Fertility Tea – Fertility & Preconception: Do They Work
In recent years, teas that claim to offer fertility support (also known as fertility teas) have gained popularity easily found on the internet. Due to their availability, most women are opting to try them to boost fertility. But before you decide to skim through the internet to find fertility teas or read customer reviews, it’s essential to determine whether they really work. What does the research say about fertility teas?
Fertility Tea: What Is It and Does It Work?
Although there are accounts that the ingredients in some fertility teas have influenced fertility in both males and females, the clinical evidence on their effectiveness is still limited.
Most of the ingredients provide other health benefits, but there’s no evidence supporting fertility-boosting claims. The only ingredient that has some evidence on how it supports fertility is Chasteberry, also known as Vitex agnus-castus.
Besides the evidence, some herbs that are found in fertility teas are not safe during pregnancy and can interact with medications and supplements – the fact that they are herbal does not mean they’re safe for use. In other cases, the quality of the herbs that are used and dosage may not be high enough to make a positive impact. This is why it is essential to talk to your healthcare provider before using any herbs or type of supplement. Most herbalists even recommend consulting with a trained and experienced herbalist and your healthcare provider instead of purchasing fertility teas online.
What exactly are fertility teas?
Holistic practitioners, midwives, and nutritionists who have a special interest in fertility are the primary proponents of herbal fertility teas for enhancing the chances of conception. When steeped in hot water, these herbs are thought to release compounds that aid or improve fertility. For instance, some are known to boost libido increase, chances of conception, tone the uterus, and balance hormone levels, among other functions. Most ingredients found in fertility teas are known for their richness in essential nutrients and minerals, which convinces most users that it’s safe to take fertility tea.
The use of herbal remedies called ‘uterine tonics‘ has been documented by medical literature to treat numerous gynecological problems – the reports date back to as early as the 15th century. The colonial scientists and doctors first got the idea of reproductive health botany from the indigenous American medicinal culture, where herbs were taken for pain relief during childbirth, treat menstrual cramps, and sometimes induce labour. The practise continued until the 20th century because women turned to midwives and medicinal plants to promote their reproductive health.
Herbal remedies come in different forms other than fertility teas. There are extracts, tinctures, granules, powders, and raw herb material that one can cook for themselves and administer as a single herb or combine it with other herbs.
Some of the popular fertility teas you will come across today will have the following ingredients (note that this list is not exhaustive):
- Chasteberry (Vitex agnus castus)
- Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
- Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa)
- Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
- Red raspberry leaf (Rubis idaeus)
- Green tea (Camellia sinensis)
- Stinging nettle leaf (Urtica dioica)
- Tribulus (Tribulus terrestris)
- Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis)
Online Fertility Teas VS Seasoned Dietitian
Thanks to their training and experience, herbalists customize tea blends for customers based on several factors such as fertility protocols, current medication, personal preferences, and allergies. If herbs are not bought from a reputable source, the user will probably take adulterated or contaminated products since no one is liable.
The safest thing to do is to make sure the people who make the fertility tea can adequately identify the herbs before harvesting, grow and harvest them ethically, and process and store them correctly. This is the reason why it’s not advisable to buy the cheapest herbs you find online.
What about the downsides of taking fertility teas?
The primary safety concern regarding fertility tea ingredients is the components that should be avoided. In most cases, such ingredients will only have mild side effects. At the same time, one is pregnant or those that may interact with the supplements or medications you could be taking.
But why does it matter if the ingredients can have adverse effects on pregnancy, breastfeeding or if you are only taking them to increase the chances of conceiving? Knowing exactly when you will get pregnant is not easy. So if you take a particular fertility tea ingredient, there will be a risk-benefit balance of taking a product that could boost your fertility when you’re trying to conceive and probably have an adverse impact after conception.
There are various considerations you should keep in mind when you are taking fertility herbs recommended by your herbalist vs pre-packaged fertility tea:
Things to consider when using pre-packaged products
Extraction of constituents: Different fertility ingredients require different extraction procedures to ensure the fertility tea contains the key constituents. For instance, herbs like Ashwagandha need to be decocted (boil them gently for about 30 minutes or more) to get the key components.
