Fertility & Infertility

Fertility is an area that I have worked with extensively and I can personally attest that it has been one of my greatest delights over the years to see many successful outcomes in this area of my practice! You can see I am not selling anything anywhere on this site so I trust you will take me on my word when I say that herbs truly can make a huge difference to improving fertility and that they should be right at the top of your list of things to do if this has been at all a problem for you.

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Finding a good herbalist

Much of what's written in this article is entirely suitable for a person to work through themselves but, especially if things are quite bad, or you just know that you need further help, then there may be a great deal of benefit to you to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist or truly holistic practitioner to guide you on to a safe and strong treatment program. There's a short write-up to suggest how you might go about finding such a person here

Note on conventional medicine

I should mention that a great many of the patients I have worked with have already been through some form of conventional medical treatment, e.g. fertility drugs or at least one or two rounds of IVF. I have also worked with some who are on the waiting list to start IVF treatment and I also sometimes work with couples who are currently using conventional fertility treatments and want to work with me at the same time in the hope to optimise their chances from every side! All the approaches I describe are entirely safe to take after having already tried conventional medicines, before trying them or whilst currently trying them!

What should he do?

Overall health
Ideally a man should have a decent look at how healthy he is overall but here we come to the first hurdle because it is an unfortunate fact that many men are famously bad at doing that until they actually get something going badly wrong! In this area it would be best, instead of being forced to do it through sickness, for him to find a way to get a good objective assessment of his health that takes into account such key areas as nutrition, fitness, blood health and mental health...

Sperm health

If the couple have been trying to conceive for a while but with nothing happening then the man should definitely get a sperm test however now we come to the second hurdle because a lot of men find this whole process rather confrontational. I think that this is partly because it is something very private being made public and I also think that, at least subconsciously, it is because he can feel that a key aspect of his masculinity is being questioned!

Notwithstanding that there are good reasons for him to be shy of doing the test it is essential to press on regardless because when he does get it done you will find that one of two things will happen:

1) the results come back looking good in which case I can assure you that the man will feel very happy indeed about this piece of information, even to the extent that they tend to throw themselves back into their own essential contribution to the process with more enthusiasm than ever before!
2) the results come back looking bad in which case everyone really did need to know about that and he will definitely want to do something about it and, most importantly, he actually can do something about it...


actual image (electron microscope) of sperm meeting egg

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What to do if Sperm health is bad

If the count, or the speed, or the shape of the sperm is bad then I am now 100% certain that the first and most important action to take is to do a thorough cleanse of the whole system. I say this because I have seen many men with poor sperm results who always show classic signs of excess toxicity and I have become quite sure that this is the leading reason for the great decline in sperm health all around the world in the last three generations.

Cleansing

Cleansing is a big subject in herbal medicine; I have an overview in an article called 'what is detoxification' here and you can find the cleansing diet that I recommend here. For the herbal side of it (which if anything is even more important than the diet) I do again urge you to find a good herbalist but, especially if that is just not possible, I can highly recommend the Juniper and Celandine cleanse as a simple and economic option that will certainly do a lot to get things moving in the right direction; it's written up in detail here.


Chelidonium majus (Celandine)

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Herbs for men's fertility

I generally start the second step of the male fertility tonics at the same time as I start the cleansing process and so that is what I base my results on but of course people could do one after the other if they wanted to. In my own view there are four main herbs that work on male fertility and I use all four at the same time and in substantial doses too! Getting the dosage right is such a critical part of successful herbal medicine that, to give you an idea of what I mean, the combination of herbal extracts and tinctures that we make in our clinic could typically give between 16-20mls a day, usually in two divided doses of 8-10 mls twice a day. In alphabetical order the male fertility tonics are:

Damiana

This has been historically famous as an aphrodisiac but I think it is more its general tonic effects that make it so valuable in a fertility tonic; you can read a lot more about it here.

Panax Ginseng

This is the famous 'Emperor tonic' of Chinese medicine and I think that there can be no doubt that it significantly improves male libido, fertility and sperm health. It is an expensive herb and you must be very careful to get the real thing as it is widely counterfeited; much more info on it here.


