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.
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!
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 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 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 – 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 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 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!