Traditional oriental Medicine and Infertility

Patients often visit acupuncture clinic or Chinese herbalist clinic to seek help with infertility issues. Majority of the patients make the decision based on infertility specialists’ recommendation and some internet studies they read. However, information online are too commercialized to promote businesses and medical doctors have very little knowledge about acupuncture to explain anything to patients.

To help understand how traditional Chinese medicine(TCM hereon) can help with infertility issues better, it is essential to explain some basics.

TCM philosophy believes imbalance of energy in body causes all body’s ailment. From TCM perspective, infertility is also caused by imbalance and specific patterns are identified over the years that can contribute towards infertility issues.

In female infertility, there are six typical patterns.

  1. Patient is too cold. (Kidney Yang deficiency)
  2. Hormonal imbalance. (Kidney Yin deficiency)
  3. Patient is too weak. (Blood and Qi deficiency)
  4. Patient has poor circulation. (Qi and Blood stagnation)
  5. Patient is too stressed. (Liver Qi stagnation)
  6. Patient’s water metabolism is imbalanced. (Retention of damp and phlegm)

Listed above, are the most common patterns that are presented by patients, but other factors, such as too much heat, poor diet, irregular life style can also be the cause of infertility.

Trained TCM practitioners will spend time on initial consultation to figure out the cause by asking series of questions, taking your pulse, observing your tongue and abdominal palpations in some cases. They will also take your laboratory results if you have been working with infertility specialists. Due to relentless researches and studies, TCM researchers were able to link some of the laboratory results to acupuncture diagnosis and it tends facilitate building treatment strategy. Where some TCM practitioners rely solely on TCM philosophy, most acupuncturists trained in the U.S. are well learned to read the lab results and utilize them. Once the pattern is identified, they will recommend either acupuncture treatment or herbal medicine, sometimes both.

Research Evidence on Acupuncture

Since TCM was introduced in the U.S., many aspects of acupuncture have been researched and studied. Numerous scientific studies have been conducted that demonstrate the effectiveness of acupuncture therapy in the treatment of infertility, including in women with anovulatory(No ovulation) cycles, and those receiving IVF. The results of these clinical studies conclude that acupuncture increases the effectiveness of IVF, as well as being effective as a stand-alone treatment for male and female infertility.

  • Women who received Acupuncture with IVF had 66% more successful fertilizations than the
    control group who did not receive acupuncture in a sample of 160 women, in a peer-reviewed
    study conducted at Columbia University in 2002.
  • Pregnancy rates in 60 cases of uncomplicated lacteal phase defects was 56% after 3 months in
    Nan Jing Treatment hospital in a peer-reviewed study conducted in 2008.
  • In a study of 28 men receiving acupuncture for infertility, the control group was unchanged,
    while the treatment group had significant changes in sperm counts, normality, motility and
  • In a study of 10 women conducted in China, acupuncture replaced HMG and HCG to induce
    ovulation in 10 of 11 months without causing any side effects.
  • In a study of 53 women conducted in China, 41% women with significant lacteal phase infertility
    became pregnant with the use of Chinese Herbal Medicine alone. The remaining 68 % required


Acupuncture treatments and herbal therapies have demonstrated their effectiveness throughout the time and they are in process of proving their effectiveness scientifically. Results are quantified and statistically analyzed with the latest technologies. Infertility can feel like the end of the world to loving couples who’s looking forward to building a family. Although TCM treatments has yet to demonstrate scientific mechanism of how it works with infertility, statistically, it has shown significant improvements in pregnancy. Statistical evidence is profound enough to deserve recognition and should be considered as a viable option for patients with issues of infertility.


  1. Lian, F. "TCM Treatment of Luteal Phase Defect-An Analysis of 60 Cases", Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine,
    Jun;11 (2):115-20, 1991
  2. Cai, Xuefen "Sunbstitution of Acupuncture for HCG in Ovulation Induction", Journal of Tradtional Chinese Medicine,
    17 (2): 117-20, 1997
  3. Pei, L J, Strehler, E., Noss, U., Piomboni, P., Baccetti, B., Sterzik, K. "Quantitative Evaluation of Spermatozoa
    Ultrastructure After Acupuncture Treatment for Idiopathic Male Infertility" Longhua Hospital, Shanghai University of
    Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai, People's Republic of China
  4., H.Y., Yu X. Z., Wang G.L.,
    & Preliminary Report of the Treatment of Luteal Phase Defect by Replenishing Kidney. An Analysis of 53 Cases",
    Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Aug; 12 (8): 473-74, 352-53, 199
  5. Paulus W., et al. "Influence of Acupuncture on the Pregnancy Rate in Patients Who Undergo Assisted Reproduction
    Therapy. Fertility and Sterility April 2002; 77 (4):721-4.Reproductive Journal Fertility and Sterility, April 2002

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