A meta-analysis was conducted by Karin Ried, a researcher for the National Institute of Integrative Medicine, to determine whether or not traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) proved to be more beneficial at increasing fertility than Western methods. It is found that “about 15% of couples in Western countries” encounter infertility, while 10.9% of women in the USA have an “impaired ability to get pregnant or to carry a baby to term” (Ried 2015, p.116). Typically, infertility is related to endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome, while there are 20% of unexplained cases of infertility. While assisted reproductive technologies (ART) are common in Western society, they are both costly and often don’t yield the desired results (a live birth). Thus, Ried compiled information from various studies to see if Chinese medicine proves to be more effective than ART, and she discovered that it is in fact more effective.
A compilation of 40 studies of over 4,247 women with fertility issues- anovulation (no ovulation during menstrual cycle), polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, immunological infertility, or blocked fallopian tubes- and their use of Chinese medicine led to the conclusion that there is “a 1.74 higher probability of achieving a pregnancy with TCM” than compared to women who used Western medicine (p.119). Improvements in ovulation, reduction of pain in endometriosis patients, reestablishment of the thickness of the endometrial lining, and many other aspects associated with infertility were found as well.
Ried also offer the uses of TCM, including possible diagnoses and potential herbal remedies. In traditional Chinese medicine, the focus is on the kidney, liver, spleen, heart, and lungs, which can present an imbalance that needs to be corrected. In women with infertility, TCM diagnoses tend to be kidney Jing deficiency, spleen Qi deficiency, liver Qi stagnation, phlegm-dampness, or blood deficiency. Jing means essence, so kidney Jing deficiency refers to an absence of the kidney essence. Qi is the energy or life force of something and blood is the material form of it, so in spleen Qi deficiency the spleen is deficient in energy or blood flow. In Liver Qi stagnation, the energy/blood within the liver is stagnant, which presents as pain or even clots in menstrual discharge. Phlegm-dampness is the accumulation of body fluids in the tissues of the body. Lastly, blood deficiency is essentially a lack of blood. TCM also treats the yin and yang of a body. To treat the yin is to focus on the solid organs and the cold; to treat the yang is to focus on the hollow organs and the hot.
There is a plethora of Chinese herbs to improve the conditions mentioned above. The herbs are used to tonify (nourish and boost Qi), regulate, invigorate, cool, or warm different conditions of the body. An example of an herb to treat the kidney yang or spleen Qi deficiency would be the Chinese wolfberry (Gou qi zi). To treat blood Qi and kidney Jing deficiency, fluorite (Zi shi ying) grounds and calms the spirit. There are many more herbs and many other conditions that can be treated within the article as well.
With the incorporation of TCM and treatment of the vital organs, it is possible to increase fertility. Chinese herbs help to improve the energy and blood flow within certain target areas. By utilizing TCM, one can improve their chances at having a successful pregnancy.
Ried, K. (2015). Chinese herbal medicine for female infertility: An updated meta-analysis. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 23(1), 116–128. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2014.12.004