I want to tackle one of my favorite aspects of Chinese medicine that is rarely spoken of (or really, at all) in Western medicine, and that’s the use of Chinese herbs.
Chinese herbs also have a long history of use, with some herbal remedies dating back thousands of years. These herbs have been extensively studied and documented in ancient Chinese texts, providing a wealth of knowledge on their properties and applications.
Another unique aspect of Chinese herbs is their focus on individualization of treatments. In TCM, each person is seen as a unique individual with specific patterns of imbalance. Chinese herbal practitioners tailor their prescriptions to address these individual patterns, taking into account factors such as the person’s constitution, symptoms, and overall health condition.
Furthermore, Chinese herbs are known for their emphasis on prevention and maintaining overall well-being. In TCM, the goal is to maintain balance and harmony in the body to prevent disease from occurring. Chinese herbs are often used as tonics and adaptogens to support the body’s resilience and enhance vitality.
Not all acupuncturists are herbalists. (I am! I actually pride myself on my skills as an herbalist, following in the tradition of my mother and grandmother). In Chinese medicine school, you can choose to train solely in acupuncture or in both acupuncture and Chinese herbs.
Education in Chinese herbs is important because it involves learning about each and every medicinal herb, which includes their functions, indications, temperature, uses (and non-uses), and most importantly, how they should and can be combined. In contrast to Western medicine, Chinese herbs are never dispensed singularly but in a personalized formula.
Formulations can contain anywhere from two to 20 herbs, and each one has a specific purpose. Because they work in balance of each other, negative side effects are minimal. The purpose of taking herbs is the same as acupuncture: Resolving the root causes of physical problems, called patterns. Chinese herbs have several unique characteristics that set them apart from herbs used in other traditional medicines.
The Evidence that Chinese Herbs Can Improve Fertility
There have been an estimated 154,000 studies conducted on Chinese herbs and infertility in the past 20 years.
Here are some of the findings:
- A review of multiple studies found that the use of Chinese herbal medicine in the management of female infertility may improve pregnancy rates compared to Western medical fertility drug therapy. This meta-analysis included 40 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) involving more than 4,000 women.
- In specific cases of anovulation, a systematic review assessed the effectiveness and safety of Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) in the treatment of anovulation and infertility. The review found that CHM may be effective in the treatment of anovulation and infertility in women.
- In the context of immune infertility, Chinese herbal medicine has also been studied. Research suggests that the use of Chinese herbal medicine in immune infertility treatment may improve pregnancy rates.
Many of you ask me for opinions about the herbal formulations that you’re taking, or maybe you’re not taking herbs but you’re wondering if they will help you. I don’t comment on other people’s prescriptions because that’s not fair to them — I don’t have a chance to talk to them directly about their thought process, and if I disagree with the formulation, there may be a good reason for it.
At our acupuncture clinic, Inner Peace Acupuncture for Women, we offer custom formulations of herbs that resolve the patterns of disharmony based on your unique situation. If you’re interested in taking Chinese herbs, give us a call or email us. We would love to see what we can do to help.