Improving Sperm Parameters and Fertility with Medicinal Herbal Plants
Updated: Nov 22
There is a well documented negative impact that poor sperm health appears to have on the chances of conceiving. It is estimated that up to 50% of infertility cases involve poor sperm health. However, patients are rarely provided any counselling or treatment to help improve their sperm parameters. Many cases of couples dealing with infertility involve little to no treatment for low sperm-factors, and instead assume that no changes can be made.
The World Health Organization (WHO) itself encourages the use of medicinal plants and encourages researchers to help find rational uses of medicinal plants as a source for new medial therapies . As such, interest in the use of medicinal herbs for the treatment of sperm-factor infertility is growing.
How does Sperm Health Impact Fertility Rates?
We must understand that sperm health goes beyond just conception. We now know that sperm health is correlated with the health of offspring and risk for various health conditions in the offspring as well.
Research has also suggested that specific sperm parameters are indicators of reproductive success. For example, results from an observational study following over 22'000 patients found sperm motility was specifically correlated with success during in-vitro fertilization (IVF), as it impacts the fertilization rate of follicles during IVF. Sperm motility is also closely associated with oxidative stress in the seminal fluid. High levels of oxidative stress have been strongly suggested to negatively impact sperm health and fertility.
Sperm morphology has been strongly correlated with success of intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and live-birth rates resulting from these treatments. As research continues we continue to see how important sperm health parameters are for supporting optimal chances of success when it comes to fertility treatments .
How do Medicinal Herbs support Sperm Function and Health?
A recently published review evaluated the results of 20 clinical trials on medicinal herbs for the treatment of poor sperm health. The results found that specific medicinal herbs were able to increase sperm concentration (number of sperm cells per mL of seminal fluid), increase sperm motility (percentage of sperm cells that exhibit forward motility), increase normal sperm morphology (phenotypically normal looking sperm cells), normalize reproductive hormone levels (testosterone, FSH, LH, Estradiol, and prolactin).
Increase antioxidant capacity: medicinal herbal therapies for sperm health and fertility contain polyphenolic compounds and flavonoids which exert antioxidant activity. This protects sperm cells from damage caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS)
Reduce stress-induced infertility: specific herbal compounds contain alkaloids, ergostane steroids and amino acids like tryptophan. These compounds can help reduce blood pressure, and bind to GABA and serotonin receptors in the nervous system
Modulate levels of hormones: various medicinal herbal remedies were found to modulate levels of estrogen, progesterone, FSH + LH (secreted from the pituitary gland), and GnRH (released from the hypothalamus to stimulate production of FSH and LH)
Overall, medicinal herbal remedies for male-factor infertility were found to increase sperm concentration, motility, normal morphology, and viability. Some compounds were suggested to increase the lifespan of sperm cells in patients that received treatment
How Safe are Herbal Remedies for the Treatment of Sperm-Factor Infertility?
All studies included in this review found a very high level of safety with many reporting zero adverse-effects. The controversy of safety for various herbal remedies in general relate to the dose and concentration of active ingredients. For this reason specifically, it is of utmost important that patients speak with a knowledgable, experienced and licensed Naturopathic Doctor about suggested therapies and use them only under medical supervision.
Nantia, E. A., Moundipa, P. F., Monsees, T. K., & Carreau, S. (2009). Medicinal plants as potential male anti-infertility agents: A Review. Basic and Clinical Andrology, 19(3), 148–158.
Villani, M. T., Morini, D., Spaggiari, G., Falbo, A. I., Melli, B., La Sala, G. B., Romeo, M., Simoni, M., Aguzzoli, L., & Santi, D. (2021). Are sperm parameters able to predict the success of Assisted Reproductive Technologies? A retrospective analysis of over 22000 art cycles. Andrology.
This article is being shared as educational content and is in no way a replacement for medical advice or medical care, it is advised that anyone concerned about their Health should speak with their Naturopathic Doctor. Please discuss with your healtcare provider and only make changes to your medications regimen if recommended by your doctor and under their guidance.