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Treating fertility - herbs necessary?


i am finding the most frustrating thing to treat in clinic is infertility. I am very comfortable in my knowledge of the subject, having studied it in depth. But I find the results dissapointing (especially as I find i get very quick and satisfactory results much soner for other conditions). Do you think herbs are necessary when treating infertility (and its various causes)? I explain to patients that they really need to have patience and results are best after 3 menstrual cycles, but I find they often resort to ART by this stage. I'm fearful that if i suggest they wait longer to let the acupuncture work, they still may not see results...

PLease note, I also incorpoarate nutrition, supplement advice, lifestyle advice and meditation in my treatment plans

Any advice welcomed!


I don't believe herbs are necessary and my main teachers and I rarely use them at all in our clinics. Personally I get very good results with infertility with the majority the patients pregnant within 3-7 months. As you point out, 3 months is a good time frame for the initial treatments as this is most often long enough to resolve any underlying issues with ovulation and menstruation. Usually by the time the signs and symptoms we look at as acupuncturists resolve, it's just a matter of time before they are pregnant.

I have a general TCM treatment article on infertility treatments which may be helpful. I use a different system personally so only aspects of the treatments I use are based in the more standard TCM presentation. What I do, of course, varies extensively depending on each individual case but it very, very rarely involves any herbal medicine.


Related to this I also found something frustrating. I think people in the US - and this is most likely true for other countries outside Asia - that they do not have a good concept of how TCM works. Most people think acupuncturists are like regular doctors, you go there once for one treatment, get something prescribed and that's it. Most people do not seem to understand that acupuncture for example works more like the medication they are taking, meaning they need to have more treatment, two, three or even more. Often I see people get treatment once and they think they will heal after that and if they don't they automatically say it doesn't work.

Also they find it strange that they have to take more than one or two pills a day when they are taking herbs (capsules). I try as much as I can to make them understand that herbs are usually not as powerful as synthetic drugs but they are natural and have no or very little side effects.

I think those of us who are in this field need to spend more time in educating the public about TCM, I find the general public a little impatient with TCM treatments.


There is definitely a quick-fix mentality that is fostered by our over reliance on pharmaceutical drugs and our many "masking" treatments (such as pain relievers, etc.). And people often have a hard time sticking with anything due to the pace of modern living and the shear abundance of information, mis-information, options, etc. All you have to do is go to the gym today and then check back in by the end of February to see how many people have gone back to the same routine by then...

That said, I always tell my patients a time frame within which they should expect to feel significant improvement and it is usually 3-7 treatments. I make this very clear in the beginning and I find that as long as they feel noticeable improvement (even if it's marginal) within the first three treatments, they have enough motivation to see it through.

And, yes, the herbs can be difficult as well - 8 pills, 3 times a day, etc. This is done, of course, to avoid side effects and increase the level of influence in the body throughout the course of treatment. While somewhat inconvenient, once people have a response, they are generally fine with what needs to be done.

Acupuncture is a medicine that is often used as a last chance option for many, many people. While in reality it should be among the first modalities that people try before more evasive procedures. When people come as their last option however, I find that follow through on recommendations, treatment, herbs, etc. is often very good particularly when they get a good response from the initial treatments - or at the very least that they understand what we're trying to do and can conceptually grasp how it will help them. I spend, as I imagine most acupuncturists do, a fair amount of time with my patients initially describing aspects of Chinese Medicine and how it pertains to their condition. This, I find, is very helpful for them and personally I have very few people who do not continue with a course of treatment through to the resolution of their issues.


I think it is much better to treat infertility by acupuncture together with the herbs.


Chad, when you said in your clinic you do not use herbs much, were you referring to not using herbs just for fertility treatment or not using them much at all for any treatments?

Thank you.


Personally I use very little herbal medicine within my practice. I have a few formulas that I offer online within our herb store that come from a very gifted herbalist in Boston and I use some of the standards like yin qiao, emperor's tonic, pearl powder, etc. - but in general I use very, very little. This isn't to comment on the relative effectiveness of herbs, it really just a technique difference. We have some different acupuncture, tuina, and qi gong based techniques that we use to stimulate correct function in the body. From my experience (and that of most of my teachers), acupuncture and associated techniques is sufficient to treat the majority of conditions that come in and is generally free of side effects. I also feel (again personal opinion based on techniques and experience) that acupuncture will lead to a more permanent change as you are stimulating correct function in the body. The body knows very well how to heal and how to function and we only understand aspects of this within medicine. Acupuncture does a good job of stimulating and correcting these functions so the body can take up and do what only it knows how to do well.

Outside of some theoretical differences, so many people are already on either lots of vitamins and/or supplements (which I also don't use for the same reasons - and because of toxicity dangers) and medications that herbs run a risk of conflicting with these. Generally we work with people with the acupuncture until they are off their medications and then if they are having some aspects of their condition that haven't resolved well I will add in some herbs starting with standard formulas and then moving to raw if necessary. When I see a 20-something patient who is already on 8 medications the last thing I want to do is add more to the mix. Generally we try to get people to ground zero to differentiate their real condition from the effects of the medications, then we work from there.

All that said, I often consult with our herbalist friend in Boston and others I trust and work with around the country - particularly when results may not be what I expect them to be. Some acute cases and complex/strange conditions (like morgellons syndrome, as a recent example) I will use them initially however as they may speed up the healing process if there are time constraints due to severity - or may help us to treat conditions where an underlying cause from a acupuncture perspective alone is not clear.

I will also use herbs when patients can not come in for acupuncture often due to financial constraints and/or distance as I see many people from out of town.


Once again, thank you for your answer.


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