Ayurveda has a wonderful perspective on male and female fertility. Procreation is seen as the ultimate creative act and the most potent driving force in our human destiny.

Fertility is seen as the sum total of all optimally digested foods and experiences. The logic is based on the principles of Ayurvedic anatomy and physiology. Ioptimum fertility involves the quality of the digestive fire, the quality of the tissues and the free flowing nature of the channels. When these are all functioning properly then the reproductive tissues can be nourished and fertility can take its course.

Food enters our stomach where the digestive fire turns it into the essence of food. From here it flows through the different tissues where they take up what nutrients are necessary for them to function efficiently. Below is a list of the tissues and their functions:
1. Plasma tissue: Rasa dhatu
Function: Giving pleasure (prinana), nourishing the blood, moistening the skin and mucus membranes, protecting and preserving
2. Blood tissue: Rakta dhatu
Function: Giving vitality (jivanam), giving colour, nourishing the muscle tissue
3. Muscle tissue: Mamsa dhatu
Function: Binding the body together (lepen), strengthening, nourishing fat tissue and waste products.
4. Fat tissue: Meda dhatu
Function: Oleating the joints, producing sweat, nourishing the bone tissue
5. Bone tissue: Asthi dhatu
Function: Giving support and nourishing the nervous tissue
6. Nerve tissue: Majja dhatu
Function: Giving oleation, filling the bones and nourishing the reproductive tissue
7. Reproductive tissue: Shukra dhatu
Function: Generating reproductive fluids, producing an orgasm, achieving conception, strengthening the body and creating fondness.

Maintaining fertility
Optimising fertility is one of the delicious arts of Ayurveda. There are certain foods and herbs that have an affinity for the reproductive system that anyone wanting to enhance their fertility could include in their diet. These are usually foods that have qualities of sweetness, nourishing and building. Examples include
• Nuts: Almonds, walnuts and pumpkin seeds
• Dairy: Milk, cream, ghee
• Seafoods: Seaweeds
• Flowers: Roses, saffron, jasmine, flower pollen
• Fruits: Dates, pomegranates, grapes
• Herbs: Organic Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Shatavari (Asparagus racemosa), Kapikacchu (Mucuna pruriens), Gokshura (Tribulus terrestris), Bala (Sida cordifolia)

Treating infertility
Problems with infertility can arise when nutrition does not reach the reproductive tissue; this can happen due to under nutrition, poor digestion or obstruction due to toxins. Infertility can also arise when the reproductive tissue is over taxed or damaged by infection or trauma
General considerations
• Understand both partners’ Ayurvedic constitution (vata, pitta, kapha)
• Clear any obstructions or blockages
• Tonify any weaknesses
• Ensure that the digestive fire is strong
• Ensure that the nervous system is relaxed
• Being loving and loved is the best tonic for fertility

Female fertility
The Ayurvedic view of the menstrual cycle:
Average menses are considered to be 4-5 days, moderate flow, moderate colour, no clots, no discomfort.
Kapha phase: End of bleeding until ovulation is a time of building the endometrium and increasing kapha. (Oestrogen is increasing).
Pitta phase: Ovulation until bleeding. (Progesterone is high and is secreted by the corpus luteum - prepares endometrium for implantation and breasts for milk secretion).
Vata phase: The period; Apana vayu (the downward descending wind) pushes the menstrum down and out, therefore emptying the contents of the womb.

If there is any disturbance in these phases then they need to be balanced. The main problem with the female menstrual cycle is that the downward descending energy (apana vayu) becomes blocked. This causes all sorts of fluctuations from pain, bloating, dryness, scanty periods, irregular cycle, clots, infertility, anxiety and insomnia. The strategy for establishing a balance is to first clear any obstructions and then to tonify with nourishing and boosting herbs.

