So you are interested in using herbs and natural practices to increase fertility? Well, you have come to the right place!
A brief disclaimer before we dive in; this article is meant to be a broad spectrum starting point in your fertility journey. The content is geared towards people who have wombs.
This also great information for those who are supporting or partners of the birther. What works for you, will be unique to you; and there are so many factors that come into play with getting pregnant, it is impossible to cover them all here.
Take everything here with a grain of salt, do your own research and seek out the help of a professional herbalist to get a protocol that fits your unique situation and constitution. This is the beauty of herbal medicine, there is no one size fits all, or a magic pill. The diversity of the plant world mirrors our unique individuality. You deserve a customized health and fertility journey!
The first step in beginning to use herbs for fertility is getting to know your menstrual cycle.
You need to have an intimate relationship with each phase and pay attention to the signs and symptoms your body shows. Ultimately this is a deep process of learning how to pay attention to the subtle cues and innate intelligence of the womb.
Through this deep listening and some medical knowledge you can see what phase of the cycle needs herbal assistance and how to create the perfect conditions for pregnancy. For example, someone who has ovulation issues requires a different approach than someone with deficient progesterone.
The best way to know your cycle is through cycle tracking or the fertility awareness method of birth control. This is a practice of tracking your basal body temperature, cervical mucus and any other symptoms each morning to find your most fertile window.
This method is awesome because it helps you avoid pregnancy or find the window of conception, depending on where you are at in your life. There are many apps out there that neatly chart out this information for you.
Temperature tracking is so important because the slight fluctuations tell you exactly when you ovulate, or inform you if there is an ovulation (no ovulation). For those who may not have their periods due to taking testosterone or amenorrhea; you can still track your cycle and ovulation by tracking your body temperature, cervical mucus and any other symptoms. Even without a monthly bleed, your womb is going through the ~28 day cycle and it is possible to conceive.
In my practice I am a firm believer of food and nutrition therapeutics in conjunction with herbs.After all, many medicines are food plants; and I like to think of diet and nutrition as preventative medicine.
If there is something you can get from your diet and a herb, I’d rather have you eat it! This is also a great place to start to increase fertility; many people trying to conceive have nutrient deficiencies by their child bearing age.
Some of these include: iron, magnesium, calcium, protein, EFA’s (essential fatty acids), and vitamin D. This is primarily caused by increased consumption of processed foods, soil degradation and the over dependence on chemical fertilizers.
Our food just isn’t as nutritious as it used to be; as the quality and biodiversity of the soil has decreased this is directly shown in the nutritional profile of our fruits and veggies. So, now is the time to shop organic, go to local farmers markets and plant that veggie garden.
Eating for fertility is just as powerful as using herbs for fertility. To increase your chances of conceiving it is best to stick to a whole foods diet as much as possible; skip the fried foods and refined sugar.
We want to make sure we are getting high quality fats and proteins from foods like meats, fish, eggs, legumes and avocados. Most of these animal based foods have naturally high levels of vitamin D; if you are a vegetarian or vegan I highly recommend getting a vitamin D supplement.
Another issue that many birthers have is low iron. Many people have to supplement throughout their pregnancy to maintain adequate levels. Starting to build your iron stores early on is such a good way to prepare for pregnancy and increase fertility.
A study done using participants from 15 european countries found that only 25-30% of “women” of child bearing age had adequate iron stores to carry out a full pregnancy.
The scientific community is still catching up to using gender inclusive terms, so “women” is in quotations here. This study also found that 40-55% of participants had small or depleted iron stores, before pregnancy. Iron deficiency is becoming endemic amongst North Americans; and it is definitely worth it to get your iron levels checked if you are trying to conceive. Now let’s talk about some herbs that can be used to increase your fertility!
Raspberry leaf is traditionally known as a partus prepator, a latin phrase meaning to prepare for labour. As an astringent, it has a tightening action and an affinity to the digestive system and the uterine tissues. The astringency improves the tone of the uterus aka the musculature and the mucous membranes.
This is important so you can carry a full term pregnancy, and have strong uterine walls to handle those contractions with grace! The flavonoid and antioxidant content helps improve circulation and blood vessel tone in the womb as well.
We see traditional uses for Raspberry leaf as a digestive tonic; although this plant has an affinity to the womb, we can look to other areas of the body to see the true nature of this plant.
The digestive tract, blood vessels and the womb are a combination of epithelial tissues (skin). Plants that are astringent work on epithelial cells, lessening the space between them; and restoring integrity and strength on a cellular level. This allows the tissues to function better and serve as stronger structures. After all, we need a strong foundation for our vital force to flow through us!
Properties: Partus preparator, Uterine Stimulant, Galactogogue, Haemostatic, Astringent, Anti-diarrhoeal, Digestive Remedy
*Only use Raspberry leaf before conception and in the 2nd and 3rd trimester. Do not use in the 1st trimester
Stinging Nettle is the ultimate nutritive tonic. One of the crowning jewels of the Pacific Northwest Forests, nettle is mineral rich with silica and iron, also packed with vitamin C and flavonoids to help absorption of minerals.
We actually need vitamin C to absorb iron, Nettle is a wonderful plant because of the high iron content and vitamin C content; it's almost like it was made for humans!
As a tonic herb, this tincture is appropriate for consistent daily use. Remember all the common mineral deficiencies mentioned above? Well, Nettle is such a nourishing remedy that is appropriate in many stages of pregnancy and new parenthood.
Properties: Anti-allergic, Anti-rheumatic, Depurative, Galactagogue (stimulates milk flow), Tonic (Nutritive), Astringent, Styptic, Diuretic, Alterative
Milky Oat / Oatstraw
A huge factor in the ability to conceive is managing stress levels. There’s a reason many doctors suggest going on a vacation and letting go of the “were making a baby” mindset; this is related to stress. The relaxed birther is much more likely to have a successful conception.
Culturally we are a very stressed population; the grind culture has created a long lasting impact on our nervous systems and the ability to relax.
The main quality Milky Oat is used for is as a nervous system trophorestorative. A trophorestorative is nourishing and strengthening to a specific organ or system of the body. A true trophorestorative will restore function to a tissue or organ that has been damaged or exhausted.
As Sajah Popham says “this is one of the most culturally indicated plant medicines for our time”. Many of us are stuck in a feedback loop of the sympathetic stress response without even realizing it. Milky oat is one of the most commonly prescribed herbs in my practice; as it is neutral in taste and temperature, making it suitable for a wide range of constitutions.
Properties: Nervous system trophorestorative, Thymoleptic (mild anti-depressant), Nutritive tonic, Demulcent, Vulnerary
I’m Laura, a non-binary medical herbalist from Vancouver BC. I have a practice and a herbal medicine apothecary called House of Origins. My focus is on gender inclusive womb care and body autonomy as a form of activism. Connecting people to their bodies and the natural world is my passion. When I’m not geeking out on herbs, you can find me studying esoteric arts, astrology, mythology and ancient history. My practice is deeply informed by these things, the language of archetypes and how we embody the subtle aspects of creation.