Healthy Sperm: 3 Types of Treatments for Male Fertility

Many factors affect healthy sperm in men, causing low sperm count. This article discusses the three main treatments for boosting male fertility.

A young man lying on the bed, looking tired

Even healthy young men with a strong libido may encounter issues in producing healthy sperm. Take Richard (not his real name), for example. When he was younger, he would apply pressure to his penis during masturbation to physically prevent ejaculation.

By the time he got married, he was producing little or no semen during sexual intercourse. The condition caused him and his wife to remain childless for many years.

He eventually consulted a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner and was diagnosed with retrograde ejaculation. This condition happens when the nerves and muscles in the bladder don’t close during orgasm, causing semen to go backwards into the bladder instead of out through the penis.

Retrograde ejaculation usually results in low sperm count or oligospermia, a common cause of male infertility. In TCM terms, preventing ejaculation over a prolonged period will cause qi (vital life energy) stagnation and reversed qi flow. This obstructs the semen’s normal pathway, disrupting the flow of healthy sperm.

Disorders that Affect Healthy Sperm

Retrograde ejaculation is just one of the many sperm disorders that lead to male infertility. Other conditions like infections or inflammatory diseases – e.g., mumps after puberty – hormone or pituitary gland problems, immune issues as well as genetic diseases, such as cystic fibrosis or hemochromatosis sperm can lead to low sperm count.

From a TCM’s perspective, other factors may include erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation as well as liver or kidney dysfunction. Environmental and lifestyle factors can also play a significant role. For instance, smoking, heavy alcohol intake, using marijuana or steroids, or exposure to toxins can prevent men from producing healthy sperm or ejaculate normally.

Fortunately, many men have found ways to address these conditions successfully. In Richard’s case, he went for twenty sessions of TCM treatment, which included herbal medication, tui na (medical massage), and acupuncture on the third lateral line of his forehead every two days. The results were promising. At the end of his twenty sessions, clinical tests showed that his semen production and sperm count were both near normal.

Sperm Count Problems According to TCM

Given the cultural importance of continuing the family line, TCM has time-honoured treatment protocols for treating infertility, both in males and females. Akin to Western medicine, a low sperm count diagnosis in TCM — fewer than 15 million sperm per millilitre of semen — is based on clinical symptoms and the results of semen analysis.

Both Western medicine and TCM also agree on the strong correlation between sperm count and age. TCM practitioners interpret this primarily in relation to the kidneys, which store kidney qi or essence, and control reproduction, and to a lesser extent, the health of the liver and spleen.

According to the Huangdi Neijing, the fundamental doctrinal source for Chinese medicine for the last 2000 years, the kidney qi of a 16-year-old male is abundant; tian kui (fertility essence) helps his reproductive capabilities to mature, and he is able to have children. At 40, kidney qi begins to decline, while kidney essence starts to deplete. After 48, the body’s yang vital essence and kidney qi will decrease and may make it difficult for him to have children.

Problems occur when men who should be at their prime find that the health of their sperm – their sperm count as well as the morphology and motility of the sperm – is too weak to conceive a child successfully. This could be due to several factors, from medical, physiological, or psychological to lifestyle choices.

3 Types of Treatments for Healthy Sperm

The good news is, there are several types of treatments available that can help men restore healthy sperm production: 

1. TCM Herbal Treatments

In TCM, the resulting imbalances in our internal system will cause four primary syndromes. Treatments depend on which syndrome is at play:

  • Liver stagnation and kidney deficiency syndrome

Treatment involves relieving the stagnation and improving qi flow by nourishing and harmonising the liver and kidneys with herbs like Chaihu Shugan San (柴胡疏肝散) and Wuzi Yanzong Wan (五子衍宗丸).

  • Spleen and kidney deficiency syndrome

The treatment principle is to nourish qi and blood using the herbal remedy Sheng Jing Tang (生精汤).

  • Kidney deficiency and blood stagnation syndrome

This treatment emphasises promoting blood circulation to dispel stasis. Herbal remedies like Shaofu Zhuyu Tang (少腹逐瘀汤) and Wuzi Yanzong Wan (五子衍宗丸) nourish the kidney and clear the semen pathway.

  • Damp heat accumulation syndrome

The herbal remedy Si Miao Wan (四妙丸) treats this syndrome by clearing heat and dispelling dampness in the kidneys and liver (lower jiao).

Beyond the specific herbal remedies that a TCM practitioner prescribes, patients can also make soups and teas with natural ingredients. These include Chinese yam (淮山), Chinese Foxglove Root (生地), prepared Radix Rehmanniae (熟地), wolfberry (枸杞子), mulberry (桑葚子), Fructus Rosae Laevigatae (金樱子), Fructus rubi (覆盆子), and Fructus ligustri lucidi (女贞子).

You can also try Morinda Officinalis root, which helps improve reproductive functions in men and women. These herbs can aid in nourishing kidney essence. However, it is advisable to consult a qualified TCM professional before starting any treatment regimen.

2. Acupuncture and Tui Na

Masseur massaging the back of a man while he relaxes
TCM treatments for male fertility include a combination of herbal formulas, acupuncture and tui na massages.

TCM practitioners often use herbal remedies in conjunction with acupuncture and tui na. “In practice, we select different acupoints on the Ren Mai, Du Mai, the three yin (passive energy) meridians that belong to the spleen, kidney, and liver meridian, which are often the affected organs related to infertility,” Physician Kong says. “We usually apply pressure to acupoints in the lower abdomen and sacral regions as treatment is more effective when the healing sensation reaches the perineum and pubic area.”

3. Western Treatments

There are several Western treatments for sperm or male infertility issues. These include:

  • IVF (in vitro fertilisation) with ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection)
  • hormonal treatment
  • antibiotics
  • surgery
  • artificial donor sperm insemination

Among these, IVF has a high rate of success for both men and women. By combining IVF with ICSI, the success rate is even higher for men with low sperm count.

Combining Treatments for Healthy Sperm Count

A loving couple relaxing on a sofa and spending quality time
Lifestyle factors like good family relations, a balanced diet, and a healthy sex life contribute to healthy sperm production.

TCM works well with Western medical treatments by nourishing the essence, kidney and spleen and relieving liver stagnation. “Many patients seek TCM treatment to complement tests and treatments they are currently receiving from their doctors,” Physician Kong notes. “I have observed that this combined approach has a distinct advantage over treatment with Western medication alone. In addition, TCM is relatively safe and effective with minimal side effects.”

Lifestyle factors are also an integral part of the holistic approach that TCM takes. Physician Kong advises patients to maintain a positive mood and good family relations, have a healthy sex life, and exercise regularly. It’s also important for men with this condition to not overexert themselves and reduce the intake of cigarettes and alcohol, as well as other harmful substances.

Male fertility and lack of healthy sperm are problems not something most men are comfortable discussing. However, you should talk to a doctor or TCM practitioner as soon as possible if you are silently suffering from sperm issues. Ultimately, don’t give up trying for a baby. There are many treatments available that you can consider to boost your chances of conceiving a child.

This is an adaptation of an article, “Boosting Male Fertility with TCM”, which first appeared on Eu Yan Sang website.

References

  1. Urology Care Foundation. What is Male Infertility? [Accessed on 3 November 2021]
  2. John Hopkins Medicine. Male Infertility [Accessed on 3 November 2021]

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