Infertility according to Chinese Medicine

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Infertility can be the consequence of several so-called “patterns of disharmony” in Chinese Medicine.

Chinese Medicine sees the body as a system, not a sum of isolated parts. A "pattern" is when the system's harmony is disrupted, leading to symptoms or signs that something is wrong (like infertility here). It is similar to the concept of disease in Western Medicine but not quite: a Western disease can often be explained by several Chinese patterns and vice-versa.

A pattern often manifests itself in a combination of symptoms that, at first glance, do not seem necessarily related to each others. For instance here infertility is often associated with fatigue, irregular menstruation and painful period in the pattern “Cold in the Uterus”. As you will see below, we have in record five patterns that can cause infertility.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of infertility we’ve identified five herbal formulas that may help treat patterns behind the symptom.

We’ve also selected below the five medicinal herbs that we think are most likely to help treat infertility.

The five "patterns of disharmony" that can cause infertility

In Chinese Medicine infertility is a symptom for 5 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

Cinnamon Twigs (Gui Zhi) is the king ingredient for Wen Jing Tang, a formula used for Cold in the Uterus

Cold in the Uterus

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Soggy (Ru)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Pale

There are two types of cold patterns: Full Cold or Empty Cold. Full cold refers to actual Cold Evil invading the Uterus and Dampness Stagnation often come along with this Full pattern. Empty cold is the result of Yang Deficiency, especially the Spleen and Kidney Yang.

In addition to infertility, other symptoms associated with Cold in the Uterus include fatigue, irregular menstruation and painful period.

Cold in the Uterus is often treated with Wen Jing Tang, a herbal formula made of 12 herbs (including Cinnamon Twigs - Gui Zhi - as a key herb). Wen Jing Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that invigorate blood and dispel blood stagnation", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Warms the Uterus and vessels".

Read more about Cold in the Uterus here

The Kidneys is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Kidneys in Chinese Medicine

Kidney Yang Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Slow (Chi)

Tongue coating: Thin white coating

Tongue color: Pale

Tongue shape: Swollen

Kidney Yang Deficiency causes Internal Cold and weakness.

In addition to infertility, other symptoms associated with Kidney Yang Deficiency include impotence, tinnitus and fatigue.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Kidney Yang Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Late Menstruation, Menopausal Syndrome or Irregular Menstruation.

Kidney Yang Deficiency is often treated with Ba Wei Di Huang Wan, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Ba Wei Di Huang Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies Yang".

Read more about Kidney Yang Deficiency here

Yang Deficiency or Empty Yang

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Empty (Xu), Slow (Chi), Weak (Ruo)

Tongue color: Pale

Yang Deficiency is an Empty-Cold condition characterized by Coldness and Deficiency. It can cause a general hypoactivity of Organ functions and Oedema. Qi and Blood is more likely to stagnate. Yang Deficiency is mostly related to Spleen Yang, Kidney Yang, Heart Yang or Lung Qi. It is a result of lack of activity or exercise, excessive sex, over-exposure to cold environments and bad diet.

In addition to infertility, other symptoms associated with Yang Deficiency or Empty Yang include impotence, fatigue and feeling of cold.

Yang Deficiency or Empty Yang is often treated with Ba Wei Di Huang Wan, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Ba Wei Di Huang Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies Yang".

Read more about Yang Deficiency or Empty Yang here

The Kidneys is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Kidneys in Chinese Medicine

Kidney Essence Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu), Floating (Fu)

Tongue coating: Complete absence of coating

Tongue color: Pale

Kidney Essence (Jing 精) Deficiency usually involves Deficiency of Kidney Yin and, to some extent, Kidney Yang. Its symptoms are typically in relation to growth, development, reproduction, sexuality, bones, marrow, the brain, teeth, memory and hair.

In addition to infertility, other symptoms associated with Kidney Essence Deficiency include tinnitus, dizziness and lower back pain.

Kidney Essence Deficiency is often treated with Zuo Gui Wan, a herbal formula made of 8 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Zuo Gui Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nourishes the Yin".

Read more about Kidney Essence Deficiency here

Full Cold in the Directing and Penetraing Vessels

Pulse type(s): Deep (Chen), Slow (Chi), Tight (Jin)

Tongue color: Bluish-Purple, Pale

In addition to infertility, other symptoms associated with Full Cold in the Directing and Penetraing Vessels include painful period, dark clots in menstrual blood and late period.

