Women have been relying on herbal remedies to support fertility for many, many years. In fact, there were entire books devoted to the use of herbal remedies that Colonial women relied on in the 1600-1700’s. A quick Google search will show that alternatives to traditional medicine are touted to treat anything from cancer, heartburn, low sex drive or even asthma. Herbal remedies promising to treat or improve fertility in both men and women are also popular. This is especially true as the costs of fertility treatments continues to rise.

Many herbal supplements claim to improve fertility

Some of the most common herbal supplements used for fertility include:

  • Chaste berry is a berry from the chaste tree. It’s believed to help balance your hormones and make your menstrual cycle more regular which may improve fertility.

  • Black cohosh is a plant. Some women have reported that this also helps to regulate their menstrual cycles making conception easier.

  • She Oak is a type of flower. This supplement has been said to help with regulating your emotions. This may help moderate stress that can accompany fertility treatments.

  • Cassava is a starchy root vegetable. It’s said to improve fertility by improving the maturation of eggs within the ovaries.

  • Maca is a root-like cruciferous vegetable. It’s believed to regulate and normalize both estrogen and progesterone levels in women.

  • Saw palmetto is a shrubby palm tree. It’s suggested that it helps restore or improve reproductive function.

  • Bee propolis is a side product from bees producing honey. It has been touted as an anti-inflammatory.

  • Fertility Blend is a specific supplement that contains a variety of herbs including chaste berry, green tea extract, L-arginine and some vitamins and minerals. It is said that it helps hormonal balance and regular ovulation.

Some of these herbal supplements may seem like there are great options to try if you’re trying to get pregnant or are having difficulty becoming pregnant. But it’s important to note that herbal supplements (along with vitamin, mineral and protein supplements) are not tightly regulated by the FDA.

Supplements are not subjected to the vigorous, long-term testing that prescriptions medications require.
There is little to no legal supervision of herbal supplements

By law, manufacturers must follow “good manufacturing” practices and meet quality standards. However, manufacturers of any type of supplement, may promote, sell and manufacture their product without getting approval from the FDA. The FDA doesn’t penalize or pull products from shelves unless there have been reports of harmful side effects, life-threatening results or false advertising. Because of this, there are not many promising studies. However, here are some findings:

  • Chaste berry tree is a common supplement, especially for treating PMS symptoms. However, studies show that this is not safe during pregnancy. Taking this in the attempt to get pregnant may affect your future pregnancy.(1)

  • Fertility Blend supplement contains a variety of herbs and vitamins that may help with fertility. Very early research does show support for safety and effectiveness.(2)

  • Bee propolis has an anti-inflammatory like effect that may help with reproduction. Studies have found that women who have endometriosis and consistently ingest bee propolis have higher pregnancy rates.(3)

“The small benefits that may come from taking an herbal supplement do not outweigh the possible risks or side effects.”

Unfortunately, the use of herbal supplements is a gray area. On one hand, these types of supplements have been used for hundreds of years. On the other hand, there’s a general lack of research and overall guidance on what to take or what to avoid. Here’s what we recommend:

  • Never take anything without fully understanding how it can affect your body. Nothing should ever take the place of your physician’s advice or instructions. Tell your physician about all vitamins, minerals or herbal supplements you consume.

  • Do your research on supplement safety. You can find all herbal supplement facts at https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/BotanicalBackground-HealthProfessional/ for more information.

  • Remember, although there are a variety of herbal supplements that seem to be recommended for fertility, very few have been studied. If herbal supplements are strong enough to have a positive effect, they are also strong enough to have negative side effects or a potential to interact with medications.

  • Solid research does show that a healthy diet and lifestyle is the best way to improve your overall fertility. It’s been proven to be safe and effective.

References:

1. Dennehy CE. The use of herbs and dietary supplements in gynecology: an evidence-based review. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2006;51: 402-9.

2. Dennehy CE. The use of herbs and dietary supplements in gynecology: an evidence-based review. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2006;51: 402-9.

3. Hitt E. Bee propolis may improve infertility associated with mild endometriosis. American Society of Reproductive Medicine Annual Meeting, abstract 0-84, presented Oct. 13, 2003.

4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2867842/

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