By Roger C. Hirsh, OMD, L.Ac.
Acupuncture and Herbal Therapy are ancient Chinese methods used for the treatment and
prevention of disease. These systems are as ancient and effective as any other medical
techniques used in the world today. They have been practiced consistently for the past
five thousand years in the Orient. Seventy percent of one quarter of the world's
population uses acupuncture and herbs as their main form of health care. Although
acupuncture has been used in England, France, and Germany for several hundred years, only
in the past two decades have Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) been
recognized in the United States. The benefits of Acupuncture and TCM in treatment for the
infertile couple can be found in early Chinese medical literature dating back to the 11AD.
Not only do these techniques assist in regulating the menstrual cycle and invigorating the
sperm, but they also serve to enhance the function of the whole body. This "whole
body" health approach, in turn, provides a key to unlock unlimited potential in
healing. This is especially appropriate for the over 40 couple as it stimulates overall
health to effect reproductive health and a reduction of biological age.
PMS, amenorrhea, endometriosis, blocked fallopian tubes, immune system incongruities,
and infertility related hormonal problems yield to many of these old world (traditional)
procedures. Furthermore, herbal formulas that tonify the Kidney energy (renal and adrenal
function), and Kidney essence (jing) are especially beneficial in raising sperm count and
motility. The highly technical and expensive methods used in Western Medicine are
supported by the complimentary set of procedures and herbal recommendations. In addition
to the use of Acupuncture, TCM and herbal formulas, complete treatment programs also
include a series of Qi Kung (pronounced chee gung) healing energy exercises to enhance the
flow of specific meridians. These exercises, which were developed by Chinese Taoists
(metaphysicians) over 3,000 years ago, stimulate the flow of intrinsic energy in the body
which, in turn, enhances health and benefits organ function. The meditative dance-like
movements which coordinate with specific visualizations, exercise and oxygenate the blood,
while at the same time, enhance one's artistic nature. In the oriental sexological
literature there are also specific sexual positions that enhance a man's sperm count and
motility as well as regulating a woman's cycle. There are currently a number of studies
being conducted in the United States and Europe that are focused on understanding the
effects of these techniques. Longevity and regaining a persons youthfulness are key
There are several advantages to using Traditional Chinese Medicine as an approach to
heightening a couple's fertility.
SOME ADVANTAGES OF USING TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE
TCM sees the person as an integral Mind/body organism, thereby does not treat just
symptoms/diseases. TCM ventures to stimulate the bodies natural healing potential by
treating root causes rather than just symptoms.
TCM, used in the treatment of infertility, minimizes undesired side effects and
accumulated toxicity from invasive procedures and drug therapies, known and unknown.
Traditional Chinese medicine may be used to strengthen and balance one's general health
so that IVF, GIFT, ZIFT, ICSI, AHT and TET procedures are more effective. The TCM patient
derives general health benefits and endocrine system balancing from specific acupuncture
and herbal regimes. Pregnancy becomes easier to achieve and postpartum recuperation
happens faster. Medical studies have been done in China to verify this type of whole body
The widespread use of TCM suggests that it is a complete traditional medical health
care system and can be used with or without the integration of Western medical techniques.
The integration of Western medicine, as we know it in America, began in the Orient less
than a century ago. It is called INTEGRAL CHINESE MEDICINE (ITCM). Ancient medical
techniques of acupuncture and herbs utilized with modern procedures, seem to work best.
UNEXPLAINED INFERTILITY / LIVER QI CONGESTION
Irritability, depression, frustration are keywords to the Liver Qi Stagnation. It must be
noted that whenever an organ is mentioned in oriental medicine it implies the related
conduit or meridian. A meridian is a pathway along which energy / Qi flows. The
psychological aspect of the Liver is said to assist us in planning easily and wisely. The
person who suffers from Liver Qi congestion may be found in a job that they don't enjoy,
working late hours, and with a history of taking birth control pills. There frequently
exists an inner psychological frustration about having and raising children. Dysfunctional
family factors play a major role in the upset Liver, as the condition may have existed for
Physical symptoms of irregular periods, PMS, dark colored blood with small clots,
breast pain with distention, worry and frequent sighing and headaches often accompany the
psychological symptoms. Pulse diagnostic palpation at the radial artery usually reveals a
wiry and small quality pulse in the person with a Liver imbalance. Pulse diagnosis at the
radial artery is an extremely sensitive and skilled art that takes many years to perfect.
