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 as 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 luteinizing hormone (LH), which in turn increases progesterone.

Lengthens a short luteal phase: Studies have shown Vitex to be effective 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.

Most hormone related issues that disappear once pregnancy begins and then return after breastfeeding ends can be supported by the use of Vitex.

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 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 an 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 may 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 contraceptives (birth control), due to limited research, Vitex should not be used in conjunction with prescription medications that contain hormones 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 has 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 use. 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 rats given none.

German research shows Vitex can be taken safely through the end of the third month of pregnancy and may help prevent miscarriage. Vitex is still considered safe to take after the third month, but it is thought that it may stimulate lactation too early, so for this reason it is suggested to not continue after the third month of pregnancy. Also, during the third month of pregnancy the placenta takes over progesterone production, so Vitex most likely won’t be needed.

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 of 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. I find that it works best when used all month long and taken as one dose in the morning on an empty stomach.

References:
– Hobbs, Christopher, L.Ac. (2003). Vitex, The Women’s Herb. Summertown, Tennessee: Healthy Living Publications.
– Romm, Aviva. (2010). Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health. St. Louis Missouri: Churchill Livingstone.
– Mills, Simon; Bone, Kerry. (2005). The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety. pp. 333-36. St. Louis, Missouri: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier
– Gardner, Z., & McGuffin, M. (Eds.). (2013). American Herbal Products Association’s botanical safety handbook (2nd ed., pp. 930-931). Vitex agnus-castus L. Boca Raton, Florida: American Herbal Products Association, CRC Press.

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[-] 682 Comments
  1. I am interested in starting to take vitex as I am dealing with secondary infertility and candida. I take a lot of other supplements including:
    A multi-vitamin
    Vitamin D
    Folate
    Magnesium
    Red Raspberry Leaf
    Candex

    I also take Synthroid in the morning. Is this OK to take with all of these? Can I take it with my Synthroid in the morning?

    Thanks!

    • Dear Annalee,

      Fertilica Vitex can be taken with a multivitamin, vitamin D, folate, magnesium, Red Raspberry leaf and Candex, but please talk to your doctor before using it with your thyroid hormone.

  2. Is vitex fine to help to conceive even if period is regular?and also is it safe if I also take levotyroxine?

    • Dear Marianna,

      Fertilica Vitex can be consider for menstrual cycle regulation even if your period itself is regular. It is best to consult your healthcare provider about combining Vitex with medications including thyroid hormones.

  3. I started using vitex and Maca both capsules about a little over a month ago after loosing a 20week twin pregnancy. Since I started using them, I must say I have noticed a significant increase in libido as well as increase in cervical mucous which is great because I used to be very dry no matter what. But this is my concern, I’m on my second cycle since giving Birth in may and I noticed my period has been very light (a little more than spotting) and not bright red which is unusual as my periods used to be somewhat heavy plus, it has lasted over my normal 5days. Is this normal? Ttc as soon as. I just need and advise.I take the vitex 1tab 3x daily for the first 8weeks as instructed on bottle. It is 400mg and a Nature’s way brand and after 8weeks to take 1caps/daily

    • Dear Derah,

      I am so sorry to hear of your loss!

      Menstruation can change after pregnancy (no matter the outcome) and can shift temporarily when first beginning the use of herbs that are known to influence hormonal balance. My professional opinion is that there is no need for concern as you work to achieve balance. Maca and Vitex can both be fairly fast acting, but clinical research shows that it can take Vitex 6 months+ to show full benefits. Considering sticking with your program, which we feel should include a wholefood Fertility Diet, moderate daily exercise and stress management.

      The additional tips in our guide 5 Steps To Decreasing the Chance of Recurrent Miscarriages may be helpful as well.

      All my best!

  4. Can Vitex be started at any point during your cycle, or should you begin at particular cycle day? (My goal is to increase progesterone and diminish premenstrual spotting. Cycle is regular, 28-29 days. Spotting occurs 5 days prior. 21 day progesterone blood test came back at 7.5)

    • Dear Melissa G.,

      Fertilica Vitex can be started on any cycle day and is best used each day of the menstrual cycle (without taking a break) for a minimum of three months time, up to 6 months to a year.

