Vitex… Fertility Super Herb?

Vitex… Fertility Super Herb?

Article Overview

Vitex is a beautiful shrub native to Greece and Italy whose berries have been used in herbal medicine for centuries. It is considered one of the most popular herbs in Europe and other Western nations for the support of gynecological imbalances.

Modern clinical research and traditional use of vitex have shown its amazing ability to help balance fertility hormones. Since vitex does not contain hormones it has a supportive, gentle and non direct action on the body. Vitex is one of the most useful fertility herbs available to us.

How Vitex Works

Our current understanding of vitex is that it has a supporting and regulating effect upon the pituitary gland. The pituitary is known as the “master gland” because it controls many vital bodily functions such sending chemical signals to the ovaries, telling them how much hormones to make. This communication is known as the hormonal feedback loop.

Vitex has been shown in studies to:

Vitex is one of the best fertility herbs available to us when it comes to balancing hormones and regulating the menstrual cycle.

Inhibit follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH): Vitex increases the secretion of luteinising hormone (LH), which in turn increases progesterone.

Lengthens a short luteal phase: Studies have shown vitex to be affective at lengthening the luteal phase. While it does not contain any hormones itself, it does help the body to increase its own production of luteinizing hormone (promoting ovulation to occur) which in turns boosts progesterone levels during the luteal phase of the cycle.

Increased progesterone levels: Vitex has been shown to stimulate the formation of the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum is responsible for the secretion of progesterone. In a study of 45 women, 86% responded positively with normalized or significantly improved progesterone levels.

Reduces advancement of mild endometriosis: Vitex is used in Germany by gynecologists to treat mild endometriosis and prevent it from advancing.

May help prevent miscarriage: Vitex has a beneficial impact on progesterone levels. If miscarriages are due to low progesterone, vitex may help to normalize or increase progesterone levels. Vitex may be considered safe to use during pregnancy, but make sure to consult with a healthcare practitioner when using this herb during pregnancy. Also make sure to read our ‘Use During Pregnancy’ section below.

Relieves PMS: Clinical research has shown that vitex may be very beneficial for PMS symptoms, especially depression, headaches, rashes, acne, allergies and sensitivity of the breasts. In one study improvement of PMS by the first month was experienced by 32% of the women. By the third month 84% of the women experienced improvement of their PMS.

Lack of menstruation (amenorrhea): In a study of 15 women with amenorrhea, 65% had resumed a menstrual cycle by the sixth month of use. Progesterone levels also increased.

Irregular menstruation: Vitex has been shown to help balance both an absent menstrual cycle as well as aid a menstrual cycle that is heavy or too frequent.

Uterine cysts: Vitex has been found to be helpful at reducing cysts that are growing within the smooth muscle layer of the uterus.

Stabilization of menstruation after stopping birth-control pills: After discontinuing estrogen-containing birth control pills, vitex taken for several months has been shown to help stabilize the cycle and induce ovulation more quickly.

Helps stimulate milk production in new mothers: For over 2,000 years vitex has been used to help stimulate mother’s milk. Begin using vitex right after birth and continue for 10 days or more as needed.

Acne: Several studies have shown an improvement in the skin with the use of vitex. Along with appropriate diet changes vitex may help acne.

Vitex can help basically any issues that one experiences that disappear once pregnancy begins and returns after breastfeeding ends.

How to Use Vitex

For optimal results vitex should be taken long-term. Clinical research shows that vitex may start working within 10 days, but full benefits may not be experienced until 6 months or longer. For PMS results are normally seen by the second menstrual cycle. But for lasting changes it may need to be taken for up to a year or more depending on how long the imbalance has been present.

Vitex is making fundamental changes in the delicate chemical chemistry of the body, this is why it takes some time to have an effect. Since vitex is a harmonizing and nourishing herb, it works  behind the scenes to restore balance in a gentle way. Unlike a refined synthetic drug which forces the body to change, vitex works to nourish and support the system bringing about long term balance.

Vitex use & Dosage
Vitex is generally suggested to be taken once a day in the morning on an empty stomach (half an hour before breakfast). If vitex is being used as part of a herbal blend containing other herbs, use as directed on the bottle. Vitex should be used all month long without a break.

