This is a collection of supplements and herbs that I see women wondering if they should use when they’re struggling with trying to conceive. It lets you know how to use them, what they’re for and how to take them. How it helps x

Evening primrose oil

What is it?

Evening primrose is a plant. It gets its name from the fact that it blossoms at night. The oil is extracted from the seeds of the plant when they are pressed. 

What’s it used for?

It is a source of linoleic acid (a kind of Omega 6). It reduces prostaglandins which contribute to inflammation in the uterus and pain levels during menstruation. It is an anticoagulant which means it thins the blood. It could perhaps be used instead of baby aspirin. As a “good fat” it helps to reduce bad cholesterol. It is used to treat PMS, infertility, painful periods, painful breasts. Aside from it’s effects on women it also helps reduce arthritis, eczema, acne and raynauds disease. 

Should I use it?

If you have some of the symptoms listed it’s worth trying this for a month and seeing how your body responds. 

How should I take it?

Take a high quality supplement of between 2000-3000mg per day. 

 

Agnus castus

What is it?

Agnus castus is a herb. The seed of the plant is used to make medicinal tinctures and capsules. It tastes strongly bitter and aromatic so isn’t used as a tea very often. 

What’s it used for?

Agnus cactus reduces FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and increase LH (lutenising hormone). PMS, infertility caused by low progesterone, amenorrhea (no periods), elevated prolactin levels, hyperprolactinaemia, anovulatory cycles (not ovulating), breast pain, nervous tension, irritability, mood-swings, acne vulgaris, bloating and swollen extremities, low breast milk supply, for withdrawal when coming off the contraceptive pill and symptoms of the menopause (if they are similar to the above). 

Should I use it?

If you have a short luteal phase, very light periods, no periods at all it could be helpful. However, Agnus castus has a definite direction to its action and can therefore make things worse if you don’t actually have problems with your progesterone levels. This isn’t a herb I’d recommend people take without consulting a herbalist first. 

How should I take it?

If you want to experiment with it anyhow then you should find a tincture made by a company which specialises in making herbal preparations. I’ve listed some suppliers below. It should be a 1:2 strength and taken 40 drops each morning. Take it for 3 months to maximise it’s effects but stop taking it and consult a herbalist if it makes your cycles too long or too heavy. 

The closest to a 1:2 I could find was from a British supplier I know and trust called Baldwins. It's a 1:3.

Maca

What is it?

Macca is a herb. It is the root that is used. 

What’s it used for?

It is an endocrine adaptogen. It does not contain hormones or hormone derivatives but rather some of the vital nutrients to support hormone balance. It contains minerals including; calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc, as well as sterols, up to 20 essential fatty acids, lipids, fiber, carbohydrates, protein, and amino acids. It supports the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. It helps; PMS, menopausal symptoms, hot flashes, and libido and sperm count in men. 

Should I use it?

As it is thought as a food containing vital nutrients most people can use this herb without any worry of negative side effects. But it seems to me an expensive way to get those nutrients where a variety of whole vegetables and fruits would do the same. It also has negative effects on the populations who farm it.

How should I take it?

It should be bought as a powder or in capsules. If in capsules the only ingredient should be the Maca itself. Take 2 heaped tsp of the powder in smoothies every day. Make sure your male partner is taking it too if he needs help supporting his sperm quality, motility or libido. 

It's best to use Maca in powder form as it helps to be reassured of the quality. Again I think Baldwins is best. 

Royal jelly

What is it?

Royal jelly is the secretion from the salivary glands of the worker bee. It is a special food for the development of the queen bee. For this reason, it is seen by some as an unethical product. 

What’s it used for?

Being rich in amino acids, vitamins and metabolites, including; Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, biotin, inositol, folic acid and Vitamin C, it’s used to restore diminished sexual function.  

Should I use it?

It seems to me that a healthy diet would give you the nutrients Royal Jelly supplies and therefore isn’t a necessity in helping you conceive. 

How should I take it?

Usually taken in capsules normally 1g per day.

I couldn't find a source for this from the people I know and trust.

DHEA

What is it?

DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a steroid hormone produced by your body's adrenal glands. It can be made artificially from Wild Yam or soy. It is a precursor for testosterone and estrogen. 

What’s it used for?

It’s used to potentially increase testosterone and estrogen. This could potentially help with adrenal glands, immune health, improve mood and energy but evidence is slim. 

Should I use it?

Unless you’ve been diagnosed as having low levels of DHEA it’s not a chemical I’d recommend people take. There are other ways you can support your hormones without interfering with them directly such as eating well and living a low-stress lifestyle. 

How should I take it?

Don’t take it. 

DHEA isn't available in the UK without a prescription. This is not the case in the USA. 

 

As a rule of thumb I don’t recommend people self-prescribe herbs or supplements which interfere with hormones directly. This is because it’s SO difficult to get it right and very easy to get it wrong. It can leave you feeling confused and despondent. There is so much that you can do outside of this though. Closely analysing the stressors in your life and working in more relaxation is a MASSIVE thing you can do. You can also research how to eat well to promote fertility and you can reflect on any emotional things which may be affecting your libido. If sex isn’t fun anymore it will reduce your chances of getting pregnant. In the upcoming weeks/months I’ll be giving advice on things you CAN DO to improve your fertility without having to worry about the specifics of your hormones.

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