It is like a laboratory blood test. There are over twelve different pulse positions on
each wrist and twenty-eight pulse qualities that can be related to each one of these
positions. The readings yield a multitude of relationships when integrated and compared
with the patients' signs, symptoms and tongue characteristics. The different pulses can
confirm a diagnosis and be used to monitor a patient's progress. Both pregnancy and the
sex of a child can be diagnosed from the pulses by a skilled practitioner.
Infertility due to Liver Qi Stagnation manifests mostly in women and is a frequent
cause of unexplained infertility. This is because this type of Liver stagnation effects
the blood flow in the pelvic cavity. Acupuncture at the right time in the menstrual cycle,
in conjunction with an herbal formula and some counseling, very likely can clear the
congestion in several months. The resulting pregnancy is more than welcome along with the
emotional clarity that arrives when the Liver organ/meridian is less toxic
(stagnated).Couples must realize, however, that the prevalence of Liver Qi Stagnation in
modern society is not something simple that can be relieved over night. It may take 9
months or more to release the stress, trauma, and toxin in the system, if it is at all
possible. There have been cases resolved within a month's time.
MISCARRIAGE; A TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE VIEWPOINT
Since the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC.- 24 AD.), Chinese people have been using
traditional medicine to effectively treat both male and female infertility. Many texts
have been published in the medical literature focusing on these problems that have so
recently come to the forefront in western society. TCM for threatened miscarriage includes
acupuncture, herbs, diet and an a different approach to exercise. It must be remembered
that treating infertility and miscarriage using any method is complicated and involved.
The medicine that helps the patient attain a healthy vital energy (Tian kuei) can greatly
aid the woman who has had miscarriages due to a hormonal imbalance. For the woman over 40
there are herbs that nourish the deeper
Vitality that is necessary for the body to call
forth healthy ovum.
Currently TCM, both in China and America, is used in conjunction with Western medical
techniques and testing to design an effective course of treatment for the couple wishing
to achieve not only pregnancy, but a healthy baby delivered at full term.
Sixty percent of all spontaneous abortions occur in the first half of the first
trimester of pregnancy. Genetics play a key role in habitual miscarriages. To presume that
TCM alters genetic structure without triple blind studies etc., would be a stretch of most
peoples imagination. However, Traditional Chinese Medicine is very effective in
strengthening a persons' constitution.
If a woman has miscarried, it is important to build and conserve her Qi and build her
Blood. This usually means building and conserving Kidney Qi, as within the Kidney both Yin
(Blood) and Yang (Qi) are generated. We must remember that Kidney does not just mean the
ear shaped organs guarded by the ribs just above the lower back. It means the whole psycho
physical interrelated matrix and visceral relationship of Kidney function and its meridian
In oriental medicine we say that all chronic imbalances effect the Kidney
organ/meridian network. What this means is that if a person has a weak constitution i.e.,
is pale, feels cold is undernourished, etc., then this is a result of either prenatal
(genetic) influences and or lifetime habits and illnesses. The way to change these
conditions, if possible, is to change them through treating the Kidney with tools of
acupuncture, herbs, diet, and exercise. Kidney means bone and bone marrow and from the
marrow is made blood. Blood nourishes Qi and the cycle regenerates and builds.
Essentially, in oriental medicine it is said that the Blood nourishes, the Qi protects,
and the Kidney Qi holds the fetus. The Kidney is injured by cold, therefore dietary
considerations are generally applicable for this patient. Recent studies have also shown
that good dental hygiene and quality dental work can increase fertility.
There is a very famous formula, that builds both Qi and Blood, which is used to
strengthen the body and prepare a woman for conception. This is especially useful if she
has a history of miscarriage. The formula should be given for three to six months before
conception is attempted. It is called "The Rock on Tai Mountain Decoction." This
somewhat poetic name refers to a great mountain that many Chinese religiously pilgrimage
to, hoping to get their prayers answered. It is an extremely demanding climb of a thousand
steps, just as pregnancy is demanding of the modern mother. Just giving this herbal
decoction does not guarantee that conception will take place and the next baby delivered
to full term. Seeing the patient as a whole person and thereby considering their total
health picture helps the TCM physician decide how to choose and change a formula to be
specific to the patient.
SEX DURING PREGNANCY
In the oriental culture there is a very direct and honest attitude toward one's sexuality.
