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Seed cycling for fertility: Chinese medicine's perspective

a view from the top cup full of pumpkin seeds (white) and sunflower seeds (black) forming the yin yang sign

When you are trying to plant and grow a seed... eat seeds!

Seeds are nutritious superfoods, especially rich in lignans, a precursor to phytoestrogen, which helps to boost and balance estrogen in the body.

As a disclaimer, while mild hormonal imbalances may benefit greatly from eating seeds, seed cycling alone is not likely to solve more complex causes of infertility, like blocked tubes, or advanced endometriosis.

Seed cycling principles

Seeds are delicious and filled with vitamins, minerals, protein, and healthy fats. They also contain lignans, which are plant compounds that exert a weak hormonal activity. Lignans help reduce the risk of hormonally sensitive cancers, and they lower heart disease.

Depending on where you are in your cycle, consume 2 tbsp of various seeds daily.

From the first day of your period until ovulation (follicular phase)

  • 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds

  • 1 tablespoon of pumpkin seeds

Flax seeds are a superfood, packed with plant-based omega-3 fatty acids.

They moisturize the body and help treat dry skin and dry eyes. Flax seeds and oil can also be used to ease hot flashes, and can lower blood pressure.

Pumpkin seeds are a great source of Zinc.

Zinc acts as a precursor to progesterone, which helps reduce estrogen dominance while increasing progesterone.

From ovulation to your next period (luteal phase)

  • 1 tablespoon of ground sesame seeds

  • 1 tablespoon of sunflower seeds

Sesame seeds are rich in calcium, vitamin E, healthy fats as well as lignans similar to flax. They are relatively high in copper, which is a mineral that acts as a precursor to estrogen.

Sunflower seeds are also rich sources of Vitamin E, as well as copper. They are also a rich source of selenium, which is needed to support thyroid health.

"What if I take the wrong seed?"

Seed cycling is a quite recent trend, and has not been researched very much. As a practitioner, I have a few concerns about the practice.

  • increased stress

Women I see for fertility are already very concerned and stressed by ovulation tracking, BBT charting, sometimes injecting hormones, taking herbs, controlling their nutrition and for some going through IVF. Complex things such as seed cycling can lead patients to more anxiety about taking the wrong seed at the wrong time.

  • is it the timing or is it the overall nutritional value?

Some women claim that cycles improved, that they noticed better cervical mucus, and that fertility was restored. The question is: were these improvements because they ate specific seeds on specific days, or because they nourished their bodies well and were mindful? Until more research is done, I lean towards the latter.

I tend to believe that all seeds can and should be eaten daily, by the handful, at any time of the cycle.

What does Chinese Medicine have to say about these seeds?

Pumpkin, flax, and sesame seeds are used medicinally. They are cited in Chinese medicine textbooks as ingredients, even though they are not typically prescribed for fertility formulas.

Flax seed, 亚麻籽 ya ma zi

Sweet and bland in flavor, they enter the lung, liver, and large intestine channels. Their therapeutic actions are to moisten dryness of the skin, hair, and even to moisten dry stool.

黑芝麻 Black sesame seeds are used medicinally, while white sesame seeds are used for cooking.

Sweet flavor, they enter the Liver, Kidney, and Large Intestine channels.

Their therapeutic actions include moisten the skin, and lubricate the intestines. They are blood tonics and are considered to be deeply nourishing.

We use them for patients with blurred vision, dizziness, fatigue, and dryness, or for insufficient breast milk.

Sunflower seeds, 向日葵籽 xiang ri kui zi

Sweet in flavor and neutral in temperature, they are used as remedy for dysentery, and to expel pus. Mostly, sunflower seeds are used for food and oil, not for medicinal formulas.

Pumpkin Seeds, 南瓜子 nan gua zi

They are a medicinal herb which belongs to the group of antiparasitics. The whole seed is used, including the husk. Other actions include them as a remedy for insufficient lactation.

Formula Cycling : fertility support the Chinese way

In Chinese herbology, we use herbal formulas made from seeds to support fertility. We like the idea of using seeds to generate “seeds.” When we are treating a woman with diminished ovarian reserve or a man with low sperm count, we are encouraged to include seeds.

A seed packed formula : Five Seeds for Nourishing the Ancestors

In Chinese medicine, when we are treating fertility, we are always concerned about a patient's deep energy reserves and constitution.

We address the "epigenetics" or the expressions of genes you were born with. Using acupuncture, Chinese herbal formulas, diet, and relaxation, we help to restore energy that’s depleted.

Wu Zi Yan Zong Wan is a very balancing formula, neither too warm nor excessively cooling. It is very safe, and appropriate for long term use.Additionally, 5 of the 3 seed ingredients benefit the eyes, making it helpful for age-related vision problems.

  • 菟丝子 tu si zi Cuscutae Semen

  • 枸杞子 gou qi zi Lycii Fructus

  • 覆盆子 fu pen zi Rubi Fructus

  • 车前子 che qian zi Plantaginis Semen

  • 五味子 wu wei zi Schisandrae Fructus

Adapting herbal formulas to the time of your cycle

At taproot, we follow the gynecology principles out of Nanjing university of Chinese medicine, where I was trained. Each phase of the cycle will be targeting different hormones with different formulas. At the minimum, you will receive a formula for follicular phase and one for luteal phase, following the same principles as seed cycling!

Further reading

No matter where you are in your

woman's health, fertility, pregnancy & mothering journey,

if you need support, we can help.

In addition to our own team of fertility & women's health acupuncturists, we are well-connected within the Los Angeles- Pasadena area community to help you find the right integrative and holistic care for you.

On our website, you can learn more about our services, and book an appointment.

If you have more questions please call our front desk, at 626-841-2991, or email us.


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