Infertility can be a difficult problem to treat, and modern interventions — while sometimes effective — can be expensive. So, it’s not surprising that some people look to herbs and supplements as a possible alternative treatment to this vexing problem. Unfortunately, the research on so-called fertility herbs and supplements is scant.
For male infertility, one study showed increased sperm motility in men who took a combination of acetyl-L-carnitine and L-carnitine. This resulted in a slight increase in pregnancies among study participants. Another study showed that men with low sperm counts who took vitamin E had a higher rate of fertilization than did those taking a placebo. However, other studies found no improvement in male fertility when vitamin E was combined with vitamin C or selenium. A few studies have suggested that coenzyme Q10 and folic acid may improve sperm counts or motility. But more research is needed to confirm these findings and to determine whether such findings lead to improved fertility.
For women, the evidence is even less encouraging. A few small studies have suggested that supplementation with vitamin C may improve fertility in women who have ovulation disorders. But much more research is needed to clarify these findings.
In short, at this time, there doesn’t appear to be compelling evidence for any herbal therapy or supplements as a treatment for infertility. Also, herbal and nutritional supplements are subjected to limited regulation by the Food and Drug Administration and are only now starting to be held to rigorous purity and quality standards.
In addition, conventional hormone and drug treatments for infertility are complex regimens. It’s not known how herbs or supplements may interact with such treatments. So until research more clearly defines the risks and benefits of fertility herbs and supplements, conventional treatment for infertility appears to be the best option.