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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[-] 1,009 Comments
  1. Hi, I’m 26 years old and have been TTC for 2 years now in July, post IUD removal. Prior to IUD, I was on Depo for about a year. I have regular periods that last for about 4-5 days but have trouble pin pointing ovulation (tests & EWCM) I’ve recently started taking 2 – 1000mg capsules of Vitex/day and 1 – 500mg capsule of Maca Root three times day.
    Questions:
    Are my doses of both Vitex & Maca ok?
    Should I begin prenatal pills as well?
    Can I take Vitex during my period?
    Anything else I should check for before resorting to infertility testing/treatment?

    Sad & discouraged but praying for a miracle.
    Thank you!

    • Hi Alex!

      Thanks for reaching out for support!

      1. General suggested use of Vitex is 900-1000mg daily. We can’t suggest more than that really, so it may be best to consider less. General suggested use of Maca is 500-3000mg daily. Starting at 500mg is just fine. See how it goes and then if you want to increase, you could.

      2. A whole food multivitamin is a good thing to consider (a prenatal would be fine too). It’s an easy way to ensure you are getting nutrients daily – a back up plan if you will for a healthy diet.

      3. Fertilica Vitex can be taken all cycle long with out taking a break. It is fine to take during a period.

      Our guide titled Fertility Tip: How to Enhance Fertility After IUD Removal may be helpful as you think more about further testing. Know that hormonal balance takes time. It may take a few cycles to detect ovulation. Trust your body is strong and working very hard to balance again.

      I hope this is helpful!

  2. Hi,
    I started taking Vitex that is infused with Dong quai, 600mg (that is the required dosage on the bottle) last month. My cycle normally lasts 28 days but last month it lasted 32 days after i started taking Vitex. Now this month i am on CD 34 with no AF and BFN. Please advise whether Vitex elongates a cycle. how long should i wait before i test for pregnancy again?.. thanks

    • Hello Joss!

      Vitex is known to cause cycle shifts for some women when they start taking it. While I know this is concerning, it is we feel a good sign the body is responding to the herb’s actions. Vitex needs to be use consistently over time, 3-6 months or longer, to show the most benefit. I am not certain you need to test for pregnancy again, but if you actively tried to conceive, then you could at any point.

      Moving forward, be sure to be eating well, a whole food Fertility Diet, exercising regularly, staying hydrated and consider fertility massage.

      Trust your body is working hard to find balance!

  3. Hi, I have been taking 1 x 400mg vitex capsule per day for the last month and have just confirmed I am pregnant. I read that stopping Vitex abruptly might cause miscarriage so have been slowly weaning off of it (am starting to take it every 2 days now). Would this be the correct way to go about it, and what point should I stop taking it completely?

    • Dear Jellybean,

      Congratulations! I hope that you are feeling well! Do you have a history of miscarriage? If so, please do consult your healthcare provider or herbalist for support in continuing or weaning off of Vitex.

      We suggest a slightly different approach to weaning than you have chosen. We suggest weaning off of Vitex over a week’s time. In general if taking herbs in a capsule form, open the capsule, dump a little out and then close it back up and take it. Do this each day until you are no longer taking it. After taking it every two days for a few doses, you could consider the above advice, to empty 1/2 from a capsule take that on the schedule you’ve created.

      If interested, our archive of Pregnancy Health resources is here…

      Again, Congratulations!

  4. Hi, I successfully conceived in the 3rd cycle in November 2016 after starting to drink Vitex tea in dried fruit that I dosed myself (once a day only) but had a miscarriage in January at 7 weeks. After 2 months of rest we are back to trying for a baby but 3 months have gone by with no success…I want to start drinking vitex tea again (today I got my period) but came across some information on the internet that chasteberry must be drunk/taken up to 10th day of the cycle ONLY, otherwise it impact negatively on the hormones.. Can you please advise if I can drink it through my whole cycle for 28-29 days? I also have cysts on my ovaries and took progesterone for last 2 months, not any more though

  5. hi, Iam suddenly single again at 43 and we were planning to try to conceive for the first time this spring. Now I am concerned about fertility and preserving my fertility. My IVF clinic said I am too old to go through a hormonal treatment for such low outcome and freeze my eggs, BUT I had still a chance to conceive naturally, on the limit bc of age . My hormons are ok, menstruation always regular, 26-27 days. I have charted for 2 years and clearly have confirmed ovulation. BUT, my progesterone is going down and I have spotting 2-3 days before my period and my LP is shorter. I would like to meet a new man soon. Can vitex prolong fertility and increase progesteron while I wait? thanks

    • Dear Kerstin,

      I am sorry to here of such little support or hope from the IVF clinic staff! Makes me sad…

      Vitex and natural progesterone cream both have the ability to support healthy progesterone levels and luteal phase length. The are in my opinion worth learning more about along with vitamin B6 (well and B complex is best) as you will read in our guide
      Luteal Phase Defect: Natural Treatment Options. I think you will also find our guide Preparing for Conception Over 40 helpful.

