Chinese Fertility Herbalist
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TCM Diagnosis and Your Herbal Prescription
Herbal formulas and products are created to correct imbalances within the body based on classical Chinese theories of how each system within the body functions. The first thing we will do is review your past and present health as seen through Traditional Chinese Medical theory.
You will fill out a very extensive health history questionnaire. From this information and information gleaned from interviewing you, I will determine your traditional diagnosis which your custom herbal prescription will be based on.
Chinese Herbs and Infertility
The Chinese herbs that I use have a long history of use in aiding fertility. Records indicating herbal treatment and products for infertility and miscarriage date back to 200 A.D., including mention of formulas that are still used for those purposes today, in the famous Shang Han Lun. The first book devoted solely to gynecology and obstetrics, The Complete Book of Effective Prescriptions for Diseases of Women, was published in 1237 A.D.
In modern China, herbs are used to treat infertility in both men and women and the results of large scale clinical trials are reported in Chinese medical journals; these results have been abstracted in English by a research group in Hong Kong since 1986.
The use of herbs in the US is growing rapidly.
Specific Chinese Fertility Herbs
No individual herb is considered especially useful for promoting fertility. Rather, more then 150 different herbs given in complex formulas comprised of 15 or more ingredients are used in the treatment of infertility. Each formula is created with the purpose of correcting a functional or organic problem that caused the infertility.
The design of the formulas has varied somewhat over the centuries, based on prevailing theories and available resources. However, differences among individuals being treated accounts for the greatest variations in the selection of herbs and formulas to be used.
There are some “exotic” materials that are frequently found in fertility formulas, such as deer antler and sea horse, but the prominent materials are derived from roots, barks, leaves, flowers, and fruits.
Formulas for men and for women tend to be different, but there is considerable overlap in the ingredients used.
How Chinese Herbal Formulas Work (basic theory)
The mechanism of action of the herbs is not known precisely, and undoubtedly varies according to the type of infertility problem being treated and the herbal formula that is used. The traditional Chinese view is that infertility tends to arise from one or more of three prominent causes:
1. A “deficiency” syndrome prevents the hormonal system from properly influencing the sexual and reproductive functions. This is said to be a weakness of the “kidney and liver” which may influence various body functions producing symptoms such as frequent urination, weakness and aching of the back and legs, impotence, irregular menstruation, and difficulties with regulation of body temperature.
Deficiency syndromes are treated with tonic herbs that are said to nourish qi (e.g., ginseng, codonopsis, atractylodes, astragalus), blood (e.g., tang-kuei, peony, ho-shou-wu, gelatin), yin (e.g., lycium fruit, ligustrum, eclipta, ophiopogon), or yang (e.g., epimedium, cistanche, cuscuta, eucommia), and are selected according to the overall evaluation of symptoms.
2. A “stagnancy” syndrome prevents the sexual and reproductive organs from functioning despite normal hormone levels and normal ability to respond to hormones. This is said to involve a stagnancy of “qi and blood,” which has the impact of restricting circulation to the tissues involved. Qi stagnation is often noted by tense muscles, restrained anger, and digestive disorders; herbs for resolving the stagnancy include bupleurum, cyperus, lindera, and various citrus products. Other symptoms that might arise include abdominal pain or bloating, chronic inflammation, and formation of lumps (including cysts and tumors). Blood stagnation often occurs following childbirth, surgery, injury, or severe infection and is typically noted when there is severe pain (such as dysmenorrhea), or hard swellings and obstructions; abnormal cell growth, including dysplasia and cancer, are thought to involve blood stagnation. Herbs such as salvia, red peony, persica, and carthamus may be used
3. A “heat” syndrome causes the affected organs to function abnormally. Heat syndromes may be associated with an infection or inflammatory process. This type of syndrome can produce abnormal semen quality leading to male infertility, while gynecological infections can maintain female infertility by blocking the passages, altering the mucous membrane conditions, or influencing the local temperature.
Herbs that inhibit infections and reduce inflammation are used, including gardenia, phellodendron, patrinia, and lonicera. In each case, the purpose of the Chinese herbs is to rectify the underlying imbalance to restore normal functions. Western medicine can diagnose tubal blockage (which usually corresponds to blood stagnancy in Chinese medicine) and infection (which corresponds to heat syndromes of Chinese medicine) and in many cases can successfully treat these causes of infertility.
However, Western medicine often fails to diagnose deficiency syndromes and most of the stagnancy syndromes. Therefore, the majority of Chinese herb formulas to be applied in the U.S. are those that counteract the deficiency (called tonics) and those that resolve the stagnancy (called regulators).
How are Chinese Herbal Formulas Acquired and Consumed?
In China, a number of fertility formulas can be purchased off the shelf in public pharmacies, and for uncomplicated cases, this is often adequate. However most men and women in Asia are treated for persistent infertility by obtaining prescriptions from a doctor who is expert in Chinese herbs. This is the service that I provide.
In the U.S., it is uncommon to find fertility-promoting formulas in stores or other outlets; rather, they are prescribed by practitioners of Asian Medicine (Sometimes called Traditional Chinese Medicine or Oriental Medicine). They should have at least a masters level training from an accredited college. Herbalists in the U.S. are often acupuncturists, naturopaths, or medical doctors who are familiar with Chinese herbs. I am also a Licensed Acupuncturist and a Chinese herbalist with a specialty in infertility.
Herbs are ingested in several common forms, including tablets, granules, or decoctions (teas). Some of the treatment plans involve using a single herbal combination regularly, while other situations require using two, or even three, different formulas at different times of the menstrual cycle. All of these means can be effective, so long as the correct formula and correct dosage are used for an adequate period of time.
Chinese Herbs That Come in Pill Form
The manufactured formulas are known as a "Patent Formula" and come in pill form. It is given to multiple patients regardless of the differences in their presenting pathologies. When treating complex presentations such as infertility, custom formulae are the best way to go. If a person is taking Patent Medicine, they are can't take complete advantage of the power and flexibility which herbal medicine has to offer.
That being said there are times when you just can take the custom formulas. This is usually because the person is traveling and find it difficult to take the herbs or the expense is too great.
Duration of Treatment
In the Chinese Clinical studies, daily or periodic use of herbs usually resulted in restored fertility within three to six months. Many Chinese doctors feel that if pregnancy is not achieved within about eight to nine months, then it is unlikely that the treatment will be successful with continued attempts.
In Japan, where doctors give lower dosages of herbal products and are restricted to using a smaller range of herbs, treatment time is usually longer: from six to fifteen months. In the U.S., nearly the full range of Chinese herb materials are accessible, but the dosage to be used is usually lower than in China at least to start with; as a result, I estimate that pregnancy can be achieved within six to twelve months, though it seems that most women get pregnant between 4 to 8 months. It must be remembered, however, that approximately one-third of infertility cases may fail to respond to all reasonable attempts.
One advantage of the Chinese herbal approach is that even if pregnancy does not occur, benefits to health can be attained because the herbs address imbalances that affect other aspects of health besides infertility.
How Can I Tell if My Chinese Herbs are Working?
When you start to see the external signs and symptoms disappear or change in intensity you will know that internally, systemic changes are occurring; a necessity for a successful conception. In addition, you will have more energy, feel much better emotionally, sleep better and feel better physically. Of course the ultimate sign of successful treatment is that you get pregnant and carry to term.
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MSOM, Dipl.Ac, LAc (Mi)
806 River St.
Owosso, Mi 48867
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