  • Capsules: 900-1,000mg a day
  • Tincture: 60-90 drops a day

Which is the best vitex to take?
Vitex comes in many forms, loose herbs, capsules, tea, tincture and powder. We find that capsules and tincture offer the most consistent results since it is easier to control the dosage. Many of the compounds needed from vitex are easily extracted in alcohol (tincture) versus water (tea). Vitex is very strong tasting, almost bitter, so I would not suggest making a tea unless you blend other herbs with it, that is one reason capsules are so convenient.

Does Vitex Work for Everyone?

Vitex generally works for most adult women in their childbearing years (from age 18-perimenopause), but there are some cases where it may have no effect.

Women who have less than ideal lifestyle habits will probably not experience the full effects of vitex. For those who have low energy reserves, weak immune systems, eat mostly processed foods, have been on antibiotics or steroids for a while – changes in diet and lifestyle are necessary prior to beginning the use of vitex. Without making these changes in addition to using vitex, you may not experience results.

Perimenopause is the time leading up to menopause. Perimenopause typically begins at the age of 40. As perimenopause progresses toward menopause, it is normal for menstrual cycles to become irregular and for hormone levels to fluctuate. As ovarian reserve diminishes and egg health declines, FSH levels may rise. For some women vitex may be helpful in maintaining regular cycles and lowering higher FSH levels, but vitex cannot reverse the aging process. It may or many not be effective for women in perimenopause, each woman is different. Vitex cannot bring back the menstrual cycle in women who have gone through menopause.

Safety & Side Effects

Vitex has been used for over 2,000 years with no significant side-effects reported. Some minor and infrequent side-effects (1-2% of users may experience) have been nausea, gastrointestinal upset, skin reactions, and headache. Women with a history of depression taking vitex for menstrual irregularity may experience an exacerbation of depressive symptoms.

Even though it has been shown to have no interference with oral contraceptive vitex should not be used in conjunction with prescribed progesterone containing medication such as birth control pills in case it may interfere with their activity.

Some women do experience a shift in their cycle when they first begin using vitex. The length of the menstrual cycle may shorten or lengthen temporarily before it finally stabilizes. This is just the body balancing itself out and is completely normal.

Safety ratings

  • German Commission E has approved the use of vitex for menstrual cycle irregularities, premenstrual disturbances, and mastodynia.
  • The Botanical Safety Handbook had categorized vitex as a class 1 herb . Class 1 herbs are herbs that can be safely consumed when used appropriately.

Vitex use During Pregnancy

It is believed that vitex’s ability to increase progesterone levels has explained the positive results seen by herbalists and midwives who used it to help prevent recurrent miscarriages in women. No studies on humans have been done yet supporting this, only traditional usage. There have been reproductive toxicology studies with female rats where they were given up to 80 times the concentrated used clinically in humans, showing no difference in offspring compared with the rates given none.

According to German research, vitex can be taken safely through the end of the third month of pregnancy and may help prevent miscarriage. It is still considered safe to take after the third month, but may stimulate lactation too early, so for this reason it is suggested to not continue after the third month of pregnancy. Also at month three of pregnancy is the time the placenta takes over progesterone production on its own so vitex most likely won’t be needed anyways.

If you are deciding to use vitex during pregnancy, we suggest you consult with an herbalist or midwife for guidance and supervision.

Summary

Vitex is a fantastic herb for fertility, helping with a range if issues such as PMS, low progesterone, lack of ovulation, irregular menstrual cycles, lack of a menstrual cycle, acne and so much more. Vitex offers many benefits but requires patience and consistency of use. It should be used all month long and taken as one dose in the morning on an empty stomach.

References
1. Hobbs, Christopher. Vitex, The Women’s Herb. 2003
2. Romm, Aviva. Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health. 2010

Comments

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[+] 115 Comments
  1. My luteinizing hormone level is high – 24.8 and FSH level is also high – 24.6 Progesterone and estradiol are low everything else is good. Would Vitex be useful in possibly leveling my hormones to possibly conceive easier and would you recommend it to someone 49 years of age, diabetic (orally controlled) and bipolar. Thank you and have a good day!

