July 15, 2016

Do sperm have a sense of smell, and what’s it got to do with Lily of the Valley and sea urchins?

Posted in brisbane, health, life, love tagged , , , , , , at 8:40 pm by Margi Macdonald

Convallaria_majalis_0002.jpegDuring pre-conception care, one of the things I discuss with couples is the “fertile window“, and that there’s a lot of chemical signalling going on between sperm and the egg.

In these discussions, essentially we’re working to ensure that there will be several million healthy, active sperm waiting in the fallopian tubes before ovulation occurs, quietly communicating with the egg once it’s released.

About ten years ago – or thereabouts – scientists discovered “smelling capabilities” (or rather, an odorant receptor on human sperm). You can read about that here.

Bourgeonal is the sperm-attracting chemical discussed in that article .

Bourgeonal smells floral, green and watery, and is highly reminiscent of Lily of the Valley. How delightful is that?!

A “scent trail” was thought to be laid by the egg for the sperm to follow.

Sperm have a long journey ahead in their quest for the egg cell or ovum, and just a few of the million sperm reach their destination. The ovum supports the sperm in their quest by transmitting “chemical signposts”, known as attractants. Researchers first discovered this ingenious system in sea urchins and found out that attractants control the swimming movement of the sperm by altering their calcium balance. The attraction of the sperm to the egg is referred to as “chemotaxis”. Read more here

Anyway, research continued and scientists concluded  “the ‘Lily of the Valley phenomenon’ is a laboratory artefact: sperm do not have an olfactory signalling pathway.”

*SIGH* it was just becoming exciting and delightful… no more Lily of the Valley.

Then researchers moved onto the hormone progesterone which is produced by the corpus luteum in the ovary, just after ovulation (egg release), and how progesterone activates sperm swimming behaviour.

Swimming! Sea Urchins! Sperm! Flowery smells! Eggs! Hormones!Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 9.55.23 AM

What does all this mean for couples who are planning a pregnancy, or who have been trying for a while, without any luck?

Not much. Don’t stress about bourgeonal or the complex interplay between progesterone and ion channels in sperm.

Natural medicine practitioners help couples understand that conception can be a simple, happy process.

We use low-tech methods to help you identify your fertile window, and to tweak any reversible factors which might affect sperm health and/or the natural ebb and flow of monthly cycles and ovulation.

Don’t bother with Fertility Apps. Most of them miscalculate the fertility window.

Nutrition, lifestyle, mindset, exposure to certain chemicals, exercise and time (yes, good old fashioned time) all contribute to a couple’s fertility.

The one thing which makes me sad and frustrated, is that for too long, the focus has been almost exclusively on the woman, her reproductive organs, and her menstrual cycle.

“Male factors” are just as important, but don’t receive the attention they deserve.

As someone once said “it takes two to tango“.

And I say “keep it natural” and uncomplicated.

(And don’t use Lily of the Valley or any other perfume internally.)


Cautions and care: This blog is for information and education, and not for diagnosis or treatment. If you have concerns about your reproductive or sexual health, please see an appropriately qualified health professional, such as your family doctor.


Lily of the Valley: By H. Zell – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9592154

Sperm: By Mariana Ruiz Villarreal spermatozoa – “based on the one found on the book “Gray’s anatomy” 36th edition, Williams & Warwick, 1980; and a diagram found of the review “Formation and organization of the mammalian sperm head” from Kiyotaka Toshimori and Chizuro Ito. (Chiba, Japan)., Public Domain” https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=699220













February 14, 2014

Valentine’s Day in the Garden

Posted in brisbane, life, love tagged , , , , , at 6:42 pm by Margi Macdonald



… nature has a sense of humour

February 14, 2012

From the Eloquent Garden -Messages from your Heart on this Valentine’s Day

Posted in brisbane, life, love tagged , , , at 8:18 am by Margi Macdonald

The Eloquent Garden takes us away from Valentine’s Day schmaltz and sentimentality and into nature, so rich with meaning and simple beauty.

The Eloquent Garden

I think it’s no co-incidence that so many flowers and leaves are Heart-shaped.

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February 10, 2012

True love. Really?

Posted in health, life, love tagged , , , , , , at 8:40 pm by Margi Macdonald

I abhor the hideous commercialisation and cheap froth of Valentine’s Day.

Life’s too short for scratchy nylon lingerie, when silk, fine cotton and linen brush the skin so…seductively.

