When utilizing herbal medicine to treat medical conditions, including infertility, it is important to note that herbal medicine, when used in traditional practice, embodies the concept of natural medicines. Herbal medicines are not necessarily meant to treat specific health problems directly but rather to support the body or organ systems to regain physiologic, functional control over a body system that needs fine-tuning. Many herbal medicines can be used to help women to become pregnant, based upon patients' individual symptoms and designed to nourish each patient's body allowing it to be at its healthiest. (See Table 14-2 above.)
Puncture vine (Tribulus terrestris) is useful for helping the body produce productive ovulatory cycles. A concentrated form of tribulus, standardized to 45% steroidal saponin content used in a clinical study, assisted women in achieving ovulatory cycles when the test preparation was administered at 250-500 mg, 3 times per day for over three months.27
Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus) appears to have prolactin-inhibiting effects, among others, and has been used for women who are sterile as a result of secondary amenorrhea and luteal insufficiency.28 The herb seems to normalize luteal-phase defects and may increase the chances of becoming pregnant for women with relative progesterone deficiency. For women with hyperprolactinemia, vitex was shown to suppress prolactin release, lengthen luteal phases, and improve progesterone synthesis after three months of treatment.29 In another study, 120 women with polymenorrhea, oligomenorrhea, and corpus luteum insufficiency were treated with a standardized extract of vitex for six months. Sixty percent of these women had sought conception assistance previously. During the study, the women's progesterone levels were increased from an average of 6.4 ng=mL to 9.3 ng=mL while 64% of the women's cycles became normalized and 29% of the women became pregnant.30 A combination herbal supplement consisting of chasteberry, green tea, L-arginine, vitamins, and minerals was studied in women with difficulty conceiving. The results showed significantly increased luteal-phase progesterone and basal temperature, as well as increased pregnancy rates in the supplement group compared to the controls.31
Shakuyaku-Kanzo-To, a Chinese botanical combination of extracts from Paeonae radix and Glycyrrhizae radix, has been used to lower elevated testosterone levels in a number of settings.32 When this preparation was given to subjects at a dose of 5-10 mg per day for two to eight weeks, women with elevated circulating levels of androgens had significant lowering of testosterone. Six of the seven subjects in this study began ovulating regularly, and two of them were able to conceive.33 Zhibai Dihuang, another Chinese formula (comprised of the herbs Anemarrhena, Phellondendron, and Rhemanniaand given in pill form), has shown promise for helping couples with antisperm and=or anti-zona pellucida antibodies. Infertile couples were treated with this formula; following treatment antibody conversion to negative was at 81.3% of the infertile couple subjects in the study.34 Moreover, in the one to nine months following the study, all eight previously immunologically infertile couples were able to conceive, and the women's antibody status remained negative throughout their pregnancies.
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