There has been no safer time in history for a (Western) woman to have a baby. Modern medicine, and it’s practitioners, is geared to support the health and preserve the lives of both mother and child. Not so long ago, thousands of women died each year in childbirth, or lost their babies during labour. In many countries around the world this remains true, and infection following the birth is another major killer.
Children, though, especially in Asian cultures, are seen as a great blessing. There lies an inherent tension – a desire to have children and a fear of losing both mother and child during pregnancy, labour or following the birth. It makes perfect sense, then, as you become more informed about Chinese medicine, to discover the multitude of ways that it can be applied to aspects of women’s health from fertility and menstruation, to speeding up labour, to the management of pain and infection.
According to a paper by Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D, (“Chinese Herbs and Fertility”, http://www.itmonline.org/arts/fertility.htm) there are Chinese records dating back to 200 A.D recording the use of Chinese herbs to help fertility. The use of these herbs most likely stretches back even further as, for many hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, this knowledge was not written down but only passed on by word of mouth.
With no fancy white-painted doctors surgeries and comfy lounge waiting areas to visit, in Ancient China villagers had to rely on medicines drawn from nature, and the knowledge of herbalists and practitioners within their proximity when need arose.
It would be lovely and neat if these ancient doctors had identified a single herb or ingredient to be used as a remedy for various problems, but alas, medicine, as with life, is rarely so simple. Instead there are some 150 different Chinese herbs that are used for women’s reproductive health and fertility, in sophisticated combinations of up to 15 different ingredients, which can be varied based on the specific patient’s need.
Some of these formulas are mentioned in a famous text called Shang Han Lun, which is one of the oldest complete clinical textbooks in the world (written in approximately 220 A.D). The first book devoted solely to gynecology and obstetrics, The Complete Book of Effective Prescriptions for Diseases of Women, was published in 1237 A.D.
Modern investigation is also looking at the benefits of Chinese herbs for specific conditions. Some of the ways Chinese herbs may be of use in female health include:
- Strengthening the reproductive organs
- Regulating the menstrual cycle
- Stopping pain
- Building uterine lining
- Improving egg quality
- Promoting ovulation
- Stimulating oestrogen production
- Increasing cervical mucous
- Improving luteal function
- Supporting the physiology of the fallopian tubes
- Regulation of the hypothalamus-pituitary axis
- Regulating thyroid hormones
- Increasing haemoglobin production
- Lowering Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
In this modern era of mass food production, which is taking it’s toll on food quality and nutrient density, environmental toxins and chemical exposure, which puts extra stress on the human body, and as lives get busier, people are seeking solutions to declining fertility by looking back at ancient remedies. For both male and female ailments Chinese medicine may be the key to future health, and could be worth a closer look.
Vanessa Blake is a freelance writer and health freak with a ridiculous general knowledge of nutrition and the body. No wonder she decided to study for a Diploma of Nutrition in 2003. She also loves yoga.
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