A Twitter user this week posted a graphic of several “natural” birth control options, including papaya, neem, smartweed, yams, and black cohosh. The post, from a user named Bria Badu, had over 6,000 retweets as of Tuesday afternoon. The advice included in the tweet urged women to “eat papaya twice a day for 3-4 days” after unsafe intercourse, and to inject Indian lilac into uterine horns, in order to prevent pregnancy for up to a year.
The problem? There’s little to no scientific validity to any of the methods on the list. And, according to experts who responded, some of them are actively dangerous.
Bria Badu, a podcaster, posted the graphic on the morning of June 5; it’s unclear if she created it herself. Nearly immediately, many tweeters responded to it by saying that the information in it was wrong, as well as potentially dangerous.
Dr. Jennifer Gunter, a physician who often tweets about medical misinformation on social media, also sounded off on the “advice,” pointing out that pennyroyal, one of the suggested birth control methods, is in fact very unsafe and potentially deadly to ingest in any way. It’s also spelled wrong in the graphic, as “pennroyal.”
Others also sounded off about the graphic, even calling on Twitter to remove it.
“No, i don’t think eating a lot of fruit and/or continuously poisoning yourself will prevent pregnancy, actually,” Twitter user Sophyish said.
“As a botanist I can tell you this tweet with 1000s of shares could result in the deaths of women,” James Wong tweeted Tuesday. “It needs taking down, fast.”
Others responded by congratulating Badu and her followers on their upcoming pregnancies, or asking when the baby shower is.
Blogger Rebecca Watson made a video about the post, going through the claims one by one and debunking each.
Girls! Here a some natural birth control options. ????????♀️ pic.twitter.com/5yf9itMeFO— Bria Badu (@MissBriaJanay) June 5, 2019
It’s unclear what policies, if any, Twitter has in place for curbing medical misinformation, although YouTube’s recent crackdown on racist and extremist content also had an element related to banning potentially harmful medical information, per The Verge.
The author of the original tweet doubled down in subsequent posts, and defended her recommendation of alternative medicine.
“So, SciENtiFiC tWiTtEr is in shambles over my tweet on alternative BC options,” Bria Badu tweeted. “So let’s be clear. ANYTHING can be toxic when taken in excess. Don’t consume anything w/o the supervision of a medical provider you trust, whether that be your Dr,a herbalist,a holistic Dr,ya mama,etc.”