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 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 man 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 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. 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, page 15, Vitex and Pregnancy. 2003
2. Romm, Aviva. Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health. 2010

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[-] 211 Comments
  1. Hi great article! It just left me with a couple of questions. I started tracking my cycle with BBT and Kindara and found out i didn’t ovulate. About a year ago i had a hormone-test done and it turned out i had low progesterone and started using the natural progesterone cream. So i did have a temp shift but only because of the progesterone. I’m really scared about not ovulating and low progestero

    Can Vitex help me ovulating?
    And will it mess with my temperatures?
    I have really painful periods, does Vitex help with this issue too?

    I’m 27, never been on hormonal birthcontrol, trying to avoid pregnancy for another two years but i would like to be able to get pregnant when i’m ready.
    Pls Help

    • Elizabeth Willett, MA, CH

      Dear Kootje,

      Fertilica Vitex has shown to have the ability to increase the secretion of luteinising hormone (LH), which in turn increases progesterone. It can be used in combination with natural progesterone cream to support low progesterone levels.

      Some women to experience cycle shifts which could include basal body temperature shifts, but we find primarily for the positive and benefit of hormone balance and a healthy menstrual cycle.

      Beyond simply taking an herb to support regular ovulation, consider also these 5 Simple Ways to Promote Regular Ovulation.

      I hope this is a helpful start.

  2. Hi can you take vitex along side IVF drugs?

    • Elizabeth Willett, MA, CH

      Dear Nina,

      Fertilica Vitex should not be take with IVF drugs. Many physicians will suggest their patients avoid herb use altogether during an IVF cycle. Because Vitex does influence hormone levels, some researchers speculate it might interfere with IVF or fertility drug treatments.

      It would be best to have your physician determine whether combining fertility medications with fertility herbs is suitable.

      Best wishes!

  3. I have been suffering from PCOS for 17 years. I have taken many chemical tablets to regulate period such as Clomid, Cycloprognova in the past. I am not married and now I am taking Aldactone, folic acid and Cedovage. I want to ask if I buy chaste berry tablets, should I stop all these chemical tablets and will vitex natural tablets be enough? Is this suitable for females who are not married, but who suffer from PCOS? Or is it made to get a woman pregnant?

    Sorry for so many questions, but I am living in Egypt and this the first time hearing about chaste tree berry. Thanks :)

    • Elizabeth Willett, MA, CH

      Hello Sbebo!

      Thank you for reaching out to us!

      The goal of our programs is to support the body in re-learning balance and/or supporting balance when fertility issues are present. The great part about herbs, nutritional supplements and natural therapies is that they often work wonders in doing this, given commitment to making dietary and lifestyle change is made as well.

      I can not say that Fertilica Vitex, Chaste tree berry will be enough for your fertility health needs. It can be taken when needing to support hormone balance and menstrual cycle health even if a woman is not trying to conceive.

      There are supportive herbs and nutritional supplements to support your body in re-learning balance that also support the body in promoting healthy hormonal balance, a healthy uterine lining, regular ovulation, improved estrogen metabolism, reduce cravings for sweets and improve digestion. For optimal hormonal balance these nutrional supplements and natural therapies are best completed alongside a PCOS Fertility Diet and lifestyle changes.

      We can not suggest you stop taking the medications and supplements you are already on. So, if you read in the article I just shared about something you are interested in trying, please speak to your healthcare provider about combining it with that which you are already taking.

      I wish you well!