The effects of a Chinese herb, Cornus officinalis (shan zhu yu), on the motility of human sperm was studied. An aqueous extract was prepared from the dried fruits of the herb and used in this study. The crude extract at a final concentration of 0.5 microgram/microliter in phosphate buffered saline (pH 7.4) increased sperm motility from 25.8 +/- 7.7% to 42.8 +/- 10.3% (i.e. 68% increase, n = 7), as determined by the computer-aided-sperm-analysis (CASA) method. The crude extract was fractionated by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) into four fractions: C1, C2, C3 and C4. Their effects on sperm motility were further studied by CASA. Only the C4 fraction showed substantial stimulatory effects on sperm motility. At a concentration of 5 ng/microliter, C4 increased the sperm motility from 15.7 +/- 3.8% to 34.5 +/- 6.4% (i.e. 120% increase, n = 6) by CASA and from 14.9 +/- 4.3 to 28.5 +/- 8.1 (i.e. 91% increase, n = 8) by transmembrane migration ratio (TMMR) method. This result suggests that C4 is the active component in Cornus officinalis that enhances sperm motility.