Chinese herbs have been used for approximately 2500 years to treat a wide array of health problems. Herbal medicines may enhance fertility by supporting the natural functions of the ovulation and fertility process.
Herbs are not regulated by the FDA, but are they safe?
Herbs are generally safe to use. However, because some herbs should not be taken during pregnancy, it is always important to ask your healthcare provider which herbs are safe to take. For those choosing to use herbs to enhance fertility, it is preferable to consult a healthcare provider who is familiar with herbs and how they affect different aspects of your fertility.
When should herbs not be taken?
One of the purposes of prescribing herbal medicines is to increase ovarian function. Therefore, individuals who are taking birth control pills, Antigon/Cetrotide or Lupron should not take herbs. Because these medications are used to impede or lessen ovarian function they have the opposite desired effect of herbs.
How long should I take herbs?
The effects of herbal medicines are generally cumulative, and the clinical effects of treating the infertile couple are usually seen after 60-120 days. Herbs are also cycle-dependent. They require the entire menstrual cycle to be effective, and work best with multiple cycles. This means that if, for instance, a woman decides to have an in vitro Fertilization: IVF transfer within a week, she should avoid herbal treatment.
What types of infertility can herbal medicines treat?
In general, it is appropriate to treat any type of infertility condition with herbal medicines. This includes advanced maternal age, luteal-phase-defect, premature ovarian failure, male factor, or unexplained symptoms. Clinical observers have reported impressive results when mixing herbs with gonadotropins during intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycles. The herbs seem to enhance the effects of the gonadotropins, and they do not pose the risk of OHSS (ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome).
Is herbal medicine a licensed profession?
Herbal medicine is not a licensed profession. However, some practitioners acquire available Board certification. It is preferable to consult with healthcare providers who are Board certified to prescribe herbal medicines.
Where can I purchase herbal supplements?
A number of herbal supplements are available that are helpful in supporting fertility for both women and men. For women, vitex (chasteberry), red clover and other herbs traditionally used to help restore hormonal balance are combined with the same vitamins and minerals found in a prenatal vitamin. The combination offers a comprehensive fertility supplement. For men, clinically proven supplements are available to help improve sperm parameters such as count, motility, and morphology.
-Article written by Dr. Mike Berkley on behalf of the APA. Dr. Berkley is an expert on acupuncture, herbal medicines and traditional medicine as means for treating infertility. Dr. Berkley practices at The Berkley Center for Reproductive Wellness.