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













March 5, 2014

Change and the Fertile Body

Posted in brisbane, health, life tagged , , , , at 9:10 pm by Margi Macdonald

Planning for a baby, and want to maximise your chances of an easy, natural conception?

Already trying and it’s just not happening?

My friend and peer Peter Kington has some wise, important guidance for you over here

I urge you to take a look, identify the elephant in your room, and change what needs to be changed.


November 21, 2009

Planning for a baby? Deep-nurture can start before your little one’s a twinkle in your eyes

Posted in brisbane, health, life, love tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:02 am by Margi Macdonald

Mindfulness, nutrition, love, the energies of the universe… and our unborn children

An exploration of pre-conception care

There are so many sources of information for couples who wish to conceive, ranging from medical, to naturopathic, through to deeply spiritual, that we could spend a year researching them.

Interestingly, the traditions and science of Chinese Medicine do not have the profile they deserve in the pre-conception ‘manuals’.

So here we go, with some information and guidance from an ancient health science which has always understood that our yet-to-be-conceived and unborn children are more precious than gold and jewels.

We know this, as the uterus has several names in Traditional Chinese Medicine – jade palace and infant palace being two lovely translations. The contributions of men – via the jade sword, also called the ancestral tendon –  are similarly respected.

The invisible anatomy of the qi carrying channels or meridians – along which the acupuncture points are found – includes in women, a channel which links heart and uterus.

And so it must be!  Acupuncturists understand this, and we are careful to help a woman recognise the relationship bewteen her emotions and state of mind, and her uterus and monthly cycles.

The ancient doctors of the East weren’t bad geneticists either. Our medicine identifies and nurtures our most vital Essence – Jing. As well as receiving qi – the energy for life –  from both parents and the universe, sperm and eggs are imbued with Jing which provides us with our birthright and genetic blueprint for life and health. A baby born with ‘good’ Jing will be free of genetically inherited disorders and will grow and thrive wonderfully, with a strong immune system, good digestion, and a vital and active mind and body. Stages of growth and development such as the first teeth, the blossoming of puberty, childbearing and then the slow decline towards old age are all directed by Jing. It’s easy to see why Traditonal Chinese Medicine emphasises preparing both men and women for conception, and nurtures women until long after their babies have arrived. This is achieved through moderation in all things, excellent nutrition, and leading a calm life which in today’s world, might be called ‘work-life-balance’.

Some other things worth knowing:

– sperm take 90 days to form

– sperm counts, sperm quality and sperm motility are declining with each generation

– stress and overwork – both physical and mental – affect our ability to conceive

– waiting until a woman is well into her 30’s before trying to conceive is at odds with our natural fertility – which is more abundant in our 20’s

– life creates life … as long as there are men and women, and love in the world, babies can and will be conceived

Traditional Chinese Medicine has plenty to offer couples who wish to create a child – acupuncture and herbal medicines can make such a difference. So too, can invocations and enquiries to gods, goddesses and saints. Mindfully preparing our home environments with objects and symbols relating to male and female fertility will also enhance our pre-conceptual weeks and months.

This ancient sacred sculpture in Vietnam, embodies both male and female in an uncommon dual representation.

You might like to spend a little time searching for gods, goddesses or saints who appeal to you at this stage in your lives. Fertility and procreation have been so valued and revered in all cultures throughout history, you’ll have no trouble finding the ones who are ‘right’ for you.

My friends and fellow healers at AromaCrystal Energy Therapies also have some fine contributions on this subject.


Staying safe

These pages and the information presented here are not a substitute for the one-on-one care and guidance of appropriately qualified and experienced health professionals. If you are wishing to conceive, or are already pregnant, you must not self-medicate with herbal or other ‘natural’ substances or supplements. Always seek assistance.


Infant image sourced at Wikipedia.

Phallus-breast representation in Vietnam – photo by Margi Macdonald

Content and ideas in this post © Margi Macdonald

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