      Lastly, if I may, have you considered a second opinion or working with a provider who will support freezing your eggs. I know of so many women in their 40s who choose this for various reasons and have success. I am confused as to why the clinic you work with isn’t supportive of this option.

      In any event, I hope this is all helpful information!

  6. Hello, I purchased the Vitex capsules 400mg and I am not sure how much I should take and on what time? What I meant is do I need to take only half of month, on periode or when I got pms (follicular phase or luteal phase) Or should I take it non-stop without a break after 3 month? I have hyperprolactinemia and want to lower my prolactin levels as I deal very much with pms and periode. I am estrogen dominans as I destroyed my body with birth control pill and took several morning-after pill in which I searched it all destroyed my natural progesterone. My cycles are stable (29-35 days) and bleed only 2-3 days, I can never ovulate as all I get high prolactin. Hope you can help me.
    Thank you

  7. Hello – my husband and I are trying to have a baby, post Mirena IUD. My IUD was removed in March and while I have had “normal” cycles (23 days, 32 days, 29 days) since, I have not ovulated. I have been temping and noting CM, and we are timing intercourse… but nothing. I have had no signs of fertile CM, nor had any positive OPK’s. Prior to IUD, I had plenty of fertile CM each cycle. My temping looks like I keep getting ready to ovulate, but then I do not. I am considering both Vitex and Maca. Are these ok to take together? Would both be recommended? At what point of my cycle do I start taking them? I am CD 8 today.
    Thank you!

  8. Hi, I just purchased the Vitex capsules 400mg and Raspberry leaf capsules as well with hopes that they should significantly help! I am integrating these two additions to my current load of vitamins, which are CoQ10, Prenatal, Folic Acid, Vit. E, Vit. D3, DHA, B6, B12, Vit. C, and Iron. Quick story… I had my first pregnancy in February via IVF, which only last 6 weeks. After 2 years of heartache, two surgeries, and two IVF cycles, diagnosed being a DOR and Endometriosis stage 3, we are heading towards of our last, but hopeful, attempt in August 2017. We are praying and leaving it in the hands of God. Should these two components aid with the IVF process? Thanks for your feedback in advance!

    • Dear Launa,

      I am sorry for all you’ve been through!

      Vitex and Red Raspberry leaf can be taken with the list of supplements you shared. They both have wonderful fertility health benefits for women, specific to hormonal balance and uterine health. Have you also seen our guide How to Increase Your IVF Success Rate Naturally? If not, I feel like you will appreciate the tips it shares.

      Then, consider talking to your doctor about the benefits of DHEA. While we do not suggest just taking it without a doctor’s guidance, we know DHEA may help improve IVF outcome in women who were previous poor-responders, or for women with Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR). We share more in our guide Should Women Use a DHEA Supplement to Improve IVF Outcome?.

      I wish you the very best!

  9. I am 25 years old and I have had Acne for 8 years now. I recently had a hormone imbalance/PCOS blood test done and my doctor has told me my progesterone is very low and FSH and LH are really imbalanced which could possibly indicate that I have PCOS.
    Is it possible that Vitex capsules can increase my progesterone levels and lessen my Acne?
    Thank you.

    • Dear Amna,

      Vitex is an amazing female fertility herb, as you have read here. It seems like it would certainly be worth learning more about.

      Regarding diagnosis of PCOS, while hormonal levels in pat indicative, circulating androgens, insulin levels, and the appearance of the ovaries are also often tested/observed. I would ask for more in-depth testing if you worry about having PCOS.

  10. I have been taking Vitex since December. I was taking 1200mg ( 3 pills 400mg in am) a day but got a new bottle that was more potent and went to 1000mg (2 500mgs in am) but found I started bleeding again after intercourse and before period so went to 1500mg as the pills are 500mg each is this okay? I have been taking since December and it def has got my periods normal and minimized the mid cycle bleeding and spotting. just want to be pregnant already….

    • Hello Maranda!

      How have things been going since you went to 1500mg and is this within the suggested dose on the product you purchased? I am glad you’ve seen such positive changes!