Traditional Herbal Strategies to Optimize Your Fertility
Fertility-enhancing herbs may seem like the next big thing in the "wellness" industry, as the fem-tech and conception enhancement market becomes big booming business. For a little something different, our approach is to rely on tried and true herbal preparations that have been known as herbs to optimize the chances for conception long before they were trending as such. Bridging the worlds between science and tradition, the herbs we highlight here fall into the category of endocrine supportive (hormone balancing) uterine and ovarian tonics which support the pre-conception phase and may help to maintain a healthy pregnancy as well.
Vitex: The Fierce Fertility Herb
Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus) is our #1 most sought after herb for supporting the necessary hormone levels for conception and promoting regular ovulatory cycles. Included in fertility protocols targeting a variety of support areas from maintaining healthy progesterone levels during the luteal phase of the cycle to encouraging a healthy follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) level to optimizing estrogen during the follicular phase, vitex is seen by many herbalists as the herb for doing whatever it is that needs to be done, as it pertains to fertility and the endocrine system.
Working through stimulation of the pituitary gland, vitex berry is best taken in the morning and for the long-term to see profound results (at least 6-12 weeks but really 3-6 months is a good time-frame). The ideal method of ingestion is via tincture of the fresh berry, which absorbs faster and more effectively than the dried herb in capsule form. Vitex is generally safely used for years and we have even seen some customers who have been on it for over a decade or more with no ill effects, as it continues to work well to support hormonal balance over the years.
Those on hormonal birth control may consider a secondary form of birth control when using vitex, which may decrease the efficacy of birth control pills.
Adaptogenic Ashwagandha for Anxious Moments
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is seen by some as an all-purpose fertility friend that should be liberally included in the drinking water of all wishing to conceive. An adaptogen, ashwagandha soothes the nervous systems of those who have TTC (trying to conceive) brains in a way that no other herbs quite do and enables healthy responses to the stress that fertility challenges inevitably bring. Paying attention to stress management and the mind-body connection is critical during the time of pre-conception, and herbs can be very supportive for those who are "stressing out about trying not to stress out." Other dependable herbal allies to take the edge off the rollercoaster that fertility and all it entails can be include nourishing milky oats and frazzle-taming motherwort.
Black Cohosh, Red Clover, and Red Raspberry Leaf
Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa) is well-known in the world of hormones for its influence during menopause, but is supremely helpful during conception in order to bring balance to the ratios of estrogen and progesterone, support the follicular phase in particular, and act as a tonic to the ovaries.
Red clover (Trifolium pratense) is a well-known ally to the estrogenic, follicular part of the cycle, supporting the body's natural ability to rid itself of foreign xenoestrogens and balance out from estrogen dominance. Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) is another herb that acts as a uterine tonic and endocrine balancer for those with a variety of pelvic factors or uterine challenges, and is especially valued for its ability to restore harmony in cases of excess androgen or testosterone.
Red raspberry leaf tea can be drunk during the TTC phase as it brings vitality and tone to the uterus in preparation for the role it's hoping to play as well as circulatory stimulation to the pelvic area in general. Red raspberry supports and helps maintain healthy progesterone levels and prepares the uterus to support a pregnancy and endometrium. Vita-Min Tea is our formula inclusive red raspberry for those customers who for years begged us to make a pregnancy tea swimming in nutrients. This is our humble offering. Vita-Min is perfectly appropriate for those in pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, postpartum, and nursing times, and is also a perfectly appropriate addition to a good diet for anyone else.
Important Fertility Considerations
We cannot emphasize enough how optimizing diet and lifestyle are imperative when it comes to fertility factors, and while this topic is a huge realm of its own, we'd suggest looking into the resources below for more on how to eat right for baby-making. Herbs are adjunct to a diverse, whole foods diet, not a replacement for one. And as always, nourishing herbal infusions of nettle and oatstraw are food-like, incredibly bioavailable sources of nutrients and minerals essential for prenatal health, so don't skimp on these, or your herbal vinegars.
Optimal fertility, subfertility, and infertility - these states are less things to be dealt with herbally or otherwise and better thought of as reflections of overall pictures of systemic health. When the body is in balance, including the thyroid, adrenals, liver, lymphatic system, and menstrual cycle, fertility may be optimized. When a function, area of the body, or organ system is out of balance, fertility may be skewed as well. To optimize one's fertility is to say yes to whole body overall health.
Please note that while we no longer offer single tinctures of red clover or saw palmetto, we may be able to do a special pour of these herbs so please contact us if you're interested in this. And if you find that you have fallen pregnant, either discontinue taking these herbs or check in with a trusted practitioner about their individual safety during pregnancy.
Further Reading and Resources
Aviva Romm's Hormone Intelligence
Aviva Romm's Botanical Medicine for Women's Health
Toni Weschler's Take Charge of Your Fertility
Lisa Hendrickson-Jack's The Fifth Vital Sign: Master Your Cycles & Optimize Your Fertility