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7 Herbs for Supporting Male Fertility

Can herbs really help with male fertility? Many couples who are struggling to conceive will turn to Traditional Chinese Medicine or herbal remedies to help improve sperm health or egg quality. Often these approaches are considered ‘alternative therapies’. But could herbs actually hold the key to supporting male fertility? And is there research to back their efficacy up? Here we’ll break down 7 herbs that are reportedly helpful for male fertility, and the science behind them. 

 

Fenugreek 

Let’s start with a herb that you might be familiar with if you are a foodie – Fenugreek. People rave about this herb for its impact on lowering inflammation and supporting weight loss, and there is also a theory that it can be helpful for our hormone levels and reproductive health. 

A recent review indicated that fenugreek may be effective in increasing testosterone levels – which could make it helpful for guys struggling to conceive due to low T. One small 2017 study looked at the effects of fenugreek extract on the reproductive health of men and found that not only was testosterone increased by 46% in many of the participants, but some of the men also experienced improved sperm morphology!  

 

Tongkat ali 

Another herb that could potentially support testosterone levels is Tongkat ali. This is a medicinal herb hailing from South Asia and is often used to treat issues with indigestion – as well as sexual dysfunction. 

There is less research into the impact of Tongkat ali on male fertility but a small 2017 research review did indicate there could be some benefit of the herb on overall sexual health (although only 7 of the 11 studies reviewed backed up that theory.) 

We may need to wait a little longer to find out whether Tongkat ali is an effective herb for human male fertility, but in a 2014 study on animals, it seemed to improve sperm parameters including concentration and motility – as well as boosting testosterone levels.

 

Ginseng 

Ginseng is a very popular herb in Chinese Medicine, and it’s easy to see why. The herb has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which have many benefits for our overall health – from strengthening our immune system to supporting our brain health. 

When it comes to protecting sperm health, increasing antioxidants and reducing inflammation is key – so could Ginseng be helpful for male fertility?

One 2016 study definitely thinks so. In the study, participants took Koren red ginseng and saw improvements in sperm count, motility and morphology. Another 2013 study also indicates that Ginseng can be effective in supporting reproductive health – whether or not you’re facing fertility challenges. 

However, whilst many herbalists or holistic health practitioners may recommend Ginseng, a 2020 review found that whilst there are certainly some clinical trials to support a connection between Ginseng and male fertility, there is not enough evidence for it to become official certified medical advice.  

 

Ashwagandha 

Ashwagandha is another herb you may be familiar with and it has been used for millennia in traditional medicine! It has a long list of reported benefits, from improving energy levels and reducing stress to a faster metabolism and a higher sex drive! There is also some research to suggest that ashwagandha can help to improve male fertility and sperm health.   

 

Ashwagandha acts as an antioxidant, so one of its key benefits for men may be protecting sperm cells from oxidative stress and the damage it can cause. One study also found that Ashwagandha could be helpful in increasing sperm count and motility as well as increasing those all-important male reproductive hormones. 

 

Tribulus Terrestris 

Tribulus Terrestris – also known as ‘goat’s head ‘ – is a popular plant used in traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda therapies. It’s most commonly used in these fields as an aphrodisiac, but it is also thought to stimulate appetite and relieve pain as well as supporting male fertility.

The evidence into the impact of Tirbulus Terrestris on male fertility is still mounting but a recent review of studies suggests that it may be useful in improving sperm health parameters like morphology and count. One of the studies in particular found that Tribulus terrestris extract increased sperm motility in a laboratory.

 

Maca Root 

Maca Root is actually a type of cruciferous vegetable, like broccoli or cauliflower, but it’s not the kind of thing you usually find on your dinner plate! Maca root is more commonly used in traditional medicine, and some of its supposed benefits include boosting your sex drive. Nowadays Maca has grown in popularity and is a common supplement that can be added to smoothies or salads. 

Whilst we still need to learn more about the direct impact of Maca Root on male fertility, there is some research to indicate that it could help to improve sperm motility and overall semen quality. It’s not hard to believe why – Maca Root is packed full of iodine, calcium, iron and other nutrients your swimmers love.

 

Shilajit 

Shilajit is an interesting tar-like substance that occurs when plants break down. It’s usually found in the Himalayas and has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine.  

Shilajit can be used to promote general health and wellness, but there is some research to support the idea that it can help with male fertility. One 2016 study saw an increase in testosterone levels in middle-aged men who took Shilajit supplements for a 90 day period. A small study from 2010 looked specifically at men with low sperm count. In this experiment, the men took the supplements for 3 months and found that not only did testosterone levels increase, but sperm count and sperm motility improved too. 

 

So can herbal remedies help with male fertility? The science seems to indicate that some of these plant-based approaches could definitely have a positive impact on your swimmers! But remember, there is no silver bullet when it comes to fertility. Suddenly taking a Fenugreek supplement or sprinkling Maca Root into your smoothie isn’t going to turn your sperm health around in one night. But incorporating these herbs into a healthy lifestyle with good nutrition and supplements of fertility multivitamins and Omega-3s if needed, could definitely help to give your swimmers some support. Do you know how healthy your sperm is? Gain clarity with the ExSeed at-home sperm test and get on top of your fertility!

