Dr. Jaclyn Chasse, N.D. is a licensed naturopathic doctor and the Medical Educator for Emerson Ecologics, a distributor of dietary supplements to medical professionals. Dr. Chasse’s clinical practice, Northeast Center for Holistic Medicine (www.northeast-holistic.com), focuses on women’s health, pediatrics and infertility, with an emphasis on botanical medicine. Dr. Chasse is also a master gardener and spends her free time cooking, playing in the woods with her family and taming her small yard into an urban permaculture oasis.
If you have been trying to conceive unsuccessfully for six months or more, you are in the group of more than 15 percent of Americans struggling with fertility. Infertility is described as an inability to conceive or maintain a healthy pregnancy for six months with well-timed intercourse. Having trouble conceiving creates a huge stress on a couple and the individuals, ranging from laboratory testing to doctor’s visits, to stress between the sheets. Thankfully, many herbal therapies can be helpful to boost fertility and increase your odds of having a healthy baby.
Herbal supplements can help boost fertility for both men and women.
Photo by Jurischk/Courtesy Flickr
For Him: Men seem to get away easy when it comes to infertility—if their sperm test is “normal,” then they can wash their hands of any contribution to the problem. This is not usually the case. Infrequently is a man’s semen analysis “optimal.” Look at medical texts from the 1930s that describe a “normal” sperm count as 130 million sperm per milliliter of semen. Today, the “normal” is 20 million/mL. Is that healthy? Or is the average man today walking around with a lot less sperm than his granddaddy?
To increase sperm count and quality, focus on plants that are high in antioxidants and flavonoids such as purple, red, and blue fruits and veggies, and herbs such as elderberry, hawthorn and goji. In addition, herbs like ashwagandha have demonstrated the ability to protect sperm from damage caused by environmental factors.
For Her: If your cycle isn’t regular, that should be the first thing to address. Think of herbs like chaste tree berry (Vitex agnes castus) to improve the communication between your brain and hormone-producing tissues like your ovaries. Also, red clover has lots of phytoestrogenic action, which means that it acts a bit like estrogen in your body and can help to thicken the lining of your uterus and make for better implantation of a fertilized egg. Contact your knowledgeable herbalist or naturopathic doctor to design a plan tailored to your hormone balance.
For Both Partners: On top of your basics—prenatal, fish oil, etc.—there are many herbs that can be helpful for both male and female fertility! Herbs that are high in flavonoids, or the compounds that give plants color, can be essential for protecting DNA and improving the chances of conception and having a healthy baby. The herbs mentioned earlier include elderberry and hawthorn, and I’d add to that list pomegranate, blueberry, and most other colorful plants.
Herbs that support stress management can also be essential. These include stimulating herbs like rhodiola as well as calming herbs like ashwagandha and holy basil. (Read my blog post on holy basil—one of my favorite plants!)
Herbal medicine can provide fantastic support for a couple trying to conceive. Be sure to work with a professional to ensure that you don’t take any herbs that may be contraindicated in early pregnancy. Good luck, and have fun!
*Statements herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and are not intended to treat or diagnose any disease or health condition. It is also recommended that patients check with their doctors before taking herbs, to ensure that there are no contraindications with prescription medications.