Nothing is considered to be sexually "dirty" as sex is seen as a natural
function, as natural as "clouds and rain". Within the training of a TCM
practitioner, it is taught that it is not the job of the physician to make
about an individuals sexual practices, it is more important to point out the
of these practices. Therefore it is easy for the doctor to indicate that sex (intercourse)
during the first trimester is contraindicated, especially for the woman that has a history
of miscarriage, as the placenta is not yet fully formed. Many men have a problem with this
recommendation. Usually, TCM practitioners go one step further and indicate that it is
probably best for all couples to abstain for the whole nine months of pregnancy. As
mentioned previously, modern couples usually have no problem with this idea especially
when they consider the investment they have made. For the couple, where the woman is over
40, intercourse is not recommended for the entire pregnancy even by western physicians.
RAISING YOUR FERTILITY QUOTIENT WITH TCM TREATMENT
- Timing and consistency of treatment, whether having acupuncture or just taking
herbs, is of primary importance. Consistency of treatment is most important for men, as
to raise sperm count and motility with herbs starts to take effect at the fourth month of
treatment. It takes 70 days to generate new sperm.
Timing and consistency is also important for women as there are specific hormonal
adjustments that can be made at each week of the cycle. Missing a week of treatment may
lose an important opportunity to heal a particular segment of the four phase menstrual
cycle. It takes a minimum of three consecutive cycles (12 treatments) to do the foundation
work of regulation regardless of biological age. Most women can benefit from this type of
concentrated foundational treatment every two years, even if they aren't trying to
conceive. This should be started before a woman reaches 28 years old or earlier if birth
control pills have been taken.
If a woman is nearing forty years old and has had either numerous fertility
drugs (over 3 cycles), birth control pills, PMS, ART procedures, elevated FSH, polycystic
ovaries, endometriosis, sperm antibodies, or a history of drug, alcohol, or smoking abuse,
then it usually takes longer to balance her reproductive system. Likewise, if a man has a
history of STDs, history of drug, alcohol, smoking, or sexual abuse, urinary tract
infections, burning urination, chronic lower back pain, prostatitis, difficulty passing
urine, or other urological health issues it takes longer to rejuvenate the reproductive
function. The extent of rejuvenation is relative to the effort and inherent constitution
of the individual. Daily training sessions with the right exercises usually provide
tangible results when combined with weekly treatment, meditation and a reasonable diet.
The couple must expect to focus six to nine months before really expecting to evaluate
results. There is no quick path when it comes to conception, full term pregnancy and
recovery after delivery. "Turning back the clock" is indeed possible.
If a woman is in a state of high level wellness from a traditional medicine's
point of view (warm hands and feet and no PMS are just several indicators), and has a
"normal" active and relatively a low stress energy abundant lifestyle, then it
is appropriate to evaluate between the sixth and ninth month of consistent treatment.
Biological vs. chronological age. According to the 2,000 year old Chinese
medical classic (Nei Ching su wen ling shu) there are some precepts of health and aging
that are very important in this day and age. Accordingly, the normal life span for humans
is over 100 years. There are documented life spans of monks that have lived in good health
to well over 150 years old. In the Nei Ching there is a dialogue between the Yellow
Emperor and an old Taoist teacher named Chi-po. Why does medicine exist? asks the Yellow
Emperor, "...because people have severed themselves from their roots (Tao)". The
reconnection between the individual and their "roots" (spirituality) is a very
important aspect in the maintaining of youthfulness and is thereby inherent in the basic
foundation of traditional medicine. Modern science supports this in the focus on the
emerging stem cell technologies and the possible cures for major life threatening
diseases. Stem cells are found in abundance in the umbilical cord which suggests this deep
root connection to the Jing Qi (essential energy). Understanding the root cause and
quality of one's own longevity can slow the aging process and rejuvenate the body as
thoughts can create reality. Knowing with certainty that we are an ageless body is the
basis for creating high level wellness in the modern world. Longevity however is more than
Correct dietary and exercise habits are just as important for the preconceptive
mother as for the father. Eating salads (cold nature food) for a year is not the best diet
for a person who has generally a low basal body temperature (BBT). Sometimes eating meat
such as lamb (warming food) can help tonify a "cold" barren uterus. For male
factor and unexplained infertility there are specific physical and mental exercises to be
done by couples to generate the right environment necessary for creativity and conception.
