Getting pregnant in the modern world is not as easy as it once was. Infertility is becoming an epidemic – it is estimated that 15% of couples around the globe are infertile. That’s 48.5 million couples. Both men and women have problems with infertility; however, men amount to 20-30% of cases of infertility. 1
The topic of pregnancy and infertility go far beyond the scope of supplementation. There is a concern for toxicity, heavy metals, hormonal imbalance, dental infection and much more. However, tackling the issue one step at a time, Traditional Chinese Medicine can help improve our chances of conception.
Chinese Medicine is an ancient holistic approach to healing. It addresses the body as a whole and in the case of fertility, TCM is well-versed on the topic. In Chinese philosophy, sexual energy is life energy. To improve fertility, we must improve our overall health and vitality.
Herbs & Fertility
The good news is there are simple ways we can go about increasing our primal sexual energy. Chinese herbs have a long history and use for treating infertility and increasing both male and female fertility.
It’s important to know that there is no individual herb that can increase fertility. While particular herbs can certainly promote the important aspects of fertility such as, blood circulation and hormonal balance, herbs are usually giving in formulas to help balance the body as a whole.
Also, herbal formulas for men and for women are usually a bit different. However, there is a considerable amount of overlap in the different herbs used to promote fertility. And while working with a skilled Master Herbalist and Chinese Medicine Practitioner is going to be your best bet, we can still take a look at some of the most prominent sex herbs according to Chinese Medicine.
Here are 7 of China’s most renowned herbs for increasing fertility and sexual energy:
- Polyrhachis Ant. While not necessarily a botanical herb, Ant is a known tonic herb that has been traditionally used to promote hormonal balance and sexual vigor. Ant is a powerful adaptogenic substance that works similarly to Reishi, Ginseng and Cordyceps. As an adaptogen, Ant helps the body adapt to stress, which is important for sexual energy and fertility – stress is one of the major causative factors in low sex drive, hormonal imbalance and ultimately infertility. As an adaptogen, it can be used by all people to promote a healthy immune system, which can keep the body free of infections that otherwise lead to adrenal fatigue and infertility or the chances of birth defects.Regular consumption of Ant as a tonic can help with overall issues of aging, fatigue, menopausal symptoms as well as improve blood flow to vital reproductive organs. Chinese medicine suggests that stress takes away vital energy and blood flow to sexual organs that would be used to reproduce and instead puts it in the limbs so it can “fight stress”. Black ant can help revitalize reproductive organs by eliminating stress and supplying optimal blood flow to them.
- Lycium. This tonic fruit is very widely used as an excellent Yin Jing and blood tonic that enhances sexual function. It has been found to improve sexual vigor in men and fertility in women. As a blood tonic, it helps improve blood circulation to vital sex organs. As far as fertility goes, conception becomes a problem when reproductive hormones are imbalanced. Stress is the major culprit of imbalanced hormones. When women become stressed they produce more of the hormone prolactin, which disrupts ovulation. In addition to dissolving stress with lifestyle, herbs like lycium can help restore homeostasis to the body.
Reishi. The king of mushrooms, Reishi is the ultimate Shen herb, which nourishes spiritual radiance. It is one of the only herbs that can actually improve emotional health by clearing anger and trauma from the liver. According to TCM, the two most important organs for fertility are the liver and the lungs. The liver is correlated with anger, frustration, and stress. The lungs are correlated with sadness, grief, and holding on. Things go both ways; we can damage the liver and lungs by entertaining these toxic emotions and also, damaging these organs via lifestyle can cause more of these emotions to persist. In order to get a healthy flow of fertility energy, we need to clear up these organ systems. Reishi can help clear liver stagnation as well as improve oxygenation, helping the lungs.
- Cistanche. This herbal bark is known to increase sexual energy, physical energy, and is a build tonic. Consumption of Cistanche will direct blood flow to the pelvic region of the body and sex glands, the result is an increase in sexual desire and ability. Cistanche is Yang by nature, which is why it is often used as an aphoristic or to improve male and female potency. As a Jing herb, it can and is best to taken continuously, not just temporarily.
- Epimedium. Also known as "Horny Goat Weed," Epimedium is most commonly known as a powerful aphrodisiac. However, this herb goes beyond mere sexual excitement and stimulation. Epimedium tonifies the Yang Essence of the kidneys, which promotes greater sexual health – as the kidneys are responsible for holding sex energy. Epimedium is dry and yin by nature, so it is best combined with yin replenishing herbs like He Shou Wu, Lycium, and Rehmannia.
Schizandra. Schisandra is one of the ‘three treasures’ in tonic herbalism – a group of tonic herbs that were traditionally consumed only be royalty. Schisandra is one of the only herbs that nourishes all three treasures; jing, chi, and shen. It is a popular beauty herb that is known for its ability to beautify the skin, thanks to its strong liver tonifying effects. As a sexual tonic, it can increase sex fluids in women leading to greater sensitivity and sex drive. The astringent qualities can increase male sexual vigor and stamina.
- Tongkat Ali. More specific to men’s hormones we have a unique herb known as Tongkat Ali. Women could take Dong Quai to get similar benefits that Tongkat Ali provides for men. Although not everyone who supplements with tongkat ali wants to increase their fertility, it is worth mentioning that tongkat ali’s hormonal support benefits also promotes normal sperm quality. Sperm quality, measured by volume, concentration, and motility, can impact male fertility. 2 In one study, seventy-five men who consumed tongkat ali every day were observed to experience significant improvements in sperm quality, improvements that lasted for months after the initial study. Almost 15% of the participants even reported new pregnancies. 3
Keep in mind, herbs are only a part of the big picture of health. While they have been used for thousands of years by Practitioners of Chinese Medicine, it is also important to consider other lifestyle factors that affect fertility.
Be sure to consider lowing your stress load, experiencing joy on the regular, focusing on quality sleep, nutrition, and movement. Spend time outdoors in nature and as always, consult with a licensed Master Herbalist (MH) and practitioner to support you along your path to conception.