    • Elizabeth Willett, MA, CH

      Hello Yvonne!
      Vitex works to support female hormone balance overall in women. It does not hone in on one hormone alone, rather supports the balance of them all.
      Vitex generally works for most adult women in their childbearing years (from age 18-perimenopause), but there are some cases where it may have no effect. Learn more under the heading in this article Does Vitex Work for Everyone? It is best to consult your healthcare provider or naturopathic doctor to guide you in properly using herbs with prescription medications as well.

  2. Hi,
    It took me 16 month to conceive my son, I previously had very irregular cycles and took vitex which helped and I finally fell pregnant. My period s returned when he was 12 months and was regular and I was ovulating and no spotting. Two months ago we decide to try for a second baby and I stopped breastfeeding at 17 months ( had been down to only one feed before bed for a few months) the two cycls since then I have ovulated and then began spotting about two days later that lasts until I get my period. I’m frustrated that my body is now doing this after being so good, I have bought vitex today to try but was wondering what you thought was going on and if vitex would be useful.
    Thanks

    • Elizabeth Willett, MA, CH

      Hello Sj!

      When you completely stop breastfeeding a number of hormonal shifts happen and Vitex is one herb specific to female hormone balance that may be supportive. There also can be any number of reasons for Mid-Cycle Spotting that you might want to learn about. Be patient with your body as it works to find balance!

  3. Can vitex be used with DHEA

    • Elizabeth Willett, MA, CH

      Hi Peggy!
      Vitex can be taken with DHEA yes, but I do have to share that we don’t support the use of DHEA without being supervised in doing so by your healthcare provider. It has been found that pure DHEA may convert into the wrong hormones within the body possibly contributing to hormone imbalance. Learn more here if you would like…

  4. What’s the difference between Vitex Menopause and Vitex Fertility?

    • Elizabeth Willett, MA, CH

      Hello LaTanya!
      Vitex, also know as ChasteTree berry, generally works for most adult women in their childbearing years (from age 18-perimenopause), but there are some cases where it may have no effect. Vitex cannot bring back the menstrual cycle in women who have gone through menopause. There is not one Vitex for those who are menopausal and one for those who are fertile and seeking to balance their hormones or support a fertility issue they may have. I am sorry if this was not made clear!

  5. Hi. My doctor has said that it is ok for me to stop taking Metformin (used for regulating my periods) and switch to Vitex. I am wondering a few things. I have a period only every 3 months when I am not on metformin. can I expect this to come back as the vitex builds up in my system?

    • Hi Kristin,

      To be honest there is no way for me to know for sure if Vitex will regulate your cycle or not. It is great your doctor is okay with you trying natural alternatives. I can let you know that in my experience with this herb, Vitex is an herb that requires patience and consistent use to be effective. It can take many months to achieve desired results, of which may be a regular cycle and regular ovulation. Typically vitex really starts being truly effective between month 6-8 of use and may be used long term, for around 18 months before needing to take a break, to see how the body is functioning on its own, without the vitex.

      I hope this answers your question!

  6. I am almost 35 in September to be exact. Ive had 2 miscarriage in a time frame of 2 years and been ttc for a year almost. My FSH in May was 18.3 and in july 13. Will Vitex help me conceive and lower my fsh?
    Testing was done in May on the second day of cycle and came to 18 fsh and again this month second day of cycle result 13fsh.

    • Elizabeth Willett, MA, CH

      Hello Maria!

      In general, for menstruating women, the normal follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) levels during the follicular or luteal phase should range between 5 and 20 IU/L (international units per liter). However, many doctors believe a FSH level higher than 10-15mIU/ml may indicate diminished fertility or diminished ovarian reserve.
      Vitex supports hormone balance by encoraging luteinizing hormone production while mildly inhibiting the release of FSH. This indirectly boosts progesterone production and chances of achieving and maintaining a successful pregnancy.
      It may be an herb to consider. You might also take time to learn more about FSH Levels and Your Fertility here…