and Emuveyan, E. E. Differences in serum potassium concentrations in normal men in different geographic locations. Clin.Chem. 1993;39(1):72-75. View abstract.

Rekha, G. K. and Sladek, N. E. Inhibition of human class 3 aldehyde dehydrogenase, and sensitization of tumor cells that express significant amounts of this enzyme to oxazaphosphorines, by the naturally occurring compound gossypol. Adv.Exp.Med.Biol. 1997;414:133-146. View abstract.

Ridley, A. J. and Blasco, L. Testosterone and gossypol effects on human sperm motility. Fertil.Steril. 1981;36(5):638-642. View abstract.

Rosenberg, L. J., Adlakha, R. C., Desai, D. M., and Rao, P. N. Inhibition of DNA polymerase alpha by gossypol. Biochim.Biophys.Acta 5-5-1986;866(4):258-267. View abstract.

Royer, R. E. and Vander Jagt, D. L. Gossypol binds to a high-affinity binding site on human serum albumin. FEBS Lett. 6-27-1983;157(1):28-30. View abstract.

Royer, R. E., Deck, L. M., Campos, N. M., Hunsaker, L. A., and Vander Jagt, D. L. Biologically active derivatives of gossypol: synthesis and antimalarial activities of peri-acylated gossylic nitriles. J.Med.Chem. 1986;29(9):1799-1801. View abstract.

Royer, R. E., Kibirige, M., Tafoya, C. R., Deck, L. M., and Vander Jagt, D. L. Binding of gossypol derivatives to human serum albumin. J.Pharm.Sci. 1988;77(3):237-240. View abstract.

Royer, R. E., Mills, R. G., Deck, L. M., Mertz, G. J., and Vander Jagt, D. L. Inhibition of human immunodeficiency virus type I replication by derivatives of gossypol. Pharmacol.Res. 1991;24(4):407-412. View abstract.

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Sagach, V. F., Kindybalyuk, A. M., and Kovalenko, T. N. Functional hyperemia of skeletal muscle: role of endothelium. J Cardiovasc.Pharmacol. 1992;20 Suppl 12:S170-S175. View abstract.

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Sheriff, D. S., Ghwarsha, K., Elgengan, K. B., and el Fakhri, M. Effect of gossypol on the activity of erythrocyte Na+-K+ ATPase activity in vitro. Clin.Chem. 1987;33(2 Pt 1):309. View abstract.

Shidaifat, F., Canatan, H., Kulp, S. K., Sugimoto, Y., Zhang, Y., Brueggemeier, R. W., Somers, W. J., Chang, W. Y., Wang, H. C., and Lin, Y. C. Gossypol arrests human benign prostatic hyperplastic cell growth at G0/G1 phase of the cell cycle. Anticancer Res. 1997;17(2A):1003-1009. View abstract.

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Tegos, G., Stermitz, F. R., Lomovskaya, O., and Lewis, K. Multidrug pump inhibitors uncover remarkable activity of plant antimicrobials. Antimicrob.Agents Chemother. 2002;46(10):3133-3141. View abstract.

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Trevino, C. L., Felix, R., Castellano, L. E., Gutierrez, C., Rodriguez, D., Pacheco, J., Lopez-Gonzalez, I., Gomora, J. C., Tsutsumi, V., Hernandez-Cruz, A., Fiordelisio, T., Scaling, A. L., and Darszon, A. Expression and differential cell distribution of low-threshold Ca(2+) channels in mammalian male germ cells and sperm. FEBS Lett. 4-9-2004;563(1-3):87-92. View abstract.

Tripathi, A. K., Desai, P. V., Pradhan, A., Khan, S. I., Avery, M. A., Walker, L. A., and Tekwani, B. L. An alpha-proteobacterial type malate dehydrogenase may complement LDH function in Plasmodium falciparum. Cloning and biochemical characterization of the enzyme. Eur.J Biochem. 2004;271(17):3488-3502. View abstract.

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Vainio, P., Thuren, T., Wichman, K., Luukkainen, T., and Kinnunen, P. K. Hydrolysis of phospholipid monolayers by human spermatozoa. Inhibition by male contraceptive gossypol. Biochim.Biophys.Acta 4-11-1985;814(2):405-408. View abstract.

Van Poznak, C., Seidman, A. D., Reidenberg, M. M., Moasser, M. M., Sklarin, N., Van Zee, K., Borgen, P., Gollub, M., Bacotti, D., Yao, T. J., Bloch, R., Ligueros, M., Sonenberg, M., Norton, L., and Hudis, C. Oral gossypol in the treatment of patients with refractory metastatic breast cancer: a phase I/II clinical trial. Breast Cancer Res.Treat. 2001;66(3):239-248. View abstract.

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