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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[-] 896 Comments
  1. I am currently on Estrogen patches for PCOS and Endometriosis. I am very interested in natural alternatives. Can Vitex be used along with estrogen replacement or should it be in place of? Thank you!

    • Dear Julie P,

      We are not able suggest herbs with medications including hormone patches, unless your healthcare provider directs you in their combination. They are best used apart from one another.

  2. I’m 28yo, recently married and now planning to conceive. I used Vitex for almost 2years now without stopping because I didn’t know that I was supposed to stop taking it for 5days. I primarily used Vitex to help with my intense PMS migraine, which it was able to alleviate. Should I still continue using Vitex? If not, any other recommendations? Thanks so much!

    • Dear Avee,

      We actually do not feel it needs to be stopped for 5 days each cycle. I know this information is out there from other resources, but from our use of Vitex and research, we have learned it’s best taken all cycle long without taking a break. With that, it may be time after 2 years of consistent use to consider weaning off of it (before actively trying to conceive) to see if the body can maintain balance and PMS-free cycles on it’s own. In general we suggest this after one year of use. I would suggest seeking one on one support from an herbalist if you wish to continue using it.

  3. Hello,

    I’m 38 and my husband and I have been trying to conceive for over a year now. We just did our first IUI treatment in January’17 but it was unsuccessful. We have no health issues and I have no fibroids or anything like that. What do you recommend I start taking to increase my chances of getting pregnant? I just starting taking Vitex. I read on one of the comments, other things as MACA and Ashwagandha. Do you recommend? And at what dosage?

    Thank you.

  4. Hello, i’ 31, my last test dated 2 feb, 2017 reveled an high FSH of 54.20, and a high LH of 29.4. I can ‘t have regular period since i was 17 year old. i make contraception for 4 years to have my period without problem.When i wanted to have a baby, i stop it 2 years ago, i never get pregnant. maybe it’s too late with all thoses hormones problems. Can vitex help me.

    • Dear Salous,

      There are many ways to naturally support healthy FSH and LH levels, Vitex is one of them. Because we know that Vitex is able to be more effective when diet and lifestyle are optimal, consider the other tips we share in our guide FSH Levels and Your Fertility. At age 31, you are young, try not to give up hope!

  5. hello,
    can you take vitex , aspirin and heparin together. will vitex stop aspirin and heparin from working.

    Thanks

    • Dear Emetebure,

      Vitex is not known to affect how aspirin and heparin work, but we can not suggest you combine then unless your doctor approves and will guide you. So, please to talk to your doctor about taking Vitex if you are interested.

  6. I’m 40 (already a mother of a 6 year old) trying to conceive and have taken Vitex for 2 months every day, I have recently added evening primrose ( first 14 days of cycle) as well as Ashwagandha ( first 14 days of cycle), I was thinking about adding Tribulus ( day 5-14) and maybe Maca during my next cycle, can they all be taken together? if yes can Maca be taken over the whole cycle? if no , which ones are not compatible?

    • Dear Celine,

      Maca and Tribulus can be taken with Vitex, Evening Primrose Oil and Ashwagandha. This is fine! General suggested use of Maca is 500-3m000mg daily through the menstrual cycle without taking a break.

  7. Please i need your help. I haven’t seen my period for like 6 months now, please can vitex work for me because i want to be pregnent please and i am from Africa Nigeria i don’t know where to get it.

    • Dear Vivian,

      Do you know what has led to your period being absent? The best first step may be to talk to a doctor, have exams and tests, to determine what might be the cause. As you make an appointment, Vitex is an herb to consider learning more about. We share more in our guide How To Get Your Period Back. I hope that guide is helpful!

  8. Hi,
    am 39 and unable to conceive due to multiple fibroids but i don’t want to go for an operation again since i had one already. currently I experience hot flashes. My cycle is irregular. The last time I had my period is 10 December 2016. I very much want to conceive. Can Vitex help to solve my problems? If yes, how can I purchase it since am in Malawi (Africa)?

    • Dear Sara,

      We have seen the power of Vitex, but it won’t be all you’ll want to learn about and consider. Uterine fibroids are estrogen-sensitive, meaning that they respond to estrogen in the same way that the lining of your uterus does – growing in response to circulating estrogen. Excess estrogen in one of the main culprits in causing not only fibroid/polyp growth, but also hormonal imbalance which then causes disordered ovulation.

      Many women live with fibroids without signs/symptoms, and many do not as I am sorry you have had to experience. Thankfully there are herbs, nutritional supplements and natural therapies to Vitex is known to have an effect on the hormonal feedback loop normalizing the entire menstrual cycle including ovulation. Vitex in part supports the body’s natural ability to produce luteinizing hormone (LH) which is the hormone that causes ovulation to occur Consider taking time to learn more from our guide The Best Natural Remedies for Uterine Fibroids…. We know that as important as taking any supplements, are dietary and lifestyle changes to reduce your exposure to excess estrogens. The guide just above shares more on this too.

      The following article may be helpful as well: http://natural-fertility-info.com/daily-tips-for-uterine-fibroids.html

      Best wishes!

  9. I have really bad PMS symptoms. One particular late night I could not sleep because my period was coming. So, I decided to research natural ways to lesson my PMS symptoms. I came across an article on Vitex and purchased a bottle the next day. I have been using it ever since. It hasn’t been a month yet, but I like it so far.

    1. Does it really matter what brand I get? I spend maybe 10 minutes in the Vitamin Shoppe trying to figure it out?
    2. How long you think it can extend the period cycle length? So far, mine is 1 day late. If it doesn’t come by tonight or tomorrow morning then that would be abnormal for me. I keep track of my period on an amazing app called “My Calendar”. Pink book icon!

    • Dear Erica,

      I am glad you like it so far!

      1. Well… your asking an herbalist who makes her own tinctures and has about 40 different/various brands in her possession ;-). What matters is that the Vitex you purchase is Vitex agnus castus berries, that there are no fillers in the capsules; tinctures are most often made with grain alcohol. We prefer herbal supplements made in small batches that are organic, but we know price can dictate the purchase (we understand). So, if you trust the quality of the brand you bought and are seeing change, then it is likely to be just fine.
      2. Some women to see cycle shifts when they first begin Vitex. The range differs really. If you actively tried to conceive, do test for pregnancy before stopping Vitex. If you did not actively try to conceive and menstruation stays absent, be sure to stay hydrated, walk daily, perhaps try Yoga or abdominal massage like Fertility Massage. Typically any shifts from Vitex work themselves out within 1-3 cycles of use.
      2.