Panax ginseng (Ginseng root)

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St John's wort

This has been 'pigeon-holed' as a natural anti-depressant but it is far more than that and I use it very widely as a whole mind and body tonic and am sure it contributes a lot to the success of these formulas; more info here.

Withania

This is as equally revered in the ancient Ayurvedic system as Ginseng is in Chinese medicine and it is a certain ally to energy and fertility for anyone who needs it; more here.


Withania somnifera

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For low libido

If a man is having problems with his libido (which, by the way, is not all uncommon when a couple have been trying to conceive and not succeeding) then there is legitimate cause to use the somewhat infamous herb Epimedium to help improve matters; this is written up in detail here.

Nutritional Medicines

I am primarily a herbalist but I do use nutritional medicines where I see a valid case for them and this is an instance where I will typically use some extra Zinc (up to 30mg a day of elemental zinc) and Vitamin C (up to 2 or 3 grams a day of a buffered vitamin C) as the evidence supporting these two nutrients being able to improve sperm health is quite strong.

I want to mention at this point that I am well aware of the 'natural fertility' market out there and how they usually focus on using very extensive courses of nutritional supplements. I've seen that the couples always seem to have to take a great deal of expensive nutritional supplement medicines on these programs and I just wanted to mention that I have not found it personally necessary to go to those kinds of lengths to get excellent results...


Epimedium grandiflorum

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Before and After Tests

My general approach is to do a test before starting treatment and then again after three months. Assuming we get a bad result for the first test then I will usually begin strongly with a cleansing diet and herbs for the first month and then (depending on their responses) I will ease that side of things to a more modest level for the next two months because I then want to shift the main focus to the men's fertility tonics as discussed above.

As it happens, and at least at the time of re-editing this article (2015) I have not yet had a single case where there was not a marked improvement, often a massive improvement, in the before and after sperm tests over those three months. I remember feeling quite worried that I might jinx that record by disclosing it publically when I first wrote this article some years ago but still, so far so good!

I can tell you for a fact that it is deeply gratifying to all parties concerned to see the excellent before and after results so clearly laid out in black and white - but that is not a patch on how great it feels when the man's work is done and there is a baby on the way!


typical example of a before & after test (morphology = size & shape)

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What should she do?

There is quite a lot of overlap in my general approach to men and women with fertility in that I will often recommend a strong cleanse to the woman along with and then followed by some of the great female fertility tonics. Key differences are that we don't have the exact numbers of a sperm sample to compare against so we have to go by looking at her skin, eyes, tongue and a blood sample to see if cleansing in particular needs to be a priority (I use a high-powered microscope in my rooms to analyse my patient's blood samples).

Cleansing

Cleansing is a big subject in herbal medicine; I have an overview in an article called 'what is detoxification' here and you can find the cleansing diet that I recommend here. For the herbal side of it (which if anything is even more important than the diet) I do again urge you to find a good herbalist but, especially if that is just not possible, I can highly recommend the Juniper and Celandine cleanse as a simple and economic option that will certainly do a lot to get things moving in the right direction; it's written up in detail here.


Juniperus communis

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Women's health issues

I would say that the majority of the times a woman comes to me who has been having troubles conceiving that there is no obvious gynaecological reason why things are not happening as they should. That's ok, you don't need to be sick to take herbs and I have long lost count of how many women who were in that situation got pregnant after starting the fertility tonic herbs, often quickly too - they are truly amazing allies on this greatest of journeys. I'll write about what I see as the main fertility herbs for women in a moment but I first want to give some links to further reading if there are in fact some known issues that may be getting in the way.

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Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a major problem for a lot of women and it is clearly a leading cause of infertility. If you know that this is a problem for you then I hope that the general overview and advice I've written up in my detailed article here will be of much help.

PCOS

I do not have a separate article on polycystic ovarian syndrome at this time but it has been so clearly established to be caused by having the metabolic syndrome that I am sure if you treat the one you can cure or at least greatly improve the other - more info about the metabolic syndrome here.

