Infertility is the inability of a man to father a child in a fertile woman. It is diagnosed after one year of regular, unprotected sex. It may be caused by:
- Low sperm count
- Low sperm motility
- Ejaculation problems
For some men, the cause may be unknown. Treatment may include medicine or surgery to repair any problems. Lifestyle changes may also help.
Natural therapies may affect sperm motility, count, or concentration in the semen. These therapies do not appear to affect problems with testosterone levels or improve pregnancy rates.
Antioxidants may be part of a treatment plan. Keep in mind that eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables may be more useful than taking supplements.
- Antioxidants in general (including vitamins C and E, selenium, coenzyme Q10, folic acid, zinc, magnesium, n-acetylcystine, or carnitine) —alone or in combination with one anotherA1-2
- Specific Antioxidants that have shown some benefit
Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.
Herbs and Supplements to Be Used With Caution
Talk to your doctor about all herbs or supplements you are taking. Some may interact with your treatment plan or health conditions.
In general, antioxidant vitamins, and minerals are safe when taken as directed. Do not exceed the recommended daily upper intake levels (ULs).
Excessive zinc is toxic and may cause copper deficiency, impaired immunity, anemia, or other serious problems.
A1. Showell MG, Mackenzie-Proctor R, Brown J, Yazdani A, Stankiewicz MT, Hart RJ. Antioxidants for male subfertility. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;(12):CD007411.
A2. Safarinejad MR, Safarinejad S. Efficacy of selenium and/or N-acetyl-cysteine for improving semen parameters in infertile men: a double-blind, placebo controlled, randomized study. J Urol. 2009;181(2):741-751.
Vitamin C and/or E
B1. Suleiman SA, Elamin Ali M, Zaki ZMS, et al. Lipid peroxidation and human sperm motility: protective role of vitamin E. J Androl. 1996;17(5):530-537.
B2. Dawson EB, Harris WA, Rankin WE, et al. Effect of ascorbic acid on male fertility. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1987;498:312-323.
B3. Rolf C, Cooper TG, Yeung CH, et al. Antioxidant treatment of patients with asthenozoospermia or moderate oligoasthenozoospermia with high-dose vitamin C and vitamin E: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study. Hum Reprod. 1999;14(4):1028-1033.
C1. Vicari E, Calogero AE. Effects of treatment with carnitines in infertile patients with prostato-vesiculo-epididymitis. Hum Reprod. 2001;16(11):2338-2342.
C2. Lenzi A, Lombardo F, Sgrò P, et al. Use of carnitine therapy in selected cases of male factor infertility: a double-blind crossover trial. Fertil Steril. 2003;79(2):292-300.
C3. Balercia G, Regoli F, Armeni T, Koverech A, Mantero F, Boscaro M. Placebo-controlled double-blind randomized trial on the use of L-carnitine, L-acetylcarnitine, or combined L-carnitine and L-acetylcarnitine in men with idiopathic asthenozoospermia. Fertil Steril. 2005;84(3):662-671.
C4. Sigman M, Glass S, Campagnone J, Pryor JL. Carnitine for the treatment of idiopathic asthenospermia: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Fertil Steril. 2006;85(5):1409-1414.
D1. Balercia G, Buldreghini E, Vignini A, et al. Coenzyme Q10 treatment in infertile men with idiopathic asthenozoospermia: a placebo-controlled, double-blind randomized trial. Fertil Steril. 2009;91(5):1785-1792.
D2. Safarinejad MR. Efficacy of coenzyme Q10 on semen parameters, sperm function and reproductive hormones in infertile men. J Urol. 2009;182(1):237-248.
D3. Safarinejad MR, Safarinejad S, Shafiei N, Safarinejad S. Effects of the reduced form of coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinol) on semen parameters in men with idiopathic infertility: a double-blind, placebo controlled, randomized study. J Urol. 2012 Aug;188(2):526-31.
D4. Lafuente R, González-Comadrán M, Solà I, et al. Coenzyme Q10 and male infertility: a meta-analysis. J Assist Reprod Genet. 2013;30(9):1147-1156.
Zinc and Folic Acid
E1. Wong WY, Merkus HM, Thomas CM, Menkveld R, Zielhuis GA, Steegers-Theunissen RP. Effects of folic acid and zinc sulfate on male factor subfertility: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Fertil Steril. 2002;77(3):491-498.
E2. Ebisch IM, Pierik FH, DE Jong FH, Thomas CM, Steegers-Theunissen RP. Does folic acid and zinc sulphate intervention affect endocrine parameters and sperm characteristics in men? Int J Androl. 2006;29(2):339-345.
E3. Raigani M1, Yaghmaei B, Amirjannti N, et al. The micronutrient supplements, zinc sulphate and folic acid, did not ameliorate sperm functional parameters in oligoasthenoteratozoospermic men. Andrologia. 2014;46(9):956-962.
Last reviewed February 2019 by EBSCO NAT Review Board Richard Glickman-Simon, MD Last Updated: 2/22/2019