Herbal therapies can be potent tools for restoring fertility in both women and men. Successful herbal treatment, however, requires using the right herb in the right situation. No herb is better known as a treatment for infertility than vitex, also known as chasteberry. This herb got its name in the Middle Ages, when monks gave chasteberry teas to novices to keep their minds on God. In the twentieth century, scientists discovered that the herb changes the chemistry of the brain so that there is lower production of luteinizing hormone. Lower levels of luteinizing hormone lead to lower levels of testosterone, and testosterone fuels the sex drive. Men - and to a much lesser extent, women - who took chasteberry became naturally chaste. The big benefit of vitex for couples trying to conceive is lowering testosterone levels and removing some of the symptoms of PCOS in women. In men, however, not only does vitex blunt any desire for sex, the lower levels of testosterone stop the production of sperm. In cases of extreme overuse, vitex can even cause testicular atrophy.
Dong quai is also used in women's fertility. Vitex lowers testosterone levels, but dong quai lowers estrogen levels. Since estrogen fuels the growth of endometriosis and certain kinds of blockages in the ovaries, lowering estrogen levels can make it easier for the egg to reach the uterus during ovulation. This familiar Chinese herb has the added benefit of stopping premenstrual headaches, and in women who have reached menopause it is even used to treat Alzheimer's disease (although that application is still experimental in the USA). Typically, women take dong quai in a combination with peony and other Chinese herbs either as a tea or tablet. Some of the best herbal remedies for male infertility are also the least known, although they are available in the USA and Canada over the counter, and with prescription in the UK and the rest of the EU.
When the problem is male infertility due to damage to the testicles, after chemotherapy or because of chemical exposure, sometimes the answer is a Japanese herbal formula known as hochu-ekki-to. This oddly named formula has been used in both Chinese and Japanese herbal medicine for centuries. Laboratory studies have found that it stimulates the production of proteins that enable sperm to "grow their tails" and mature. Sometimes this formula, along with acupuncture, is exactly what is needed to restore a man's fertility. In the US and Canada, the herbal combination is known as hochu-ekki-to (Japanese) and bu zhong yi qi tang (Chinese). Sometimes it is labeled by its two primary herbs, ginseng and astragalus.