Acupuncture and Infertility
Acupuncture can be used to boost both female and male infertility. For female infertility, it can be used on its own, in conjunction with herbal medicine or along with western medicine such as IVF and other assisted reproductive treatments. For male infertility, both acupuncture on its own or with herbal remedies can be beneficial.
How does acupuncture work to boost fertility
Acupuncture regulates hormone function. It increases blood supply to the ovaries and uterus and helps relax muscles which can improve the chances of the embryo implanting. Acupuncture works on the causes of Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and treats the symptoms, a common cause of infertility in women. Acupuncture generally helps stress and aids relaxation.
“In a study of 160 women, published in the reproductive journal Fertility and Sterility, a group of German researchers found that adding acupuncture to the traditional IVF treatment protocols substantially increased pregnancy success.”
Traditional Chinese medicine treatment for female and male infertility 
When used in conjunction with western fertility treatments, acupuncture increased conception rates by 26%. A recent study from Tel Aviv University reports ” when combining IUI with traditional Chinese medicine treatments, 65.5% of the test group were able to conceive, compared with 39.4% of the control group, who received no herbal or acupuncture therapy.” For the 4.5 million couples experiencing infertility each year, acupuncture may be just what the doctor ordered.
Acupuncture can increase fertility by reducing stress, increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs and balancing the endocrine system. The goal of an infertility treatment from a Chinese medicine perspective is not just to get pregnant, but to stay pregnant and have a healthy baby.
Acupuncture can provide better blood flow to the ovaries and uterus, creating a stronger chance for the egg to be nourished and carried to term.
40% of infertility is caused by problems in the female, another 40% by problems in the male, such as low sperm count or motility. The remaining 20% is unknown factors.
Acupuncture works to reduce stress, a contributory factor in both female and male infertility. When people are under stress, the hormone cortisol is released in the brain. This alters the brain’s neurochemical balance, changes hormone levels and upsets the pituitary balance that is a key to the reproductive cycle.
Due to the balance between the hypothalamus, pituitary and reproductive glands, stress can adversely affect ovulation, it can also cause spasms in the Fallopian tubes and uterus, which can interfere with implantation of the fertilized egg. In men, stress can reduce sperm count and motility and cause impotence. Both acupuncture and herbal medicine can reduce stress by reducing cortisol levels and by releasing endorphins, this can help in both female and male infertility.
Infertility can also be caused by an imbalance in reproductive hormones. In women, high levels of prolactin can prevent ovulation and reduced levels of progesterone reduces the ability of the fetus to attach to the uterus. Low testosterone in men can reduce sperm motility and production and cause erectile dysfunction.
Acupuncture and herbal medicine can stimulate the hypothalamus to balance the endocrine system and its hormones.
Research shows that acupuncture can significantly improve the quality and health of sperm. In a study published in Fertility and Sterility in 2005, researchers analyzed sperm samples from men with infertility of unknown cause before and after acupuncture treatment. They found that men who had acupuncture treatment had fewer structural defects in the sperm and increased numbers of normal sperm.
Acupuncture in conjunction with western medical treatment 
Many women use acupuncture to boost their chances of IVF, IUI and other western medical treatments for infertility such as the drug Clomid, working. Acupuncture can begin at any time during fertility treatment, before starting to take any oral or injectable drugs to help prepare the body, during the drug treatment to help deal with side effects such as nausea, moodiness and fatigue and to boost the effects of the drugs and also during IVF cycles.
I treat many women and men for infertility and have helped many couples conceive. Some I treat with acupuncture or acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine who choose not to have western medicine intervention to regulate their menstrual cycle, restart ovulation, treat PCOS, unblock fallopian tubes etc. and men to increase sperm count and quality. I also treat many women before and during IVF cycles to improve the chances of it working, a number have had unsuccessful cycles before who then go on to get pregnant when they combine acupuncture with the IVF. I have had many cards, thank you letters and photographs of beautiful babies after successful acupuncture and herbal treatments.
Herbal remedies is not just found at the herbalist’s but also in your kitchen cupboard. Winter is a prime time for colds and coughs, there are many herbal remedies that can help and many of the medicinal herbs involved can be found in your herb and spice racks. Delicious recipes that fight off colds and coughs can be made from easily sourced fruit and vegetables.