Devoid of blushing, voluptuous fragrance, a bunch of modern roses is but an empty gesture.

If the fine-print on a chocolate gift-box lists more code numbers than cocoa solids, cocoa butter, sugar, cream or Cognac one must ask  “are you trying to poison me?

Here’s what reduced me to tears this Valentine’s Day, a good old-fashioned letter of undying love.

How do you celebrate the Day of St Valentine?

How do you create meaning and love in your relationships?

January 15, 2012

Sunday wonders: Souffle de vie

Posted in life, love, music tagged , , at 8:27 am by Margi Macdonald

Strength, grace, tenderness, and one of my favourite instruments- the doudouk.

Souffle de vie: breath of life

May 25, 2011

Natural perfume- artistry and luxury

Posted in fragrance, health, life, love tagged , , , , , , , at 9:48 am by Margi Macdonald

You might like to visit the blog  perfume pharmer, from Monica Miller of Skye Botanicals.

Recently I became a guest reviewer there.

I have the lovely job of reviewing fine, natural perfumes, a task entirely compatible with my philosophy for health and healing.

Pleasure, art, beauty, sensuality… they’re so important, yet in the modern biomedical context, are rarely valued as keys to healing.

So far I’ve reviewed My Gardenia by skilled, sensitive Australian perfumer Ambrosia Jones, of Perfume by Nature and Orchid by esteemed natural perfumer, Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes.

I purchase samples of the perfumes I review; it keeps me objective, and it supports artists who are working in one of the most costly realms of all artistic endeavour.


Image: © Copyright Pete Wise and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

February 24, 2011

Australia, cancer and the rough end of the pineapple

Posted in health, life, love tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 10:53 am by Margi Macdonald

rough end of the pineapple: Australian slang: a bad deal, or a raw deal; the worst part of a bargain

As if a cancer diagnosis isn’t bad enough, we also know that the rigours of treatment are often physically and emotionally scarring, painful, and debilitating.

We also know that with medical advances, more and more people now live with cancer as a chronic illness.

Unfortunately, modern treatments leave many folk with relentless, treatment-induced pain.

In my own work, I’ve seen enough people to know just how difficult and pervasive this type of pain can be.

I’ve also observed that unlike fellow survivors in the USA, Canada and Europe, Australian cancer survivors often struggle with disjointed, poorly diagnosed and poorly managed pain and debility.

I also know that many Australians dealing with cancer are set adrift, unsupported, confused, and unable to receive the benefit of cohesive, clinically sound, complementary therapies of the kind provided at prestigious medical institutions such as MD Anderson Cancer Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, and others.

In 2009 as a member of the Society for Integrative Oncology, I attended the annual congress in the USA, shared inspiring and informative  conversations with health professionals working in the most  prestigious institutions there, and left with a thorough understanding of the many programs of integrative care available in America.

Visit the Society for Integrative Oncology here, and wander through page after page of programs and services available to many Americans.

It really is time Australian Oncologists, Medical Administrators and Health Ministers took a good hard look at what they don’t offer Australians.

Comprehensive, nurturing, supportive, clinically effective, holistic care is still an impossible dream in this country.

We are at least a decade behind other first world countries.



Image: Queen Pineapple Sir William Jackson Hooker 1785-1865

Related post: here



February 13, 2011

Global love and a chocolate-free zone. You know you want it.

Posted in health, life, love, music tagged , , , , at 8:09 am by Margi Macdonald

Kham Wan {Sweet Word} – The Overture

Aaron Copeland, The Tender Land- Laurie’s Aria, Love Duet

Sometimes an Aussie woman just has to throw one in from her teenage years, and admit she still knows all the words

Roberta Flack – The First TIme Ever I Saw Your Face

January 22, 2011

Fresh New and Blue: it’s sing-along-time

Posted in brisbane, health, life, love, music tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:21 am by Margi Macdonald

Round about this time of year, I change the blog’s visual theme.

I have no idea why I hadn’t found this theme in the past, as it sits nicely with my business card, and is so fresh and clean.

In Brisbane this morning it’s fresh, sunny and cool, and there’s a song for that!

Now play the video and sing along. Singing is very, very good for our Lung qi – a vital energy.

Traditional Chinese Medicine understands our Lungs are like a bellows which pumps qi through our bodies. Lung qi also oversees our immunity and assists with fluid metabolism. Grief and loss cause Lung qi to dissipate. So really, truly sing out loud!

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