Herbs and Fertility Don't Mix
WebMD News Archive
Aug. 10, 2000 -- Couples trying to conceive may want to stay
away from certain herbal supplements, including St. John's wort, a popular herb
used to treat depression, experts warn.
St. John's wort, echinacea, and ginkgo biloba are among the
herbs that may affect the chances of conceiving, experts say. Men and women who
are trying to become parents should be wary of any herbal supplements and
should talk to a specialist before using them.
According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine,
6.1 million American women and their partners experience difficulty in
conceiving a child. And the most recent estimates show that as many as 60
million Americans reach for herbal remedies on a regular basis.
"Many herbal preparations have been documented to contain
estrogenic substances, which can have an impact on sex-hormone concentration
and fertility in both males and females," says Gilbert Ross, MD, medical
director of the American Council on Science and Health in New York. Estrogen is
the major female sex hormone.
He explains that birth control pills, which also contain
estrogen, interfere with normal hormones to stop ovulation and prevent
"In general, it's an unwise move for a person concerned
about infertility to resort to supplements without first consulting a
reproduction specialist," Ross says.
Richard Blackwell, MD, an obstetrician/gynecologist at the
University of Alabama at Birmingham says in a prepared statement that echinacea
and ginkgo biloba may hurt sperm production and fertilizing capability.
But buyers should beware of all herbal supplements, cautions
fertility expert Masood Khatamee, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics and
gynecology at New York University and the executive director of the Fertility
Research Foundation in New York.
"None of these herbs have been studied. Be very cautious
when using them," he tells WebMD.
"Patients need to be aware that herbal supplements are
medicine and can have an impact on your treatments," says Pamela Madsen,
executive director of the American Infertility Association, a national
nonprofit group headquartered in New York. "No patient should be taking
herbs while undergoing infertility treatments without talking to their