Struggling to get pregnant? You’re not alone –it is estimated that one in seven couples have problems conceiving worldwide. While many choose to go for invasive fertility treatments, you might want to know that this is not your only choice. If your diet and lifestyle are healthy, the following herbs can help boost your chances of conceiving in a natural way. Make sure to check with your healthcare provider before using any of these herbs especially if you are using a blood thinner or have a chronic medical condition, allergies, liver or kidney diseases.
1. Chaste Tree Berry (Vitex agnus-castus)
Also known as vitex, the chaste tree berry has been used for centuries in Europe to support gynecological imbalances. Studies suggest that it acts on the pituitary gland in the brain to optimize the balance of fertility hormones and facilitate ovulation. The berry may also help prevent mild endometriosis from progressing. Vitex also helps regulate the menstrual cycle and can therefore be helpful for those with irregular cycles or those coming off birth control pills.
German studies demonstrate that vitex can be taken safely until the end of the third month of pregnancy – taking it throughout pregnancy could stimulate lactation too early.
While the chaste tree berry may start working within 10 days, you will need at least 6 months to reap its full benefits. Try to take it daily for a month without skipping any days.
Women suffering from infertility and amenorrhea (lack of menstruation) can take vitex for 12 to 18 months, unless pregnancy occurs during treatment.
How to take:
For consistent results, go for capsules or tinctures – since vitex is quite bitter, I do not recommend making vitex tea unless you blend it with other herbs. Take once in the morning on an empty stomach at least half an hour before breakfast.
Tincture: 60 to 90 drops per day or as recommended on the bottle.
Capsules: 30 – 40mg per day.
Note: Vitex should not be used concurrently with hormone therapy.
2. Maca (Lepidium meyenii)
Did you know that for over 2,000 years, native Peruvians have utilized the maca root to boost fertility, increase energy levels and promote vitality and sexual virility? This herb also has a legendary ability to boost sex drive. Research since the 1960s has shown that it contains 31 different minerals and 60 phytonutrients including glucosinolates. These nutrients can improve both male and female fertility by supporting hormonal balance, thyroid and sexual function as well as stamina.
Choosing the right maca
The most common maca available on the market is cream (or pale yellow) maca but you can also find red and black maca. To improve your fertility and libido, choose either red maca if you’re a woman or black maca if you’re a man. If you lack stamina and endurance, go for black maca. You can also opt for cream/yellow maca.
Beyond root color, the powder is either raw or gelatinized – gelatinization involves heating the maca to remove all its starch and make it more concentrated. However, the heating process also destroys some of the enzymes and alters some of the important nutrients including glucosinolates – I would usually recommend raw maca unless you have a sensitive stomach: gelatinized maca is more easily digested than the raw powder.
How to take:
Maca powder can be added to smoothies, soups, drinks, energy bars and in other recipes. The powder is also available in capsule form for those who mind the taste of maca – however, bear in mind that capsules are more expensive than the powder.
About 500 to 3,000mg per day – this can be taken in one dose or throughout the day but needs to be taken regularly for optimal results. Make sure that the product you use contains nothing but maca root (no leaves or stems).
3. Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)
Red Clover is considered a star in fertility communities due to its purifying properties and impressive nutrient profile. You may be wondering how a purifying herb can boost conception. Well, environmental pollutants have been shown to adversely affect reproductive health by causing menstrual irregularities, infertility or spontaneous abortions. As such, red clover can aid in the detoxification of environmental toxins prior to conception. The herb also improves circulatory function throughout the body including the genitals and can increase cervical mucus thus aiding vaginal dryness which can hinder a woman’s efforts at trying to conceive.
How to take:
Make an overnight infusion – you may use only red clover or a mixture of red clover and stinging nettle. You can also make a fertility tonic by infusing 3 parts of dried red clover with 1 part of dried red raspberry leaves and 1/2 part of dried peppermint.
Drink two to four cups throughout the day. I usually recommend my patients to consume red clover infusions for three to six months in preparation for pregnancy.
4. Red Raspberry Leaves (Rubus idaeus)
Did you know that in the herbal world, raspberry leaves are considered a treasured remedy for women trying to conceive? Naturally rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and B-vitamins, red raspberry leaves act as a calming uterine tonic while strengthening the uterus and pelvic muscles – this can reduce the risks of miscarriage due to uterine weakness. The leaves also help the uterus recover faster after uterine trauma such as uterine hemorrhage or surgery to remove cysts or fibroids. Research suggests that the herb can reduce complications and the use of interventions during birth.
If you have a history of miscarriage or an “irritable” or “weak” uterus, use red raspberry leaves 3 to 6 months before trying to conceive as a preparation for pregnancy. Once you get pregnant, stop taking the herb during the first trimester – you can start taking it again during the second trimester, once pregnancy is established.
How to take:
If you’re looking to make only 1 cup of tea, pour 8oz of boiling water over 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of the herb (or 1/2 ounce red raspberry and 1/2 ounce red clover). Let it steep for at least 5 minutes for a mild infusion or 4 hours for a powerful one. You can also make a gallon of raspberry leaf tea – simply add 3/4 to 1 cup of the leaves to one gallon of boiling water in a glass gallon. For a strong tea, cover and let steep overnight before straining.
Drink three or more cups throughout the day.
5. Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus)
Traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine, this plant has been used for numerous centuries as a hormonal regulator and a female reproductive tonic. Shatavari has also been shown to improve fertility in both men and women by:
- Protecting the body against stressors which could hinder conception. If you suffer from stress related fertility issues, shatavari can be very effective.
- Supporting immune function in individuals with autoimmune conditions. You may want to try shatavari if you have fertility issues caused by endometriosis, uterine fibroids, blocked fallopian tubes, ovarian cysts and damage induced by a cesarean section.
- Supporting mucous membranes.
- Regulating the menstrual cycle – shatavari is naturally rich in steroidal-saponins which can modulate estrogen levels.
How to take:
Simply mix about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of shatavari powder in a glass of warm water before your meals. You can also make ‘herbalized’ ghee by mixing melted ghee with some shatavari.
1,000 to 2,000mg per day in the form of capsules.
4.5 to 8.5ml of dried plant extract.
1. Be wary of the potential risk for heavy metal contamination if you purchase herbs from India and China.
2. If you’re allergic to asparagus, you may want to avoid taking shatavari.
3. Since shatavari can have a mild diuretic effect, use it with caution if you’re already taking diuretic drugs.
4. If you suffer from estrogen sensitivities or have an estrogen sensitive tumor, please use shatavari with caution.
6. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)
The stinging nettle is a great all around pregnancy tonic which supports healthy iron levels while toning and nourishing the uterus. It also strengthens the kidneys, enhances liver function and the adrenal glands, thus helping to optimize hormone balance. Naturally rich in chlorophyll, the stinging nettle acts as a detoxifier and can thus help the body eliminate toxins that could hinder conception.
How to take:
To brew nettle tea, add about 1/2 cup of fresh leaves to 2 cups of boiling water. Let steep for at least 15 minutes before straining. You can also make an overnight infusion. If you’re using dried stinging nettle, use 1 tablespoon of dried nettles per cup of boiling water.
Drink one or two cups throughout the day, several months before trying to conceive, in order to prepare your body for pregnancy and during pregnancy to sustain embryo implantation.
You might also want to give probiotics a try but make sure to choose a quality product.
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