Dosage: The recommended range for many individual herbs is about 2 to 4 grams a day. A standard teabag contains just about a gram of tea, but this varies widely depending on the fluffiness of the plants. Taking a smaller dose of some of these herbs will not do much. Then again, you might notice a significant change if you take dosses in the recommended therapeutic range. Sometimes the herb dosage can be as high as 15g a day, depending on the tea formula.
Storage: When hands are not stored properly, they lose their potency and can even grow bacteria. Excessive exposure to light or heat is also known for damaging teas that can stay fresh for about 3 to 12 months after drying.
Like all over-the-counter fertility supplements that are regulated, it is crucial to have a discussion with your healthcare provider to know what’s right for you before you start taking anything new.
Can you rely on fertility teas to get pregnant?
If you’re wondering whether you should take fertility teas to improve chances of conception, it’s important to understand what science says about this. But before we explore the findings around various fertility teas, you should know some essential limitations to the research:
Most of the fertility teas are designed as proprietary tea blends luck research to support them. However, there is a vast body of literature behind each of the individual ingredients you will find in some of them and why the ingredients can be helpful.
Studies in this area tend to be complicated due to the words that are used. For instance, the term fertility teas can be defined as abroad collection of herbs that originated from many cultures (like Ayurvedic, Chinese, indigenous/natives, etc.) and are administered in many ways.
Herbal medicine is not easy to study due to the constant changes in the practice, lack of clear proof on what administration technique is most efficient, need for a standard potency and testing standard, and the complexities in identifying symptom patterns unique to each herbal treatment.
Regardless of all these challenges, studies in this area have been growing over the years. Here is a detailed breakdown of the key ingredients included in the popular fertility teas you will find in the market today. We shall first examine the ingredients with more evidence and end with the ones that haven’t been studied much.
Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus)
Chasteberry is from the chaste tree popularly known for improving reproductive health, including premenstrual stress syndrome. Although cleaning solutions do not recommend Chasteberry for fertility, the research shows that this ingredient has yielded promising results. Most of the studies looked at the component in the supplement form, not as fertility tea.
- A review of 33 studies done in 2014 found that the Chasteberry herbal extracts can effectively improve the length of a woman’s luteal phase, increasing progesterone production and menstruation regularity. Both of these benefits help enhance fertility in women with irregular cycles. The downside is that it may make it difficult for you the body to absorb iron from food.
- Two small studies by the same research team noticed improved pregnancy rates for women who took supplements with Chasteberry and other ingredients.
With all this said, not enough evidence shows a formal clinical recommendation to use Chasteberry to enhance fertility. Besides, there’s a possible risk linked with using it as you undergo IVF treatment. A case report revealed that it could cause ovarian hyper-stimulation. Taking Chasteberry can also be risky for pregnant women or women with hormone-sensitive conditions.
Since there is not enough evidence on this ingredient, and it does impact hormone-sensitive conditions, it is better not to take it unless it’s recommended by a trained healthcare professional or herbalist.
Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa)
Black cohosh can have a positive impact on fertility. Historically, it was used to ease menopause and premenstrual syndrome symptoms, induce labour, and could have some effect on fertility.
A systematic review done in 2021 revealed that black cohosh can improve hormone regulation and uterine lining thickness than clomiphene citrate when used by patients who are managing infertility with PCOS. The study involved three randomized controlled trials, which found higher conception rates for individuals who use black cohosh with clomiphene citrate (Clomid). Researchers also noted that there were concerns of bias in some of the concluded studies – similar effects were not shown by the clinical evidence for women with PCOS.
Red raspberry leaf (Rubis idaeus)
The Raspberry leaf is packed with nutrients such as iron and is sometimes known as the women’s herb. Herbalists have used it to treat gynecological problems since the early 16th century. There is anecdotal evidence of its ability to help with fertility but no clinical evidence to prove it.
