Chinese medicine (CM) has been used in clinical treatment for thousands of years in China, Japan, Korea, and other countries. CM is at present attracting many attentions around the world for reproductive health care and disease prevention, including treatment of female infertility. This review focuses on the CM treatment for female infertility patients, and supplies a summary on the efficacy, safety, and mechanism of some Chinese herbal medicines, herbal medicine-derived active compounds, and acupuncture. A large number of researches have reported that CM could alleviate or even cure female infertility by regulating hormone, improving reproductive outcome of in vivo fertilization, affecting embryonic implantation, curing polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, relieving mental stress, and regulating immune system. Meanwhile, a few studies claimed that there was little adverse reaction of CM in randomized controlled trials. However, up to present there is a lack of adequate evidences with molecular mechanistic researches and randomized controlled trials to prove the CM as an effective and safe treatment for infertility. Thus, utility of CM as a complementary medicine will be a feasible method to improve the outcome of female infertility treatment.
Infertility is a common condition. Because of traditional Chinese concepts that emphasize the importance of consanguinity, infertility has been a problem long recognized in Chinese history. The subject of infertility was addressed in the I-Jing, written some 3,000 years ago. The Nei-Jing, written during China’s Warring States Period, described the mechanisms of infertility. Afterward, the library of knowledge on infertility steadily grew and became more sophisticated. The causes of female infertility in Chinese medicine include congenital deformity, menstruation abnormalities, organ dysfunctions, disturbances in the Qi or blood, malfunctions in the Chong or Ren meridians, emotional effects and the compression of concretions or conglomerations. Based on symptoms and mechanisms, female infertility can be classified into five patterns, including congenital deformity, kidney vacuity, liver depression, phlegm-damp and blood stasis. Chinese medicinal therapies for female infertility include Chinese herb drugs with pattern identification, artificial menstruation cycle therapy, single formula therapy, combined Chinese and Western medicine therapy, acupuncture and moxibustion. The relatively large range of therapies, while a hallmark of Chinese medicine, also points up instabilities in treatment outcomes. Thus, determining the most effective therapy is the most important point of clinical studies.