 

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Wearing tight pants and underwear

Studies show that men who wear looser underwear have higher sperm concentration and total sperm count compared to men who wear tighter underwear. So, lose the tight clothes and wear something loose to give your testicles some air.

CONCLUSION: learn more about how heat can affect sperm quality here.

Stress

Besides higher mortality rate and various diseases, stress is associated with low sperm quality. Stress is known to be associated with lower testosterone levels and oxidative stress with both playing an essential role in producing and maintaining healthy sperm cells.

CONCLUSION: If you feel stressed, we recommend you get some help so you can have a balanced mental health. For a stress management guide, download the ExSeed app for free and start your personalized action plan today.

Physical activity

Scientific studies show that men who are physically active have better semen parameters than men who are inactive. Fertility specialists also state that regular physical activity has beneficial impact on sperm fertility parameters and such a lifestyle can enhance the fertility status of men.

Prioritizing exercise can help improve your overall health and result in healthy, fast swimming sperm cells that have good chances of fertilizing an egg.

CONCLUSION: Try incorporating exercise in your weekly schedule to you ensure exercising at least twice weekly. We recommend a combination of cardio training and strength exercise. Read more about exercise and male fertility on our blog.

Nutrition

Fast Food
Processed foods damage the health of sperm-producing cells and cause oxidative stress, which lead to poorer sperm quality. Heavy consumption of junk food (every week) can increase the likelihood of infertility since men who consume vast amounts of unhealthy food are at risk of having poor sperm quality. Besides harming your fertility, junk food enlarges your waistline, harms your cardiovascular system, kidneys, and more.

Vegetables
Eating more fruit and vegetables can increase your sperm concentration and motility. It’s important that you consume a healthy diet filled with antioxidants and that you eat vegetables every day. Foods such as apricots and red bell peppers are high in vitamin A, which improves male fertility by nurturing healthier sperm. Men who are deficient in this vitamin tend to have slow and sluggish sperm.

Sugary snacks/beverages: several times a week Excessive consumption of high sugar items can lead to oxidative stress, which negatively impacts testosterone levels and sperm motility. Sugary snacks and beverages are also highly associated with obesity and low fertility.
CONCLUSION: To boost sperm quality, stay away from fast food, processed food, and sugary snacks or beverages. You need to implement a healthy prudent diet filled with necessary superfoods needed for good sperm production. Check out our guide to Male Fertility Superfoods. For personalized guidance and support on how you can start improving your sperm health, check out the Bootcamp.

Heat

Direct heat can inhibit optimal sperm production and cause Sperm DNA damage. Sperm cells like environments that are a couple of degrees lower than body temperature. Avoid overheating from warm blankets, seat warmers, heat from your laptop, hot showers, and saunas.

Cigarette smoking

The exposure to tobacco smoke has significant negative effects on semen quality. The damage of cigarettes and nicotine of course depends on how many cigarettes you smoke per day and for how long, but even low usage (up to 10 cigarettes / day) can inhibit healthy sperm production.  

CONCLUSION: Stay as far away from cigarette smoking as possible if you care about your general health and your fertility. Read more here.

Cell phone

When you have your cell phone in your front pocket, your testicles are exposed to electromagnetic radiation, which studies have shown to damage the sperm cells. Put your phone in the back pocket of your pants or in your jacket pocket.

BMI

There is a clear association between obesity and reduced sperm quality. At least part of the reason for this is that obese men may have abnormal reproductive hormonal profiles, which can impair sperm production and lead to infertility. 

A BMI higher than 30 can lead to several processes in the body (overheating, increase in oxidative stress in the testes, sperm DNA damage, erectile dysfunction) that can have a negative impact on male fertility. This can result in problems when trying to conceive.  

CONCLUSION: BMI is one of the risk factors that influence semen quality and, for example, sperm motility.  

Alcohol

A beer or glass of wine now and then do not really harm sperm quality. But excess alcohol drinking (more than 20 units per week) can reduce the production of normally formed sperm needed for a successful pregnancy.

CONCLUSION: If you want to stay safe, stay under 14 units of alcohol per week. For more information on how alcohol can affect male fertility, take a look at our blog: “Alcohol and Sperm Quality”.

Age

Studies show that women younger than 35 and men younger than 40 have a better chance of getting pregnant. Men can produce sperm cells almost through their entire life, but the sperm cell DNA is more fragile and prone to damage after the age of 40.

As men age, their testes tend to get smaller and softer resulting in a decline in sperm quality and production. These changes are partly because of an age-related decrease in testosterone level, which plays a very important role in sperm

production. Higher male age (>40 years) is not only associated with a decline in sperm production but also with increased sperm DNA fragmentation and worsened morphology (shape) and motility (movement). These negative effects make the sperm cells less qualified for egg fertilization.

CONCLUSION: with an age under 40, you shouldn’t have to worry much about age as a factor in itself. However, studies have shown a slow decline after the age of 30-35 years

and if you are above 40 years of age, your sperm quality can be affected due to increased sperm DNA damage resulting in a decrease of sperm motility and concentration. Remember that you cannot evaluate the quality of a sperm sample by just looking at it – this requires a sperm analysis.