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Green Pharmacy for Infertility

Oct 31, 2008 - 0 comments

I just found this on the net:  

I just got back from my new acupuncturist, and he recommended me put ginger in my green tea.  Thought I'd share with everyone.

Infertility is a major heartache, and it may require going the high-tech route. But before you try a high-tech solution, you'll want to thoroughly explore possible causes with your doctor to find out whether there are lifestyle or other changes that you can make to improve your chances of conception. And while you're at it, consider some natural alternatives.

Cauliflower (Brassica oleracea) and other foods containing vitamin B6. People who advocate micronutrient supplementation often recommend vitamin B6 for infertility. The best sources of this nutrient, in descending order of potency, are cauliflower, watercress, spinach, garden cress, bananas, okra, onions, broccoli, squash, kale, kohlrabi, brussels sprouts, peas and radishes.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale). According to reports of research with animals in Saudi Arabia, ginger significantly increased sperm count and motility. I hesitate to extrapolate one animal study to humans, but ginger is so safe and tasty that if I were troubled by a low sperm count or poor sperm motility, I wouldn't hesitate to reach for ginger tea, ginger ale, gingerbread and dishes spiced with this tangy herb.

Ginseng (Panax ginseng). California herbalist Kathi Keville, author of The Illustrated Herb Encyclopedia and Herbs for Health and Healing, tells two stories of infertile men who started taking ginseng, schisandra and saw palmetto to build up their physical stamina. Some time later, both of their wives became pregnant.

While I wouldn't hang my hat on this anecdote, ginseng has been revered in Asia for centuries as a male potency and longevity tonic. There is some research with animals suggesting that ginseng stimulates sexual activity, and of course, you need that to conceive.

Guava (Psidium, various species) and other foods containing vitamin C. For treatment of male infertility caused by sperm abnormalities or clumping, vitamin C supplementation has been shown to be as effective as several fertility-enhancing drugs. Melvyn Werbach, M.D., assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine and author of Nutritional Influences on Illness, suggests taking 1,000 milligrams a day. (Although the Daily Value for vitamin C is only 60 milligrams, taking this much is considered safe.)

Besides guava, other good plant sources of vitamin C include bitter melon, emblic, rosehips, bell pepper, red peppers and watercress.

Herbal formulas for men. The Chinese herb cangzhu (Atractylodes lancea) dominates two formulas widely prescribed in China for male infertility. One, called hochu-ekki-to, contains 4 grams each of cangzhu, astragalus and ginseng; 3 grams of Japanese angelica; 2 grams each of bupleurum root, jujube fruit, citrus unshiu peel (a Japanese citrus fruit); 1.5 grams of Chinese licorice root; 1 gram of black cohosh; and 0.5 gram of ginger. In one study, this formula boosted sperm concentrations and motility considerably after three months.

A similar formula called ninjin-to contains three grams each of cangzhu, ginger, ginseng and Chinese licorice.

If you'd like to try either of these formulas, I'd advise against attempting to mix them up yourself. Instead, consult a Chinese herbalist.

Herbal formula for women. For women, Maine herbalist Deb Soule, founder of Avena Botanicals and author of The Roots of Healing, offers several fertility formulas. Here's the one she suggests most often: two tablespoons each of chasteberry, Chinese angelica (also called dang-quai) and false unicorn root and one to two teaspoons of blessed thistle steeped in a quart of boiling water for 15 minutes. She suggests drinking two to three cups a day four or five days a week.

Jute (Corchorus olitorius) and other herbs containing folate. For years, naturopaths have suggested folic acid, a B vitamin, for women who are infertile. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta have been urging pregnant women to get more folic acid because it prevents severe spinal birth defects.

Everybody's been touting folic acid supplements, but I generally recommend getting nutrients from foods whenever possible, and there are a number of foods that provide good amounts of folate, the naturally occurring form of folic acid. According to my trusty database, the food with the greatest amount of folate is edible jute, at 32 parts per million on a dry-weight basis. This is followed by spinach, endive, asparagus, papaya, okra, pigweed and cabbage.

Noting that many of these same plants are well-endowed with zinc, which is critical to male reproductive vitality, I suggest that this same assortment of vegetables might also help the man of the house.

Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) and other herbs containing zinc. Several studies suggest that zinc deficiencies may be tied to male infertility and poor sperm quality. Good sources of zinc include spinach, papaya, collards, brussels sprouts, cucumbers, string beans, endive, cowpeas, prunes and asparagus. Simmer most of these together in a big pot, and you've got the makings of a good soup.

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) and other herbs containing arginine. Naturopaths often recommend supplementation with the amino acid arginine for men with low sperm counts. They call for getting four grams of arginine a day. That's the amount found in about two ounces of sunflower seeds.

Sunflower seeds are the highest entry for arginine in my database at 8.2 percent on a dry-weight basis. Other herbs rich in this vital nutrient include carob, butternuts, white lupines, peanuts, sesame seeds, soybeans, watercress, fenugreek, mustard, almonds, velvet beans, Brazil nuts, chives, broad beans and lentils.

Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera). Ayurvedic physicians feel about this herb the way the Chinese do about ginseng, that it's a tonic for the male libido and sexual function, particularly erection problems.

Bottle gourd (Lagenaria siceraria) and other herbs containing choline. Scientists at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill have found that in male rats, a deficiency of dietary choline, one of the B vitamins, is associated with infertility. I hesitate to make too much of a single study done with animals. But reproductive systems in mammals are more similar than different, and getting a little extra choline probably can't hurt.

In my database, fruits of the bottle gourd, a white-flowered vine suggestive of gourds, are highest in choline at 1.6 percent on a dry-weight basis. Other good herbal sources of choline include fenugreek leaves and shepherd's purse. The following run well behind in the amount of choline they contain but are still worth mentioning: ginseng, horehound, cowpeas, English peas, mung beans, sponge gourd, lentils and Chinese angelica.

Oat (Avena sativa). Oats make horses frisky and have long been considered a male sexual energizer, hence our phrase "sowing his wild oats." Some herbalists suggest that oats boost male human fertility as well. You can get oats cheaply in oatmeal or more expensively in concentrated oat extracts found in many health food stores.

Raspberry (Rubus idaeus). Raspberry leaf tea is usually recommended to pregnant women to calm uterine irritability. But animal breeders add raspberry leaves to male animal feed to increase their fertility. Keville suggests that infertile men try raspberry leaf tea. There's little or no harm in it, and the tea is quite tasty.

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