Combining conventional reproductive technologies with ancient acupuncture and
herbal techniques demands accurate communications between team members which includes the
patient as captain. Communication between the patient, the acupuncturist and the
reproductive specialist is a delicate process. It is important for the physician to have
knowledge of the procedures of the acupuncturist/herbalist and vis a vis. Lacking
knowledge of an herbal program that a patient is on can effect the results of an ART
procedure. It can even be detrimental as alternative therapies are effective in changing a
persons body. Likewise it is important for the patient to inform the acupuncturist of any
herbs or vitamins that are being taken while undergoing treatment, other than prenatal
vitamins. Over the counter herbal remedies might be effective in some cases but may not be
indicated for a particular cycle. It could be like having carpet delivered for the
newborns room before the concrete foundation was poured for the house.
Traditional Chinese medicines and acupuncture work quite differently than western
medicines. They are gentle and deep acting rather than flashy and bright. Expect to feel a
growing subtle influence that permeates your life like the smell of star jasmine on a
What if you have already had a course of acupuncture treatment in the past? When
selecting an acupuncturist or any healer it is important to know that they are suitably
qualified to do fertility work. Communication, experience and skill are important. Having
a state acupuncture license means that the acupuncturist has passed a course of study that
qualifies them as an entry level practitioner. Usually this is about a 3000 hour training,
though there are some physician programs that are only 300. A growing number of
practitioners have a greater than entry level experience of treating couples that are
integrating oriental medicine with conventional reproductive techniques. These
practitioners are to be sought out, as treating an infertile couple demands not just
general practice but also specialty skill. General practice skills help remove
pre-existing conditions. If these conditions are the cause of infertility then the couples
fecundity quotient will be increased. However, if either reproductive function or
biological age of the endocrine system is the primary contributory factor then specialty
skills and experience is necessary.
The Infertility Book, A Comprehensive Medical and Emotional Guide, Harkness,
Carla, 2nd edition 1992, Celestial Arts, P.O. Box 7327 Berkeley, California. (510)
Infertility: A guide for the Childless Couple, Menning, Barbara Eck, New York,
Prentice Hall rev. 1988.
You Can Have A Baby, Everything you need to Know about Fertility, Bellina,
Joseph H., M.D., Ph.D., Wilson, Josleen New York, Crown Publishers Inc., 1985.
Adoption, Is It For You?, Dywarsuk, Collette T. New York: Harper & Row,
Endometriosis & Infertility and Traditional Chinese Medicine, Flaws, Bob,
CO, Blue Poppy Press, 1989
Endometriosis as Treated by Traditional Chinese Medicine, Cao Ling-xian &
Tang Ji-fu,,trans. C,S,. Cheung, M.D., & Carolyn Atkinson, J. Amer. College of TCM. S.
F., CA, Vol. 1, No. 1, 1983, p. 54-57.
A Woman's guide to Endometriosis, Older, Julia, Charles Scribner's Sons,
Handbook of Chinese Herbs and Formulas, Vol. I & II, Him-che Yeung, Los
Chinese Herbal Patent Formulas, A Practical Guide, Jake Fratkin, Shya
Chinese Tonic Herbs, Ron Teeguarden, Japan Publications, Inc. 1985
Wise Woman Herbal For the Childbearing Year, Weed, Susun, New York, Ash Tree
Publishing, PO Box 64, Woodstock, NY 12498, 1986.
Consumer Protection Issues Involving IVF Clinics (stock number 552-070-06387-1
U.S. Government Printing Office, $31) 202-275-3030.
PREVENTION IS WORTH MORE THAN A POUND OF CURE...
IT SOMETIMES IS THE CURE.
ROGER C. HIRSH, O.M.D., L.Ac., B.Ac. (UK), Dipl. NCCA, has been working for the
last seven years to establish the specialization of reproductive health care within the
Oriental medical model and to integrate diverse Eastern and Western medical traditions in
his work with fertility. An Honors graduate of the International College of Oriental
Medicine (London,1976) he received his Doctorate in Oriental Medicine (1984) with a
specialty in Constitutional Medicine. After a 3,000 hour postgraduate internship with
Master Sehan Kim, O.M.D. and Mrs. Kyo Ok Kim M.D., Ph.D., he joined the Center for
Orthomolecular Medicine in Palo Alto, where he practiced acupuncture and herbal medicine
for several years as a member of a six physician team. Dr. Hirsh has served as an adjunct
faculty member of the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the California
Acupuncture College and Emperor's College of Traditional Chinese Medicine and is one of
the founders and is currently chairman of the board of directors of China International
Medical University. He is currently in private practice in Beverly Hills, California,
specializing in work with couples who have simple to complex fertility concerns or are
preparing to have a family.
Roger C. Hirsh, OMD, L.Ac.
Doctor of Oriental Medicine
Acupuncture and herbal science