  5. I have slight PCOS and have periods very irregularly and recemtly very rarely. I really would like to conceive. Is vitex a good idea? Where can I purchase it? And are there any regular daily vitamins that I should not take if I take Vitex?

    • Dear Jane,

      Fertilica Vitex may be a valuable tool for you, but with PCOS there is more to consider. PCOS is a complex endocrine system disorderi which the coordination of the production of and delivery of hormones to where they need to go within the body isn’t happening properly.

      Consider learning important information in this article titled How to Reduce the Damaging Effects of PCOS on Fertility Through Diet and Herbs.

      It is important to support your body in re-learning balance by promoting healthy hormonal balance, a healthy uterine lining, regular ovulation, improved estrogen metabolism, reduced cravings for sweets and improved digestion all of which you will learn how to do in the article above.

      Many other herbs can be combined with Fertilica Vitex, as can nutritional supplements. We suggest against combining hormonal medications with herbs that can also impact hormonal balance (like Vitex).

      I hope this is helpful!

  6. Hello, I am 30, and since going off the pill 3 years ago, I have charted my cycles, and I’ve consistently had a 9-10 day LP. In addition, I also always spot for about 5 days before I get my period. My progesterone levels tested ok. I decided to try it out this month, hoping to get rid of the spotting. I took one, 250mg capsule on cycle days 8 & 9. I took it in the morning before breakfast and by afternoon I had bright red bleeding on both days. It was light bleeding, but still blood. It freaked me out, and I stopped taking vitex. Did I overreact? was it actually working? I already have a lot of spotting during the month and definitely do not want any more.

    • Dear Abby,

      It is hard for me to answer your questions. I have not heard of Fertilica Vitex at 250mg one time per day being that fast-acting. It often takes several months of use to see its effects. Could this have been ovulation spotting rather than from Vitex? When do you ovulate each cycle?

      It would be best to work with one of our fertility herbalists to offer a clear holistic perspective on your situation to analyze and assess properly. She will then be able to share what it will take to bring your body back into balance. It is helpful for her to know your lifestyle, health history, fertility challenges and detailed questions, etc. Our Fertility Herbalists offer this detailed support through a Fertility Consultation.

  7. Is it ok to use Vitex, dong quai and DIM together?

  8. Hi, when researching how to take Vitex, you are either told to have a break from it when your period comes or take it everyday without a break. Can you please explain whether I should take it everyday and why this is best? Just trying to get my head around the reasons behind why there are 2 different theroies. Thanks

    • Dear Amy,

      Our site’s founder, through her research of Vitex and use of Fertilica Vitex with clients, has learned that for those with hormonal imbalance and menstrual cycle irregularities, Vitex is best taken daily at a general suggested dose of 900-1000mg first thing in the morning with water. As with many herbs, there are different suggested uses based on each practitioners research and use of them with clients.

  9. Hi, I’d like to start Vitex, as I had a miscarriage 3 months ago & my periods since then have been very light. I have a history of PPD and PPA and have been experiencing anxiety/depression when my period hits. Once ovulation hits, it totally goes away and I feel great until the next period comes. I believe low progesterone is directly linked to my mood. Would this be a good supplement for me, or wouldn’t it b/c of the depression/anxiety factor? I’d think it would be good b/c low progesterone=low mood and high progesterone=good mood for me, but I saw a statement saying taking Vitex may exacerbate depressive symptoms so I thought I should check. Thank you SO much!

    • Dear Jennifer,

      I am very sorry to hear of your loss!

      Vitex may not be the go-to herb for you unless you can be monitored in its use at a proper dose for your individual needs. I say that because while Vitex is a very safe herb, it has been found that some women who have a history of depression may experience an exacerbation of their depression symptoms when taking Vitex. The only way to know if Vitex will exacerbate symptoms for you is to try it. That of course would be entirely up to you!

      Another way to supplement progesterone directly is by using natural progesterone cream. Our Progesterone Fertility Guide shares more information about it and considerations to make.

      Light, bright red menstruation may also be a sign of a lack of circulation to the uterus (called a ‘cold uterus’ in Traditional Chinese Medicine). This may be helped by these herbs and natural therapies like:

      Dong quai
      Self Fertility Massage
      Castor Oil packs

      I hope this is all helpful!