Male infertility accounts for at least half of all cases of infertility. In a great number of these cases (25%), the exact causes of infertility are unknown. In other cases, the cause is usually low sperm count, mobility, and hormonal imbalances. Poor general health and unhealthy lifestyle habits are known to cause infertility in men. While taking care of one’s overall health is a proven way to increase fertility, herbs were also found to provide additional benefits. Eastern herbal remedies have been used for centuries in the treatment of infertility in both men and women and some of them are now scientifically proven to be quite effective. Keep reading to find out more.
About Male Infertility
The two most common modifiable risk factors for male infertility are tobacco smoking and obesity. A systematic review of the studies linking BMI and sperm count found that lower sperm count was more common in men with an unhealthy BMI. Cigarette smoking was also frequently associated with infertility. What these two risk factors do to decrease male fertility is reduce testosterone levels and decrease antioxidant activity in the body. Both effects are well known to be detrimental to make fertility. And while weight loss and quitting tobacco is a proven way to improve overall health and fertility outcomes, herbal remedies could also boost your chances at conceiving because herbal remedies have the potential to improve hormonal balance and increase antioxidant activity in the body.
Studies on Herbal Remedies
Herbal remedies have been used since ancient times in the treatment of various sexual problems in both men and women. Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine has included a large number of herbal remedies that have the potential to support sexual health and functioning. Studies on these remedies are quite promising as a large number of these herbs contain antioxidants and phytochemicals that correct hormonal imbalances. Some of these studies herbs are listed below:
Saffron is a popular but expensive spice rich in carotenoids which are types of antioxidants. While saffron’s antioxidant activity may have a beneficial effect on overall health, its effects on fertility are quite modest. A study the Urology Journal found that drinking saffron solved in milk for three months improved sperm morphology and motility but not sperm count.
Horse Chestnut Seed Extract (Aescin)
In a study of 219 men with infertility caused by enlarged veins in the scrotum (varicocele), the men were given 30mg of aescin daily for two months and the results were compared to controls. The researchers observed a 30% increase in sperm count. Vein size also decreased as a result of taking aescin daily but this was observed mostly in mild to moderate cases of varicocele.
Korean Red Ginseng
A recent study published in the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine examined the efficiency of Korean red ginseng in treating 80 infertile men with varicocele. All men treated with the herb showed improvements in sperm count and quality. There was also a placebo-controlled group that showed no improvement in fertility. The researchers conclude that Korean red ginseng was effective in treating male infertility. However, the mechanisms behind this remain unknown.
Indian ginseng is an herb used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of male sexual problems including infertility. A group of men with low sperm count were treated with large doses of this herb (675mg) daily for 90 days in a study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. At the end of the treatment, the researchers measured a 167% increase in sperm count, 53% increase in semen volume, and a 57% increase in sperm motility. The researchers also observed an increase in serum testosterone levels which they attribute to the antioxidant and protective benefits of the herb on endocrine organs.
Black Cumin Seed Oil (Nigella Sativa L.)
A group of Iranian men with low sperm count and motility were treated for two months with black cumin seed oil. The herbal oil is also known for its unique antioxidant content that has shown various health benefits in other studies. The study on infertile Iranian men also found that the oil from the black cumin seeds improved semen quality by increasing sperm count and motility.
Although herbs do have the potential to increase male fertility, they can only do so to a limited extent. Without the treatment of the underlying causes of male infertility, the benefits of these herbs are probably low. Research has shown that most herbs help scavenge free radicals thanks to their high antioxidant content. Considering that free radicals from tobacco smoke, pollution, and food could disrupt normal hormonal functioning, anything that can reduce the total oxidative stress on endocrine organs is bound to improve fertility rates in men. Men struggling with fertility should also seek other ways to improve their overall health.