Herbs to Increase Sperm Count, Volume, Motility, and Overall Sperm Health

Male factor infertility is a big deal. A 2017 meta-analysis that reviewed 185 studies and over 40,000 men in North America, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia found that sperm count has declined more than 59% from 1973 to 2011.

While a 2021 study raises concerns over this 2017 study, the fact remains that reproductive endocrinologists (aka fertility specialists) nearly unanimously acknowledge that 50% of infertility cases are caused in part or in full by male factors.

Some experts, like Dr. Paul Magarelli, report that “by the time a couple reaches a fertility clinic for help, roughly 60-70% of cases are attributed to male factors.” That’s because female infertility is widely treated (and often successfully) at the OBGYN level, whereas male factors are almost never treated before entering a fertility clinic.

So what do herbs have to do with any of this?

While true that many with male factor infertility will need IUI, IVF, ICSI, or even more extreme measures like PESA or TESA sperm extractions, the fact remains that there are many things a man can do to increase their sperm count, volume, motility, and overall sperm health.  Regardless of trying naturally or with treatments, most experts agree that men should be proactive in their health and take steps that can increase their sperm health.

Interestingly, many herbs have shown promise for their ability to increase sperm count, motility, and more. As such, this article will review a number of herbs that may help increase male fertility.

Ashwagandha May Increase Sperm Count, Motility, and Volume

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a medicinal herb native to India that’s been used for thousands of years as part of the traditional Indian medicine known as Ayurveda. While many parts of the pants are used, most of the beneficial properties and preparations come from the root. 

One placebo-controlled study of 42 men showed that taking 675 mg of ashwagandha per day for 90 days significantly increased key fertility measures in men with low sperm count.

Compared to levels at the start of the study, the 90-day treatment of ashwagandha increased sperm counts by 167%, motility by 57%, semen volume by 53%, and testosterone by 17%.  Such improvements were not detected amongst those who received a placebo treatment.

Stress is another way in which this ayurvedic herb may help improve sperm health.  Stress is certainly an attributor to male infertility, and the stress that comes with a diagnosis of infertility can often make the problem worse. Chronic stress can negatively impact testosterone and LH production which are critical for sperm development .  

Many studies have demonstrated the deteriorating effects stress has on sperm. Similarly, a number of studies have shown that ashwagandha can play a significant role in managing stress.

In one double-blind, randomized, and placebo-controlled study, participants with a history of chronic stress who took 600 mg of Ashwagandha daily for 8 weeks had a 27.9% reduction in serum cortisol levels. In addition to this reduction in this key stress biomarker, those who took ashwagandha scored 44%, 72.9, and 71.6% lower on various stress and anxiety scales.

Another study of those taking only 240 mg of the ashwagandha herb for 60 days showed similar results with a 23% reduction in morning levels of cortisol and strong associations with reductions in anxiety and stress.

A meta-analysis of five studies backs these studies up further, showing those who take this ayurvedic herb have better levels of stress and anxiety.

Shilajit

Shilajit is a naturally occurring tar-like substance that is taken as a supplement and another “herb” used in ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years.

It is reported to have many different benefits for male fertility. One study that looked at men with less than 20 million sperm saw notable increases in several sperm parameters after taking Shilajit for 90 days. Of the 28 men who completed the study, a 61% increase in sperm count and a 12-17% increase in sperm motility were noted.

Another study looking at how Shilajit may help men with low testosterone found an increase in total testosterone by 23% and an increase in free testosterone by 19%.

Another unique way in which Shilajit may enhance male fertility is through its synergistic effects on CoQ10. CoQ10 is a molecule that fuels cellular energy by boosting mitochondrial function and has potent antioxidant activity. Likely due to these properties, CoQ10 is also well studied and known for its ability to help increase sperm count, motility and more.

One study that looked at muscular ATP levels after strenuous exercise in mice split into four groups: CoQ10 + Exercise, Shilajit + Exercise, CoQ10 and Shilajit + Exercise, and Exercise Alone (control). ATP is the energy currency used in biological systems, and as mentioned, CoQ10 is involved in energy production. 

The study showed that while the CoQ10 and Shilajit groups both had elevated ATP levels compared to the control group after exercise, the CoQ10 and Shilajit combined group had even higher levels of ATP. In fact, the post-exercise CoQ10 + Shilajit mice had nearly the ATP levels of pre-exercise control mice.

Tongkat Ali

Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia) is a tree shrub found in Southeast Asia that is commonly used as a traditional herbal medicine for a variety of ailments.

Similar to the above-mentioned herbs has the potential to help increase sperm count, motility, and other measures of male fertility.

One study of 75 men with low sperm concentration, decreased motility, and abnormal sperm morphology attending a fertility clinic in Malaysia found that taking 200 mg of Tongkat Ali per day improves sperm motility and count.

While the results differed slightly each month compared to baseline, count, motility, volume, and morphology improved significantly in most instances.

tonkat ali herb increases sperm count, motility, morphology and volume

During the course of the treatment, there were 11 spontaneous pregnancies, 6 of which took place in the first month and 5 in the second month.

