Herbal Help for Male Fertility
Herbs have long been used by many cultures across the world to help with fertility, virility and libido. They can have powerful effects, however, they are not a replacement for a healthy diet and lifestyle. They are also not a quick fix and it can take months for their full effects to kick in. It is advisable to seek advice from a medical herbalist before embarking on any herbal treatment.
Here’s a look at some of the research into the effects of herbs on male fertility:
Maca has been used in Bolivia and Peru for over 2000 years as a nutritional food and medicine to promote strength, endurance, energy, fertility, hormone balance, and as an aphrodisiac (1,2,3). Maca is considered to have adaptogenic properties, meaning it has the ability to bring the body’s systems back into balance. It is thought to work on the hypothalamus and pituitary glands to normalise the entire endocrine (hormonal) system. This means it can have a balancing effect on the thyroid, adrenals, pancreas, testes and ovaries thus improving the function of the whole body.
Randomised controlled trials have shown that maca has a significant positive effect on sexual dysfunction and sexual desire in healthy men and women and that it improves fertility, serum testosterone and sperm production and motility (1,2,3,4). It also shows significant effects in improving erectile dysfunction (4).
There are several different types of ginseng all of which are thought to be adaptogenic and supportive to the nervous system and immune system. Ginseng has long been used as a sexual tonic, supporting libido, erectile function and stamina. Research has found ginseng to have a protective effect on male reproductive fitness, improving fertility parameters and testicular antioxidant levels (5,6).
Panax ginseng (AKA Korean ginseng) is known to delay aging-induced testicular dysfunction. (7). It has also been shown to be effective in reducing heat induced damage to the testes (8).
Tribulus is known to improve sexual function and to enhance sex hormone levels, including testosterone and dihydrotestosterone. It improves sperm concentration, motility and viability, possibly due to its antioxidant properties. It also reduces percentage of body fat and increases lean body mass and has a protective effect on sperm after cryopreservation (9,10,11)
Petasites may stimulate the proliferation of sperm stem cells and could be useful in the prevention of male infertility (12).
Royal jelly is the food fed to the queen bee who lives for up to 6 years and lays as many as 2000 eggs a day. It is rich in vitamins, minerals, amino acids and anti-bacterial properties. Royal Jelly has been found to have a protective antioxidant effect in the testis (13,14).
Ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg may increase sexual feelings due to their stimulating effect on the central nervous system and circulation (15).
See blogposts on Falling Sperm Counts, Diet for Male Fertility and Nutrients for Male Fertility for more information.
- 1. Gonzales GF, Gonazles C, Gonzales-Castaneda C. Lepidium meyenii (Maca): a plant from the highlands of Peru–from tradition to science. Forsch Komplementmed. 2009 Dec;16(6):373-80.
- 2. Shin BC, Lee MS, Yang EJ, Lim HS, Ernst E. Maca (L.meyenii) for improving sexual function: systematic review. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2010 Aug 6;10:44.
- 3. Stone M, Ibarra A, Roller M, Zangara A, Stevenson E. A pilot investigation into the effect of maca supplementation on physical activity and sexual desire in sportsmen. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Dec 10;126(3):574-6.
- 4. Ohta Y et al. Feeding hydroalcoholic extract powder of Lepidium meyenii (maca) increases serum testosterone concentration and enhances steroidogenic ability of Leydig cells in male rats. Andrologia. 2016 Apr;48(3):347-54.
- 5. Gray SL et al. Effects of Panax ginseng, zearalenol, and estradiol on sperm function. J Ginseng Res. 2016 Jul;40(3):251-9
- 6. Sawiress FA et al. Effect of ginseng extract supplementation on testicular functions in diabetic rats. Endocr Regul. 2011 Jul;45(3):139-48.
- 7. Kopalli SR et al. Korean red ginseng improves testicular ineffectiveness in aging rats by modulating spermatogenesis-related molecules. Exp Gerontol. 2017 Apr;90:26-33.
- 8. Kim MK et al. Pectinase-treated Panax ginseng protects heat stress-induced testicular damage in rats. Reproduction. 2017 Jun;153(6):737-747.
- 9. Salgado RM et al. Effect of oral administration of Tribulus terrestris extract on semen quality and body fat index of infertile men. Andrologia. 2017 Jun;49(5).
- 10. Sahin K et al. Comparative evaluation of the sexual functions and NF-κB and Nrf2 pathways of some aphrodisiac herbal extracts in male rats. BMC Comp. Altern. Med. 2016 Aug 26;16(1):318.
- 11. Asadmobini A et al. The effect of Tribulus terrestris extract on motility and viability of human sperms after cryopreservation. Cryobiology. 2017 Apr;75:154-159.
- 12. Kang HR et al. Petasites japonicus Stimulates the Proliferation of Mouse Spermatogonial Stem Cells. PloS one. 2015 Jul 24;10(7):e0133077.
- 13. Ghanbari E, Negati V et al. Antioxidant and protective effects of Royal jelly on histopathological changes in testis of diabetic rats. Int J Reprod Biomed (Yazd). 2016 Aug;14(8):519-26.
- 14. Amirshahi T et al. Protective effect of royal jelly on fertility and biochemical parameters in bleomycin-induced male rats. Iran J Reprod Med. 2014 Mar;12(3):209-16.
- 15. Fisher M, The Relationship Between Love, Sex and Food, Love’s Evolver Feb 9, 2011