Couples who are trying to get pregnant after the age of 40 may find some benefit from the deep history of Chinese medicine. There is a long tradition of imperial doctors using Chinese herbal medicine to enhance the fertility potential of the emperor and his wife to ensure there was an heir to his throne. There are numerous formulations for the treatment of fertility concerns in both men and women.
Observing the Natural World in Order to Know the Body
Chinese medicine theory was established before the human body was surgically dissected. The complex inner workings of the body were instead explained with reference to natural phenomena and the concept of holistic balance. The aim is to establish which organ systems are out of balance and then treat the mechanism of that imbalance.
The Uterus is Extraordinary (the ovaries are too)
The Uterus is considered extraordinary because it has the function of storing blood, generating life and expelling both these which is a unique function not shared by other organs. There are three organs directly associated with the Uterus, the Liver, Kidney and Heart*. The Liver is responsible for nourishment and regulation, the Kidneys store our fertility potential and the Heart governs the vessels that supply the uterus. The mind is seen as an extension of the Heart.
What Needs Treating?
If you chart your basal body temperatures (BBT) you may be able to identify areas of imbalance. A drastic saw toothed pattern for example, requires that the Liver and Heart system need balancing. Temperatures that are lower then 36.0 degrees celsius in the first half generally require treatment to the Kidney system. Low temperatures in the second half will usually require treatment of both the Heart and Kidney systems. Similarly, temperatures that are too high during the first half of the cycle will often require clearing of heat to restore balance. A noticeable change to one's BBT chart can usually be observed within three menstrual cycles with more substantial regulation seen between three to six cycles in most women.
Nourish the Kidneys to Improve Egg Quality
Since the Kidneys are responsible for our fertility potential, using herbs such as Eucommia Bark (Du Zhong) , Japanese Teasel Root (Xu Duan), Cordyceps (Dong Chong Xia Cao) and Chinese Fox Glove root (Shu Di Huang) can increase egg quality as well as support the mother in carrying the pregnancy.
Treat the Heart to Calm the Mind and Assist Implantation
The mind is an extension of the Heart, so herbs that address the Heart will have a positive effect on the mind. Longan Fruit Flesh (Long Yan Rou), Arbor-Vitae Seed (Bai Zi Ren) and Sour Jujube Seed (Suan Zao Ren) are nourishing herbs that calm through supporting the Heart. Mimosa Tree Bark (He Huan Pi) and Polygonum Vine (Ye Jiao Teng) work by supporting the function of the Heart in gently moving blood to calm and treat insomnia.
Benefit the Liver to Nourish the Uterus and Regulate Menstruation
The Liver is integral in maintaining the cyclic fertile rhythm of the menstrual cycle. In order to have the best chance of conceiving it is important to maintain a regular cycle of approximately 28-30 days with ovulation occurring 14 days prior to the next menstruation. Chinese Angelica Root (Dang Gui), Chinese Motherwort (Yi Mu Cao), White Peony Root (Bai Shao) are used to regulate blood flow and normalize the menstrual cycle.
Putting it all together…
Chinese herbs are most commonly combined to produce a synergistically acting formula specific for the individual. With the assistance of a doctor of Chinese medicine you can determine the organ systems that may be out of balance and customize an herbal formula to addresses these imbalances.
*The organ names used in Chinese medicine theory are the same as those in Western physiology, however the understanding of their function and system are somewhat different. Organ names have been capitalized to denote the Chinese medicine understanding of the organ and its related system.
This article is intended as a resource only and not as a treatment plan. Please see a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine for professional guidance before purchasing or administering herbal treatments.
Similar post originally published on AChildAfter40.com on Sept 20th, 2013
AChildAfter40.com is a leading support and advocacy website for all women on the journey of motherhood after 40. Launched in 2009, it has since been featured on CBC Radio and in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and Sun newspapers. AChildAfter40.com offers expert content and F.A.Q.s on fertility over 40, and online discussion forums and local support groups for women over 40 who are trying to conceive, pregnant or parenting.