Premenstrual Syndrome

I think we have to at least allow for the possibility that having the premenstrual syndrome or being significantly disturbed by hormonal changes general may be negatively influencing fertility as part of the greater picture. Could you say it was actually causing the problem? I wouldn't go so far as to say that but I do think it is surely wise to help the woman be in as good a health and balance as possible and that these are areas that respond very well to the careful use of the right herbs; I have an article written up on PMS here and another on dysmenorrhoea (painful or heavy periods) here.

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Herbs for women's fertility

I obviously think it is important to address any relevant problems such as those just mentioned above and I also think a period of cleansing can be highly beneficial to this whole process but underlying all of that I mainly feel that any woman who wants to conceive should definitely use herbal fertility tonics and I usually start with these right from the beginning, even if we are taking other steps at the same time.

If we look back into the long history of humanity and how it is interwoven with herbal medicines, you can see that in every single culture the fertility tonics were some of the most revered medicines of all the ones we gathered from mother earth. The reason for this will be abundantly clear to anyone who has wanted a baby for a while; it really is a subject as close as life itself.

Unlike with the men where I tend to use a fairly similar formula for the tonics the women's tonics do vary somewhat because there are herbs here that have potent actions on her hormonal balance and you can definitely have too much of a good thing! That said a short list of my own favourite herbs to use for women's fertility includes:

Vitex

Also known as Chaste tree; I couldn't even imagine treating women for fertility without having this great ally available, which is probably an odd thing to say given there are some women for whom it is clearly the wrong herb but, when it is the right herb for the right woman, I think it has been a key part of the reason why so many have fallen pregnant so quickly after starting the treatment; a detailed write up on this remarkable herbal ally here.


Vitex agnus-castus (Chaste tree)

Dong Quai

This is a very famous Chinese herb that is tremendous at helping women who have become depleted or weak or who need more internal 'juice' for their body's to grow and nourish new life; more here.

Withania

This is also a key herb I mentioned under the men's tonics and it really is equally valuable for women. Withania is written up in detail here and, as with men, it is often my practice to combine it with Panax Ginseng (more here), especially when I feel that a key underlying issue behind the infertility is simply a need to boost the general vitality. Have more life to make more life!

Raspberry Leaf

This is one of those widely overlooked herbs that has been reduced to being thought of as a good pregnancy tonic but in fact is a truly great general tonic. It has a remarkably strengthening and toning action on the uterus and often takes a central part in my formulas for women in this area; more here.


Rubus idaeus (Raspberry Leaf)

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Shatavari

I cannot complete this list without mentioning Shatavari as this revered fertility herb from Ayurvedic medicine is so frequently found in my tonics in this area but I am embarrassed to admit that this is one of the very few cases where I will talk about a herb that I have not yet written a monograph to link to. Let that not be any indicator of any lack of esteem for its benefits on my part; only that this herb with the reputation to give 'the hunger for a hundred husbands' is very much on my list to do!

Black Cohosh

Lastly this is another herb that, because of its popularity, has now almost entirely been identified as a 'menopause herb'. Black Cohosh is so much more than this, certainly it can, like Vitex, be the wrong herb for some but when it is the right remedy for the right women then the effects of this great American Indian herb, including on enhancing fertility, can be nothing short of incredible; more on it here.


Cimicifuga racemosa (Black Cohosh)

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Constitutional Health Note:

Lastly you might want to learn about your constitution to help better understand how fertility may have become an issue in your health as well as more about what kinds of foods, herbs, exercise etc. may best help you. Constitutional health is an old and fascinating way of understanding our differences and, as an example to demonstrate how it works, it is very noticeable how much the damper constitutions (Tigers & Bears) can need a particular emphasis on cleansing whilst the dryer constitutions (Eagles & EBs) may especially need to emphasise the tonic herbs. There is a brief introduction to this subject here and a more detailed section on working out which constitution you are here.

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!

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© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd