Expert Opinions

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My friend told me that certain herbs can make me infertile. Is there anything to this?

S.T. Los Angeles, CA
Concerns about certain herbs and infertility were raised last year by researchers at Loma Linda University in California. They did a test tube study that suggested that some commonly used herbs, namely St. John's wort, ginkgo, and echinacea, may impair fertility (Fertility and Sterility, 3/99). The study received a lot of attention despite its poor design. It's important to keep a couple of overlooked points in mind. First, the study tested the effect of these herbs on male fertility, and not female fertility. Second, it was not conducted on human eggs and sperm but on hamster eggs and sperm that were soaked in solutions of the herbs for a period of one week. According to Adriane Fugh-Berman, M.D., chair of the National Women's Health Network, a more clinically relevant study would have used the sperm of men who regularly used the herbs. Many more problems with the study exist. Nonetheless, it can't be denied that there is a lack of research in general on the long-term effects of herbs, including their possible adverse effects on fertility.

For herbs that may help treat infertility, see our Healing Center for Female Infertility..

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