Medieval Infertility Treatments Used to be Insane

Kathleen's picture

Does a goblet of dried ground pig testicles mixed with wine sound appetizing to you? How about boiled catnip taken on an empty stomach for three days? Do you think your husband would object if you suggested that his penis be gently beaten with rods and plastered with pitch?


According to Catherine Rider, senior lecturer in medieval history at the University of Exeter, these were all infertility treatments that were popular in England during the 12th-14th century. Her research was published in the Social History of Medicine Journal. Despite the archaic forms of treatment that are outlined in this paper, the medieval physicians did get one thing right. In the Trotula, a widely circulated 12th century text on gynecology, “conception is impeded as much by the fault of the man as by the fault of the woman.”


In a study just released last month in the journal Human Reproduction Update, a systemic review and analysis of findings between 1973 and 2011 found that the concentration of sperm in the ejaculate of men in western countries has fallen by an average of 1.4% a year, with an overall drop of 52%. While there are no definitive conclusions being drawn as to why sperm concentrations are falling, researchers are speculating that weight gain, lack of physical activity, smoking, and exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals may have an affect.


A study published in the Journal Of Huazhong University of Science and Technology tracked 22 male patients with idiopathic male infertility who had undergone a failed invitro fertilization (IVF) cycle with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). ICSI is a procedure in which sperm is injected directly into the egg to aid fertilization during IVF. The men were treated with acupuncture twice weekly for 8 weeks, followed by an ICSI treatment again. Normal sperm ratio improved by 4.9%. Sperm motility improved by 7.3%. However, most notably, fertilization rates improved by 40.2%

Unlike the practice of drinking ground pig testicles with wine, acupuncture and herbal therapy are ancient forms of healing that have withstood the test of time and medical scrutiny. In my clinical practice, I have found male factor infertility to be hugely affected by excess weight, nutritional deficiencies and stress.


According to Canadian government statistics, roughly 16% (or 1 in 6) of couples in Canada experience infertility. 30% of the time, the cause is due to a male factor issue. This is why I often suggest that both partners should be receiving treatment. At Acubalance, we say that it takes three factors to create a healthy baby: a healthy egg, a healthy uterus and a healthy sperm. All three should be taken into account when addressing issues of infertility.


Let’s continue the conversation! To schedule a 15 minute complimentary phone consultation, give Acubalance Wellness Centre a call at (604) 678-8600.