Other studies have shown similar promising results.

Fenugreek

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is a short herb-like plant that has been used for thousands of years as traditional medicine and in foods as a common spice in Indian dishes.

One study of 50 male volunteers aged 35-65 taking 500mg of a patented Fenugreek extract standardized to 20% protodioscin noted that 85.4% of the studied population showed increases in sperm count, and 14.6% showed increases in sperm morphology.

That said, these males were not necessarily infertile to begin with, and research on Fenugreek and male fertility is quite limited.

Tribulus Terrestris

Tribulus Terrestris, also known as puncture vine, goat’s head, and more, is a small leafy plant widely distributed throughout the globe.

The fruit, as well as the root of the plant, have been used for a long time in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Indian Ayurveda medicine.

In an in vitro study where human sperm from 40 healthy males was incubated with extracts of the Tribulus Terrestris herb, both sperm motility and count were enhanced.

Another study that is likely more applicable to those with male factor infertility studied 65 men with abnormal sperm parameters. Participants who were given 250 mg of Tribulus extract demonstrated significant improvements in sperm concentration and motility.

Still, there is very limited research on Tribulus Terrestris and its effect on male fertility.

Maca Root

Maca root is a plant native to Peru that has been used traditionally to enhance male fertility and libido.  Known scientifically as Lepidium meyenii, Maca is sometimes referred to as Peruvian ginseng.

Maca is actually a cruciferous vegetable and thus related to broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and other common vegetables. It has a long history of culinary and medicinal use in Peru and has recently gained substantial popularity in both powder and capsuled forms as a supplement.

The main edible and medicinal part of the plant is the root which is usually dried and consumed in powder form, though it can also be taken in a capsule or as a liquid extract.

A small study of 9 healthy men taking 1500 or 3000 mg of maca root found that after 4 months, semen volume, sperm count, and sperm motility were all improved.

A meta-analysis that looked at 5 small studies, including the one mentioned above, supported the idea that Maca may indeed improve sperm quality in infertile and healthy men.

Male Fertility Supplements with Herbs to Increase Sperm Count and Motility

While you can certainly run out and get all of these herbs separately to try and help improve your sperm health, some may find it helpful to turn to a single product that contains a few of these herbs along with other powerful vitamins and nutrients that have been shown to increase male fertility.

Molecular Fertility’s Male Preconception+ is CNY’s go-to male fertility supplement as it combines a hefty dose of Ashwagandha and Shilajit with other key nutrients like CoQ10, Zinc, Selenium, Lycopene, two types of Carnitine, NAC, and much more.

Other Helpful Tips:

Get some sleep 

Everyone seems to know the importance of a good night’s sleep, but you may not know that your sperm are quite dependent upon it. Several relatively large studies have found that sleep duration and quality to correlated to sperm motility, concentration, sperm count, and morphology.

Avoid toxins 

Men today are much more likely to be exposed to environmental toxins than just about any time throughout human history, and a multitude of studies have suggested toxic exposure is quite the detriment to sperm health.

Toxins are in food, cookware, bottles, and cleaning agents we encounter every day. It can be tough, but try to limit the use of products known to contain toxins and be mindful of the food you consume and how it’s prepared.

Quit smoking 

Smoking seems to be bad for just about every aspect of human health, so is it really a surprise that it is absolutely detrimental to sperm health. A multitude of studies have shown this unsurprising fact, so if you’re still smoking, it’s best to try and stop and seek professional help if needed.

Limit drinking 

Similar to cigarette smoking, heavy alcohol consumption is also linked to poor sperm motility, count, and more.

If you are a heavy drinker, we suggest stopping; if you don’t, there really are no amounts of herbs that can help your sperm.

Get some sun 

Around 40% of adult males in the U.S. suffer from Vitamin D deficiency.  Similar to other vitamin deficiencies, vitamin D is important for fertility and levels have been linked to sperm motility, count and more.

If you don’t get much sunshine, it’s likely recommended that you supplement with some.

Get Some Antioxidants

Fruits have a host of antioxidants that have been shown to increase male fertility, but they are also loaded with sugar that has some negative consequences on sperm.

For this reason, it may be better to get your sperm-enhancing antioxidants in supplement form. As mentioned above, the Male Preconception+ is our go-to and is loaded with antioxidants, nutrients, and herbs to increase sperm motility, count, and overall health.

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking for herbs to improve your sperm health, you’re on to something. A number of herbs have been shown in studies to increase sperm count, motility, morphology, and other aspects of male fertility.

Sperm take approximately 70-90 days to develop, so be sure that measures you take to increase your male fertility are done consistently for as long as possible to ensure your sperm are developing that entire time in an optimal environment.

Remember, though, that it’s always important to consult with a healthcare provider prior to taking supplements and that even with a healthy dose of sperm-boosting herbs, you may need the help of a specialists and fertility treatments to help you get pregnant.

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