what is alternative medicine?
Alternative medicine is any form of treatment that falls outside mainstream medical practice. Basically don’t go to your GP and expect them to administer reiki! Many of the types of treatment that are available for fertility fall under this category and you’ll even find clinics who offer things like acupuncture. You can check out more info on these other types of treatments on the other pages. Here we’ll just focus on alternative medicine that typically involves prescribing some sort of herb or natural remedy. So we’ll be looking at Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda and Homeopathy.
what is Traditional Chinese Medicine?
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is probably the most commonly used alternative option for treating fertility. As you might guess, it originated in ancient China and has evolved over thousands of years. TCM practitioners use herbal medicines alongside various mind-body practices, such as acupuncture, moxibustion, tai chi and qi gong.
what is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda translates as the science of life. Again, it’s thousands of years old originating in ancient India. Ayurevda involves living life according to Ayurvedic principles (like meditating, eating a colourful diet, getting enough sleep etc) and it might involve specific Ayurvedic herbal remedies.
what is homeopathy?
Homeopathy is based on a series of ideas developed in the 1790s by a German doctor called Samuel Hahnemann and uses highly diluted substances to support the body to heal itself.
how does TCM work?
You’ve most likely heard of yin and yang (most commonly used to describe how opposites attract)? TCM uses this principle as well as the five elements (fire, earth, wood, metal, water) and the balance of Qi (the body’s vital energy) to understand what is happening in the body. Your practitioner will then prescribe particular Chinese herbal medicines based on the relationship between these principles. Most of these are herbs made from plants but you might also be prescribed particular minerals or animal products. Most commonly these are combined to create herbal teas to drink but might also be used in the form of capsules, extracts or powders.
how does Ayurveda work?
In a similar way to TCM. It’s based on two principles – firstly that the mind and body are inextricably connected, and secondly, that the mind has enormous potential to heal the body. In a similar way to TCM, an Ayurvedic practitioner will want to understand what is out of balance in the body and they use a system called doshas (or mind-body types) to understand this and prescribe treatment.
how does homeopathy work?
The idea behind homeopathy is that like cures like and that a substance that causes certain symptoms can cure those symptoms if taken in very small, diluted amounts. Again, homeopathy is a holistic approach and will treat the mind and body together.
why is it good for fertility?
Alternative medicines might be used to treat fertility issues directly (e.g. egg/sperm quality, hormone regulation etc) or also to treat other conditions which might indirectly be affecting fertility (e.g. immune system deficiencies, liver stagnation etc).
what else do I need to know?
Sometimes the herbs can take a little getting used to – the smell and taste can be quite strong! You should always discuss your reaction to alternative medicines in detail with your practitioner – they’ll want all the gory details! And it’s important to discuss where you are in your cycle as this will impact which herbs are chosen. It’s also worth asking about different options in terms of how you prepare the herbs. Some practitioners will provide pre-prepared packs of herbal teas that simply need to be heated; with others you may be required to boil the herbs yourself to create the tea which obviously takes a little more time.
As with all alternative/complementary medicine, there is limited evidence about its effectiveness. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide how you feel about it and whether you think it suits you. Do your research and make an informed decision on both the type of treatment and your practitioner. You can search our site for practitioners and read all about them.