Can Chinese Herbal Medicine Support IVF?

Western medicine has a documented history, and its strong foundation in science and research make it an unquestioned discipline. It is thought of as modern, rational, and sensible, using pharmaceutical elements measured and delivered at controlled dosages. Surgical handling of tissues is also done in a controlled, scientific and methodical way. And many aspects of Western medicine are often considered incompatible with its Eastern counterparts, which are known for having a repertoire of natural herbal medicines and an element of mystery and mysticism.

Philippine culture has not only a strong religious tradition, but also its roots stretch into such concepts as faith as well as the practice of using natural herbs to treat various illnesses. Infertility in the Philippines is one such illness for which herbal medicine may play a role.

The treatment of infertility is usually approached with a modern, conventional Western foundation in medicine, with such techniques as in-vitro fertilization, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, and frozen embryo transfer, there may be some room for natural herbal support systems to work in concert with them. Modern medical procedures are not abandoned, rather natural herbal therapies can be used to enhance and increase fertility, implantation, and egg quality in female patients, as well as increase sperm production and sperm motility in male patients.

Several studies have been conducted to determine the therapeutic value of herbal medicines, from the effects of herbs on body functions such as metabolism, temperature and reproduction. As a result, herbal formulas have not only been developed, but also updated and modified to work specifically with hormones that are administered during IVF. Thus, the science of pharmacology is applied to ancient wisdom and traditions in hopes to increase chances for a successful pregnancy as much as possible.

One such herbal formula for women dealing with infertility is used to improve ovarian function, egg quality and reduce abnormally high FSH levels. Comprised of such herbs as Rehmani glutinosa root prep, Cornus officinalis fruit, Dioscorea opposite rhizome and Alisma orientalis rhizome, among others, the formula known as Woman’s FSH Support has been found to be more effective than DHEA supplement.

Another supplement, aptly named Prenatal Herbal Support, is used to maintain an intrauterine temperature appropriate for implantation. This formula contains such herbs as Poria, Coicus seed, Angelica Sinensis, Lingusticum, Dipsacus and Eucomia. Women with infertility who have undergone gonadotropin injections often have increased excess fluid in the lower abdomen, leading to decreased temperature in the uterus. This in turn can cause implantation failure. By increasing blood flow to the uterus and its lining, the chances of successful embryo implantation is increased.

Chinese herbal medicine has enough utility in modern assistive reproductive therapies to warrant serious consideration as an adjunct to Western techniques, especially when the latter alone cannot achieve certain desired outcomes.