A systematic review was done in 2021 that focused on the link between raspberry leaf and pregnancy identified. Some studies spoke about the leaf’s possible impact on uterine muscle. The studies were done only on animals, so there’s no evidence to demonstrate their effect on humans. Those who conducted the research also did not find clear benefits for pregnant women – the leaf might not be recommended during pregnancy.
Nettle leaf (Urtica dioica)
The nettle leaf is a stinging leaf that’s rich in nutrients. Some traditional health practitioners have used it to enhance fertility in women, even though there is little clinical evidence that supports this.
Although there are claims that consuming nettle leaf can decrease testosterone levels – this is known to enhance fertility in women with polycystic ovary syndrome – no research can back it up at the moment.
A 2014 study investigating this claim found that little supplementation (not the leaf found in teas) was no more effective than the standard treatment for high androgen levels. Researchers also concluded that the herb might have the potential to help, but more studies were needed.
So, whether you opt to take nettle leaf fertility tea or not, you shouldn’t take it while pregnant.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
A systematic review done in 2018 examined Ashwagandha, a primary herb in the Ayurveda practice, and its relation to fertility revealed some conflicting evidence. Ashwagandha can prove to be helpful when it comes to enhancing fertility, but it may also have the opposite effect. Although they have can help improve semen quality in men and follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone levels in women, animal studies show some spermicidal impacts that could lead to infertility. To conclude the investigation, researchers made it clear that further studies are required to examine how this herb should be extracted and the most suitable dosage for increasing fertility. Also, Ashwagandha may be unsafe to take while pregnant.
Green tea (Camellia sinensis)
The antioxidants found in green tea can be beneficial for fertility. Although green tea is not caffeine-free, it may play a vital role in enhancing outcomes for both men and women.
Another 2017 review found that green tea can impact the vascular endothelial growth factor, a substance in the blood that was known to promote new blood vessel growth. The decreasing vascular endothelial growth factor is ideal when you’re trying to limit blood flow to a tumour. Still, it’s not suitable for the maturation of the ovarian follicles (these are the sacs that develop and release eggs from the ovary).
We do not know the suitable dosage to help attain fertility benefits from the antioxidants in green tea.
Tribulus (Tribulus terrestris)
Findings around Tribulus herb have shown some positive impact in boosting the fertility of a mouse, but there isn’t enough evidence to establish if it is effective for humans. One animal study demonstrated an increase in sperm motility for the mice. The evidence in human subjects also showed a marked enhancement, but it remains unclear if it’s significant in mice.
Peppermint leaf (Mentha piperita)
Currently, there is no evidence supporting the claim that peppermint leaf can increase sex drive, which in turn boosts the chances of conception. But, spearmint is known to have properties that reduce androgens in females with PCOS. Since the study was a small-scale one, the researchers warned against the clinical application of the findings as it’s not clear.
Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis)
Lady’s mantle herb has been used for a long time in Ayurveda and traditional European medicine. While there are some claims that the herb can help with fertility and general menstrual disorders, it wasn’t easy to find any published studies that link it with fertility – or general mental health. What’s more, it’s not recommended to use a lady’s mantle while pregnant.
Whether you choose to use fertility teas to enhance your chances of conceiving or not, the responsibility lies on you and your physician. As you can see, the evidence around the commonly sold fertility teas is limited. While there is a possibility that the ingredients offer benefits, other constituents in the fertility tea may cause some severe side effects.
That said, some herbs can also interact with supplements or medications you may be taking. So unless your healthcare provider confirms that the fertility will not cause any harm, then the decision to take it will be yours to make.
If you want to get the benefits of some herbs for fertility, you may talk to a trained herbalist alongside your healthcare provider. Always be honest with your health care team so they can share their recommendations on incorporating alternative treatment to avoid interfering with your fertility goals. Also, the herbs you take should be bought from a reputable herbalist, not any supplier you find online.
Fertility Tea: Do they actually work? Is fertility tea safe while pregnant, and what does the research show? all explained inside