Chinese herbal medicine: How to move forward in research to assist IVF therapy.

Very few scientific studies have been conducted to explore the use of Chinese herbal medicine in assisting IVF therapy.

The problem:The requirements of research (scientific method) demands standardisation of treatments. By nature, Chinese herbal medicine treatments are however very difficult to standardise. A true clinical approach involves an idiosyncratic selection of herbs based on a diagnostic pattern. Any attempt to standardise Chinese medicine has the tendency to jeopardise its integrity and would render its efficacy to be questionable.

Adding to this problem is the issue of co interaction. To research Chinese herbal medicine correctly, each individual herb would need to be analysed and tested to see whether it co interacts with the various IVF medications. Following this analysis, each of the countless possible variations of herbal formulae would also need to be analysed. Given Chinese herbal medicine formulas are seldom standardised, this would equate to an endless amount of testing. Such research would require much time, patience and above all large amounts of funding.

The solution:For studies where, Chinese herbal medicine is used to assist IVF therapy, researchers should only test the commonly used (or “classic”) herbal formulas. This will allow for greater standardisation. This would also satisfy the scientific method whilst reducing the amount of testing for co interactions with the IVF medication. On adopting this method, only two formulas should require testing, the first to facilitate menstruation, and the second to strengthen the follicular phase.

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