Full Cold in the Directing and Penetraing Vessels is often treated with Wen Jing Tang, a herbal formula made of 12 herbs (including Cinnamon Twigs - Gui Zhi - as a key herb). Wen Jing Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that invigorate blood and dispel blood stagnation", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Warms the Uterus and vessels".

Read more about Full Cold in the Directing and Penetraing Vessels here

Five herbal formulas that might help with infertility

Wen Qi Hua Shi Tang

Source date: 1827 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Supports Kidney Yang. Supplies Spleen Qi. Expels Cold and Dampness from the Uterus.

Why might Wen Qi Hua Shi Tang help with infertility?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Cold in the Uterus' of which infertility is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Cold In The Uterus include fatigue, irregular menstruation and painful period.

Read more about Wen Qi Hua Shi Tang here

Er Xian Tang

Source date: 1950 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes Yin and tonifies Yang of the Kidneys. Clears Empty Heat. Regulates the Directing and Penetrating Vessels.

Why might Er Xian Tang help with infertility?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney Yang Deficiency' of which infertility is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Kidney Yang Deficiency include impotence, tinnitus and fatigue.

Read more about Er Xian Tang here

Ba Wei Di Huang Wan

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Yang. Warms the Kidneys and lower extremities.

Why might Ba Wei Di Huang Wan help with infertility?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Yang Deficiency or Empty Yang' of which infertility is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Yang Deficiency Or Empty Yang include impotence, fatigue and feeling of cold.

Read more about Ba Wei Di Huang Wan here

Zuo Gui Wan

Source date: 1624 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Nourishes the Yin. Strengthens the Kidneys. Fills the Essence. Augments the marrow.

Why might Zuo Gui Wan help with infertility?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Kidney Essence Deficiency' of which infertility is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Kidney Essence Deficiency include tinnitus, dizziness and lower back pain.

Read more about Zuo Gui Wan here

Wen Jing Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Key actions: Warms the Uterus and vessels. Nourishes Blood. Dispels Cold. Dispels Blood Stagnation.

Why might Wen Jing Tang help with infertility?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Full Cold in the Directing and Penetraing Vessels' of which infertility is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Full Cold In The Directing And Penetraing Vessels include painful period, dark clots in menstrual blood and late period.

Read more about Wen Jing Tang here

Acupuncture points used for infertility

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat infertility

Why might Morinda Root (Ba Ji Tian) help with infertility?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat infertility and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat infertility as a symptom (such as Wen Qi Hua Shi Tang for instance).

Morinda Roots is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Kidney Yang. Expels Wind-Damp-Cold painful obstruction (Bi Pain).

Read more about Morinda Roots here

Why might Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with infertility?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat infertility as a symptom, like Ba Wei Di Huang Wan or Wen Qi Hua Shi Tang for instance.

Poria-Cocos Mushrooms is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart, the Kidney and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Encourages urination and drains Dampness. Tonic to the Spleen/Stomach. Assists the Heart and calms the Spirit.

Read more about Poria-Cocos Mushrooms here

Why might Yam (Shan Yao) help with infertility?

Because Yam is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat infertility as a symptom, like Zuo Gui Wan or Ba Wei Di Huang Wan for instance.

Yam is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Kidney and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen and Stomach. Tonifies the Lung Qi and nourishes the Lung Yin. Nourishes the Kidneys and consolidates Jing.

Read more about Yam here

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with infertility?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat infertility as a symptom, like Wen Jing Tang or Xiao Yao San for instance.

Liquorice is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach, the Heart and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Basal Qi and nourishes the Spleen Qi. Clears Heat and dispels toxicity. Moistens the Lungsexpel phlegm and stop coughing. Relieves spasms and alleviates pain. Harmonizes and moderates the effects of other herbs.

Read more about Liquorice here

Why might Prepared Rehmannia (Shu Di Huang) help with infertility?

Because Prepared Rehmannia is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat infertility as a symptom, like Zuo Gui Wan or Ba Wei Di Huang Wan for instance.

Prepared Rehmannia is a Warm herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Tonifies the Yin of the Kidneys.

Read more about Prepared Rehmannia here