Infertility according to Chinese Medicine

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 irregular menstruation, painful period and abdominal pain in the pattern “Cold in the Uterus”. As you will see below, we have in record four 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 four 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 four "patterns of disharmony" that can cause infertility

In Chinese Medicine infertility is a symptom for 4 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 irregular menstruation, painful period and abdominal pain.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Cold in the Uterus is associated with health issues such as Menstrual Cramps or Late Menstruation.

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 abdominal pain, late period and impotence.

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

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

Liver Blood Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Bluish-Purple sides

Liver Blood Stagnation usually develops from Qi Stagnation, Cold and Heat. It has great influence over the Directing and Penetrating Vessels and thus the menstruation functions.

In addition to infertility, other symptoms associated with Liver Blood Stagnation include irregular menstruation, painful period and abdominal pain.

Liver Blood Stagnation is often treated with Xiao Yao San, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Bupleurum Roots - Chai Hu - as a key herb). Xiao Yao San belongs to the category of "formulas that harmonize liver-spleen", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Harmonizes the function of Liver and Spleen".

Read more about Liver Blood Stagnation 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

Four 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 irregular menstruation, painful period and abdominal pain.

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 abdominal pain, late period and impotence.

Read more about Er Xian Tang here

Xiao Yao San

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Harmonizes the function of Liver and Spleen. Relieves Liver Qi stagnation. Nourishes the Blood.

Why might Xiao Yao San help with infertility?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Liver Blood Stagnation' of which infertility is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Liver Blood Stagnation include irregular menstruation, painful period and abdominal pain.

Read more about Xiao Yao San 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

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 Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with infertility?

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

Dong Quai is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Lubricates the Intestines. Relieve constipation. Promotes circulation and dispels Bi Pain. Reduce Dysmenorrhea and help with irregular menstruation.

Read more about Dong Quai 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 Xiao Yao San or Chai Hu Shu Gan 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 Szechuan Lovage Root (Chuan Xiong) help with infertility?

Because Szechuan Lovage Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat infertility as a symptom, like Shao Fu Zhu Yu Tang or Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang for instance.

Szechuan Lovage Roots is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Gallbladder, the Liver and the Pericardium.

Its main actions are: Regulates and moves the Blood. Relieves Wind-Cold and pain. Circulates the Qi in the Upper Burner, relieving headaches.

Read more about Szechuan Lovage 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 Wen Qi Hua Shi Tang or Xiao Yao San 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