Tips to balance the menstrual cycle:
1. Ensure that there is no obstruction in the pelvic cavity; this means making sure you are not constipated and have no pain during ovulation or menstruation- use organic Triphala and organic Aloe vera to help with this.
2. Daily self-massage with warm organic sesame oil followed by a warm shower or bath. Focus on a clockwise abdominal massage for 5 minutes a day.
3. Take organic Aloe vera juice throughout the cycle from day 7 until day 21 to cleanse and nourish the tissues.
4. Take organic Shatavari capsules to boost fertility and normalise menstruation.
5. Drink a tea made from organic fennel seeds, licorice, saffron and fresh ginger.
6. Drink organic rose water regularly as it prepares the uterus for implantation.
7. If there are any menstrual irregularities try Pukka Herbs Shatavari Plus that contains herbs that regulate ovulation and promote a healthy cycle.
8. Use the insight of Ayurveda into the phases of the menstrual cycle to promote your health.
• Balance vata during the vata bleeding phase by relaxing, resting, staying warm and calm. Especially keep your abdomen warm and avoid the cold.
• Balance kapha during the proliferative phase by eating nourishing soups that strengthen the blood and enhance ovulation- include beetroots, aloe vera, shatavari, nettles and whole grains in your diet.
• Balance pitta during the last phase of the cycle by keeping off foods that might aggravate heat and stress in your body, i.e. coffee, chocolate, alcohol. Increase your yoga practice, have lots of warm baths and clockwise abdominal massage and increase organic Triphala and organic Aloe vera in your regime to keep the pelvic region uncongested.

Trying to get pregnant can be very stressful and it can be very tense waiting for day 28 to come around. What is important is that optimising your health can facilitate getting pregnant and that this is a full time job, every day of the month. It is easy to say it, but just try to relax and let nature work her course. Also remember that when we are tense then our channels and vessels are constricted, tight and contracted. If this happens then the fallopian tubes, the blood vessels nourishing the uterus and the nervous system can also be constricted, which is the opposite of what is needed to conceive. So, just relax!

These days there is a rise in the use of IVF treatments. This is an ethical decision that both partners need to be involved in as the intensity of the emotional and financial burdens can be taxing
For more serious conditions and longer-term infertility I recommend that you see qualified Ayurvedic practitioner and a gynaecologist.

Male fertility
Male fertility can be caused by from all sorts of sperm defects (low volume, low motility, irregular shape), erectile dysfunction and obstructions (varicocele and prostatitis).

Tips to boost male fertility
There are two basic strategies to optimise male fertility. First clear any obstructions and then tonify the reproductive tissue.
1. If you think there is an obstruction (constipation, dribbling urine, poor erectile function) use herbs such as Gokshura (Tribulus terrestris), Guduchi (Tinosporia cordifolia) and Triphala to clear the blockage. When the path is clear use tonics.
2. Ayurveda has a fantastic repertoire of tonic herbs for improving erectile function, boosting sperm count, strengthening motility and enhancing form. Use Organic Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) and Kapikacchu (Mucuna pruriens) to treat any weakness in sperm count, form or function. Or try Pukka Herbs Ashwagandha Plus that combines a range of herbs to boost male sexual energy and fertility.

If there is a zero or extremely low count it is best to seek advice from a fertility specialist who may recommend ICSI to optimise fertilisation.

Other things men can do to enhance their fertility is to avoid alcohol and smoking, reduce poor quality fats in the diet and increase exercise.

A very useful yogic exercise for both partners is to practice pelvic floor exercises. Just contracting and relaxing the pelvic floor greatly enhances the circulation to the reproductive system. Such practices as mole Banda, ashbin madras and verily madras are famed for enhancing sexual prowess and potency.

My teacher taught me ‘prepare the ground and the seeds will flourish’ and that is the best advice for boosting fertility.

Sebastian Pole is an Ayurvedic and Chinese herbalist. He runs Pukka Herbs specialising in Organic Ayurvedic herbs, teas, capsules and tinctures. View www.pukkaherbs.com for lots of information on Ayurveda.
Contact: 08456 585858 for orders
He runs a herbal practice in Bath: 01225 466944 for appointments.