Traditional Chinese Medicine and Infertility Part III
by Dr. Mike Berkley
In the beginning sections of this article, we considered the proper treatment methods of Traditional Chinese Medicine and The Four Examaminations, a method of diagnosis that dates back over three thousand years. We also looked at the mechanisms of action with TCM and accupuncture.
In this final section we will consider the combined diagnostics of Eastern and Western Medicine along with the uses of herbal medicine in the treatment of infertility.
A DIAGNOSTIC WINDOW - EAST MEETS WEST
One TCM diagnosis which exists and which may be etiologic for male or female infertility is called Liver qi stagnation. One of the key identifiers of an individual with the pattern differentiation of Liver qi stagnation is anger, rage, frustration, depression and anxiety.
"Symptoms of depression, anxiety, and anger may help in determining the nature of infertility experienced by some couples, and identify those who would benefit most from psychological counseling, suggest researchers.
Dr. Secondo Fassino (University School of Medicine, Turin, Italy) and colleagues recorded the personal characteristics of 156 infertile and 80 fertile couples, and measured their degree of psychopathology. When the researchers divided the couples according to the nature of the infertility-organic, functional, or undetermined-they found that the triad of anxiety, depression, and a tendency toward anger suppression successfully predicted the diagnosis of organic or functional infertility in women, with 97 percent accuracy.
For infertile men, anxiety was also an important independent predictor of functional infertility, increasing the likelihood of having this form of infertility five-fold, while depression was more predictive of organic infertility. However, with men - unlike women - anger did not appear to influence infertility in men.
The results suggest the possibility of identifying a subgroup of infertile subjects where, beyond the distress that is consequent to the failure of repeated attempts to conceive a baby, there is also a poorly adaptive psychological functioning, which is likely to play an important role in the onset and course of functional infertility," the team concludes."
It is becoming more and more prevalent that research conducted by Western scientists and physicians are highlighting the veracity and effectiveness of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
The efficacy of herbal medicine in treating infertility is indisputable to the patient community although the mechanism of action is not completely understood at this time. Similarly the mechanism of action of tricyclic antidepressants is not fully understood in its effect on chronic pain (i.e., in the case of fibromyalgia), but its efficacy has been maintained.
Practitioners of Chinese herbal medicine rarely use a single herb in treatment. Chinese herbs are formula based; many herbs are mixed together to create the perfect 'decoction' specifically designed for the individual patient.
Some formulae contain two herbs and some thirty or more herbs. Each herb has many functions. Each herb has its own flavor, nature, temperature and trophism. Prescribing the correct herbal medicinals requires extensive training and clinical experience.
Self-medicating with herbal medicine presents a dual dilemma. At best the herbs will be useless, as the key to correct formula prescription is an accurate differential diagnosis which can only be rendered by a licensed, board certified, experienced practitioner. At the worst case, self-prescribing of herbal medicine may prove harmful or fatal.
A good example of this is Ma Huang/Ephedra. Ma Huang is an herb prescribed on a daily basis by hundreds of TCM practitioners to thousands of patients safely.
That several people have died as a result of taking Ma Huang has nothing to do with the dangerous properties of the herb, rather with the fact that in all cases of fatalities the individuals were self-medicating, without directions from a doctor required for appropriate applications and contraindications. Aspirin can also prove fatal if taken by a hemophiliac. This is not an indication that aspirin should be banned or that it is a dangerous drug, but that it is unsafe if used inappropriately and safe if used appropriately.
Not only is herbal medicine safe, it is highly effective in treating much pathology without the concomitant adverse effects which often accompany pharmaceutical drugs. There are many hospitalizations and fatalities which occur yearly as a result of adverse reactions to biomedicine. The occurrence of adverse reactions to herbal medicine is far less.
I have used herbal formulae repeatedly to lower elevated FSH levels, to regulate irregular menstrual cycles, to mitigate pain in the endometriosis patient; to mitigate pain in the patient who presents with ovulation and/or menstruation related migraines; to thicken an unresponsive endometrium; to treat the amenorrheic; the oligomenorrheic patient; to treat patients with partial tubal occlusion; and the patient who presents with idiopathic infertility. Additionally, I have successfully treated male factor infertility, which includes presentations such as low sperm count and poor motility.
Clearly, further research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms of action of acupuncture and herbal medicine in treating the infertile patient. Nevertheless, it is my opinion that the best-case scenario for most patients is to offer them every reasonable option which may serve to successfully address their presentation. Based upon the empirical evidence of my practice in which I specialize in the treatment of the infertility, the integration of acupuncture and herbal medicine into the treatment protocol from a clinical perspective makes sense.
Dr. Mike Berkley has been treating fertility disorders since 1996 with amazing results. He works exclusively in the area of reproductive medicine and enjoys working in conjunction with some of New York's most prestigious reproductive endocrinologists. Sign up for his free newsletter at www.BerkleyCenter.com