According to TCM theory, the common causes of male infertility include kidney asthenia (weakness),liver Qi (energy) stagnation, blockage of meridians due to phlegm and dampness, deficiency in Qi and blood, and blood stasis. A combination of Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture is thus often prescribed to improve sperm quality by treating these deficiencies.
For Chinese herbal medicine treatment, 15 or more specific herbs are prescribed in differing quantities in formulas specific to the syndrome being treated. These ailments are diagnosed by the TCM physician after a thorough examination of the patient’s constitution. This diagnosis uses the syndrome differentiation method using four paired principles – exterior vs interior of the body; cold vs heat; deficiency vs excess in the constitution; yin vs yang. The Chinese herbal medicine treatment is prescribed according to the individual constitution falling under each of these categories.
TCM for treating DEFICIENCY
In TCM terms, deficiency syndromes include kidney asthenia (lack of kidney yang) and deficiency in qi and blood. Kidney asthenia may be the cause of frequent urination, aching of the back and legs as well as impotence. qi and blood deficiency leads to fatigue. The common Chinese medicine formula 右归丸 (you gui wan) is prescribed for those who lack kidney yang, while 左归丸 (zuo gui wan) is prescribed for the nourishment of kidney yin. 归脾汤 (gui pi soup) is used to treat deficiency of qi and blood in the body.
TCM for treating STAGNANCY
The stagnancy syndrome mainly consists of liver qi stagnation and blood stasis. A common cause of qi stagnation is high levels of stress. Qi stagnation is often characterised by tense muscles and digestive disorders. Other symptoms that may arise include abdominal bloating and pain. Blood stasis leads to inefficient blood circulation, which in turn leads to lethargy and low sperm motility. 柴胡疏肝汤 (chai hu shu gan soup) is a common herbal remedy used to resolve liver qi stagnation and yu lin zhu is often prescribed for blood stasis.
TCM for treating BLOCKAGE
This syndrome includes the blockage of meridians due to phlegm, dampness and blood stasis. Deficiency in the spleen will produce phlegm and dampness, which leads to blockage in the meridians. This then can lead to low sperm motility and sperm abnormality as well as painful urination Therefore, 四君子汤 (si jun zi soup) is normally used to strengthen the spleen to remove phlegm and dampness. Blockage due to blood stasis often occurs after surgery, injury or severe infection. A common medicine used to resolve this problem is 血府逐瘀汤 (xue fu zhu yu soup).
Qi, pronounced as “chee”, is the vital energy that circulates along the whole body through pathways called meridians. A proper circulation of qi ensures a healthy body. Any blockage or disruption of this flow of qi will cause diseases.
In TCM, acupuncture treatment is used to ensure the smooth flow of qi to achieve a balance of yin and yang in all the organs, and it is commonly applied to treat male infertility problems. By balancing the yin and yang in the organs, one’s body constitution is improved, leading to the production of better quality sperm.
Besides using Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture to treat male infertility problems, there are some basic lifestyle changes that one can adopt to improve sperm quality. Good habits such as maintaining a healthy body weight (BMI of 18.5-24.9), minimising stress and reducing scrotal temperature (optimum temperature for sperm production is 1 to 2 degrees below normal body temperature of 37 degrees Celsius) will help to improve sperm quality.