More than 90% of coughs and colds are caused by viruses, these do not respond to antibiotics and can be treated much more effectively by natural foods and herbal remedies. Many people swear by the herbal remedy Echinacea and there have been a number of research studies into the medicinal uses of this herb. Garlic is interesting, a study of 146 people showed that those who ate garlic every day for three months caught fewer colds. Garlic has both antimicrobial and antiviral properties. There is a wonderful soup that would ward off any cold called “Five onion soup”, which includes onions, shallots, garlic, leeks and spring onions that is both tasty and medicinal.
Natural Herbal Remedies
Many people take Vitamin C supplements to prevent colds and coughs, however, it is far better to get Vitamin C (and most other Vitamins) from natural sources such as food, herbs and spices. When you eat foods rich in Vitamin C you are also getting a range of valuable antioxidants and the Vitamin C is easier for the body to access.Many fruits and vegetables are rich in Vitamin C such as oranges, satsumas, lemons, pineapples, mangoes, kiwi fruits and berries as well as vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, courgettes, celery and peppers and herbs like parsley and watercress.
If you have a nasty cough or are choked up with the cold herbal teas that can help are: fennel, marjoram or oregano, thyme and peppermint. These can be used as individual teas or mixed together as herbal infusions.
The Herbal Doctor
The medicinal uses of most common culinary herbs and spices are the same across the different herbal traditions of Chinese herbal medicine, Western herbal medicine and Ayurvedic medicine.
Spices are wonderful warming herbs that are both medicinal and add flavour to winter cooking.
Ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin and nutmeg can be added to soups, stews and baking as natural herbal remedies.
Ginger belongs to the Zingiberaceae  family and is closely related to turmeric, cardamon and galangal. Ginger contains Gingerol a substance with powerful medicinal properties. It helps digestion, reduces nausea and helps fight colds and flu. In Chinese herbal medicine it is also used for pain relief; abdominal, menstrual and muscular.
Turmeric is one of the present day super foods. it contains bioactive compounds with powerful medicinal properties, the most important of which is Curcumin. Curcumin has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant. It is very effective in fighting off colds and flu as it is both antibacterial and antiviral. In Chinese herbal medicine it is also used for muscular and joint pains, especially those aggravated by the cold and wind.
Soups and stews, particularly those using warming root vegetables like carrots, parsnips, swedes and potatoes can be jazzed up with these herbal spices, particularly ginger, cinnamon, turmeric and nutmeg and made into natural, delicious herbal remedies.
Acupuncture is a well established and effective treatment for back pain, alongside osteopathy, chiropractic, physiotherapy, massage therapy and exercise such as yoga.
I have been involved in a research programme on “Non-specific mechanisms in Orthodox and Complementary Therapies (CAM) management of low back pain”  based at the University of Southampton for the last six months. This study covers the treatment of all kinds of back pain, including osteoarthritis, sciatica and fibromyalgia.
It is known that different types of treatment can help patients with low back pain. Parts of the treatment such as the physical environment or the therapeutic relationship between the patient and their practitioner can influence how successful a treatment is overall. The main aim of this study is to find out which of these other factors most influence treatment success for patients with low back pain. It also compares how these other factors vary in their importance across the different methods of treatment of acupuncture, osteopathy and physiotherapy.  The results of the study should help improve treatments in the future by showing practitioners how they can improve their practice.
Acupuncture for back pain
back pain
The study into treatment for back pain at Southampton University comes at an opportune time when NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) has recently questioned the use and efficacy of osteopathy, chiropractic and acupuncture in the treatment of acute lower back pain. Hopefully the study will give back some credence into the efficacy of these drug free treatments. However, NICE does recommend exercise in all its forms (stretching, strengthening, aerobic and yoga) as the first step to managing lower back pain and sciatica. It also recommends massage and manipulation to be used alongside exercise.
NICE has only questioned the use of these treatments for the condition of acute lower back pain. It still recommends acupuncture for the treatment of the following conditions:
1. Persistent lower back pain
2. Chronic tension type headaches
3. Migraines
4. Chronic pain such as neck pain, tennis elbow, frozen shoulder and knee pain
5. Joint pains
6. Dental pain
7. Post operative pain
8. Rheumatoid arthritis
9. Period pains (dysmenorrhoea)
So there is still plenty of recommended scope for the use of acupuncture, especially in pain relief.