Herbal medicines can offer a more gentle aid to fertility problems than other help you may seek. Chinese herbal physicians have developed medicines which throughout history have helped women improve their chances of reproducing. They do this by harmonising the endocrine system which regulates the menstrual cycle.
The ovulatory phase or the periovulatory period is referred to when talking about the time surrounding ovulation. The herbs have varying effects. They may be effective on the ovulatory phase but can also regulate mucus secretion or help produce the right levels of progesterone or help stimulate the uterus. The herbs can help with your health and aid fertility in multiple ways at the same time. Chinese herbs that produce phytoestrogenic activity can also benefit the ovaries whilst they impact on the central nervous system. The herbs affect many different parts of the body’s own natural processes.
Each herb has its own characteristics and effects. Combining different herbs increases their potency and can also minimise any unwanted effects. The herbs work together to achieve the right results to maximise treatment. One herb is not used alone, a mixture of different herbs will be prescribed and these blends are based on formulas that have been tried and tested for centuries. As an example, Psoralea fruit (Bu Gu Zhi), Chinese Dodder seeds (Tu Si Zi) and Eucommia (Du Zhong) have been found to lower FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone).
You can find Chinese herbs in different forms: dried, capsules, tablets, creams and ointments. The dry herbs are available by prescription from a practitioner. They are incredibly powerful and can be harmful if the same mixture is repeatedly prescribed over a long period of time. Practitioners will alter the formula regularly to create the maximum effect of the medicine and also minimise any risks to your health. The dried herbs are more powerful but they take longer to prepare as they need to be brewed into drinks. They often taste quite bitter because they come from roots, tree bark, tubers, flowers, seeds and stems of plants.
In China there are some exotic ingredients used like deer antler and sea-horse but the majority of formulas only contain plant materials. Chinese herbal medicine should not contain any endangered species. There is an overlap with ingredients used for men and women but generally, they will be different. With male infertility it is usually the case that there is some kind of kidney deficiency and in these cases kidney tonifying herbs are prescribed like the herbal formula Kidney Qi Pill.
The outcome of a single individual’s treatment is not entirely predictable but clinical studies carried out in China show that about 70% of all cases of both male and female infertility treated by Chinese herbs resulted in pregnancy or restored fertility. These statistics include cases of infertility involving amenorrhea, obstruction of the fallopian tubes, absent ovulation, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, low sperm count, non liquification of semen and other causes. Due to the greater experience with using herbs in China, the ability to directly combine traditional and modern methods of therapy and the keenness to consume large doses of herbs, the success rates are probably a little higher than can be achieved in the West currently. However, western practitioners have had many successes in treating infertility.
Once pregnancy is suspected or detected then the fertility herbs are usually discontinued. During pregnancy is it is unlikely that the herbs are necessary. It is more common with Chinese women to carry on taking the herbs during pregnancy and would be the case if they have a history of miscarriages or seem to be at a high risk of a miscarriage occurring. There are certain Chinese herbs that can be taken during pregnancy which can help with morning sickness and boost the general health of the expectant mother. It is reported that labour can be eased by the correct combination and application of herbs and acupuncture.
Records mentioning herbal treatment of infertility and miscarriage date back to 200 A.D. and include formulas that are still used today. The aim of traditional Chinese medicine is to steer the body back into balance. Traditional Chinese medicine is holistic; it treats the whole person (mind, body, spirit), not just the illness.
Conditions often treated by Chinese medicine:
- Allergies like asthma
- Colds and flu
- Digestive disorders
- High blood pressure
- Immune enhancement
- PMS/menstrual problems
- Pain and injury
- Arthritis/back pain/sciatica
- Skin disorders
- Addiction: smoking/alcohol/drugs
By Eirian Hallinan