Vitex for Migraines: The Most Popular Vitex Supplements On The Market Today
Do you suffer from migraines which fluctuate throughout the month? Do you notice patterns where your migraines might be worse right after your period? If so, you might suffer from hormonal migraines as a result of estrogen dominance.
I have gone into this topic in-depth in a couple of other articles. You can read one of them here. Here’s the super quick version to catch you up if you do not want to read the whole thing.
Basically, if you have an imbalance in your hormone levels (like the ratio between estrogen and progesterone in your body), this can cause a number of unpleasant symptoms, one of which is migraines.
What causes these imbalances? Scientists really do not have a great understanding of the topic, but there could be a number of factors which play in—everything from xenoestrogens in our environments to runaway stress.
Anyway, if you do suffer from migraines because your hormones are out of whack, there are a few things you can do to try and get back on track, one of which is to take a natural, safe, healthy supplement to try and balance out your levels.
There are a number of different supplements you can try taking to achieve this, but the one which I personally recommend is Vitex.
Vitex is not always the best solution to hormonal imbalance—it depends on the specific type of imbalance you have.
Vitex is specifically best for treating estrogen dominance. When you have estrogen dominance, your progesterone levels are unnaturally low with respect to your estrogen levels.
Pinpointing whether you actually have estrogen dominance is not always easy. If your symptoms are at their worst at the point in your cycle where progesterone is at its lowest, and you feel better when progesterone rises again, that is a good indication that you do have estrogen dominance. See the chart below:
So say for example you get a crippling migraine right after your period every month. But during the last week of your cycle you actually feel better. That would be a pretty good sign you do have estrogen dominance and can benefit from Vitex.
What is Vitex?
Vitex is an herbal extract derived from a plant called Vitex agnus-castus. It is also referred to as “chasteberry” or “chaste tree berry” as well as a few other less common names (“monk’s pepper,” “Abraham’s balm,” etc.). The extract is derived from both the fruits and the seeds.
People take Vitex for a number of different reasons. It is commonly taken to treat premenstrual syndrome (PMS) as well as menopause symptoms. It also may be used to treat fibrocystic breast disorder (FBD) or prevent miscarriages. Men may take Vitex as well to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Some people also use it for everything from acne to upset stomach.
Naturally most of these uses are anecdotal, as is common with herbal supplements. WebMD reports that Vitex is possibly effective for treating PMS as well as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), which is a more severe type of PMS. WebMD also says that there is insufficient evidence for pretty much everything else (infertility, breast pain, enlarged prostate, menopause, and so on).
Curiously enough, there is also some confusion over whether or not Vitex acts as an aphrodisiac or restrains libido. The name “chasteberry” certainly seems to imply the latter, and historians do report that monks used to use chasteberry for just that purpose.
I can say from personal experience however that it certainly seems to behave more like an aphrodisiac. This probably all comes down to the original hormonal profile of the user.
Being as there is “insufficient evidence” for most uses of Vitex, you may wonder why I am dedicating an entire article to discussing Vitex as a migraine cure.
Well, there are a couple of reasons. The first is that there is very little study in the area of estrogen dominance to begin with. So naturally there would be “insufficient evidence” for Vitex as a treatment for estrogen dominance.
Actually, WebMD does not mention Vitex as a treatment for this issue at all, so I am guessing research in this area is sparse to nonexistent. That does not make Vitex ineffective; it simply points toward a dearth of information.
The second reason is personal experience, plain and simple. Vitex changed my life.
I am not here to give it a hard-sell, because I do not think it is an appropriate supplement for all users. But I do think that other people who suffer from the same hormonal disorder as I do can benefit from it.
Just how well does Vitex work for me? Within about five days of when I first started taking it, I would say that my migraine severity dropped by about half. And that was just within the first five days.
Within a few months, I would say that the severity and frequency of my migraines dropped in half again.
I continued to experience improvements for the next six months or so. At that point I hit a plateau, but live had become fully livable again. I still experience migraines after my period every month, but on the whole, I function like a healthy person who isn’t plagued by constant headaches.
Because this supplement has literally made life livable for me, I am more than confident in recommending it. But again, it is important to be pretty sure that you are suffering from estrogen dominance before you take it. If you have a different disorder (like the opposite), Vitex’s results could be unpredictable.
How Does Vitex Work?
So now onto the tough question—how does Vitex work? That is something else that researchers really are not sure about at this point. There is some indication that Vitex works as a dopamine agonist. It is suggested that the compounds in Vitex act on the pituitary gland, and that its dopaminergic effects have an impact on prolactin secretion.
I suggest checking out the sources above if you are interested in learning more. You will pretty quickly hit a wall however as there is so little information at this point which is solid.
Is Vitex Safe?
WebMD reports that Vitex is “likely safe for most people.”
Some uncommon side effects mentioned include gastrointestinal issues, rash, itching, acne, headaches, weight gain, and sleeping difficulties.
One more common side effect for women is a change in menstrual cycles when starting up with the supplement. For example, you might have heavier or lighter flow, or you might skip a few cycles, or so on. There seems to be quite a bit of variation here.
For my part, I didn’t have any changes in my flow whatsoever or the timing of my cycles, but I have seen a lot of reviewers online who have mentioned issues like these, so it is something to be aware of when you are starting out.
WebMD does mention that the following people should be cautious about taking Vitex:
- Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding (don’t use Vitex in this situation).
- Anyone with a hormone-sensitive condition (ironically—this is why I keep emphasizing that Vitex will only help with your headaches if it is the right treatment for your imbalance; if it is the wrong one, it could make your situation worse).
- Anyone getting in-vitro fertilization (do not use Vitex if this is you).
- If you have Parkinson’s disease, talk to your doctor before using Vitex. Parkinson’s disease is also treated through dopamine agonists, so your medication and the herb may interact.
- Anyone who is being treated for schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder using a dopamine agonist (talk to your doctor).
- Those on birth control pills should consult with a doctor as well, since birth control pills also affect hormones. This means that Vitex and the birth control pills may interact.
On another safety note, it is worth pointing out that Vitex use has been studied in relatively small doses, around 20-40 mg. Most supplements contain much higher amounts.
So there is no data at this point to suggest whether these large doses are safe. This is unfortunate, but to be fair, living with an uncorrected hormonal imbalance is definitely unsafe. A condition like estrogen dominance puts you at risk for much more serious health problems later in life.
One more thing to note here is that it is entirely possible that the 20-40 mg doses which were studied were more highly concentrated than what you find in the capsules you can purchase.
Determining whether this is the case would take some extra research.
I have read that Vitex can be used for up to eight months. Sadly I cannot seem to find the reference on that right now. I also never was able to figure out why that particular timeframe was given, though I assume it is because that was the longest study conducted on Vitex thus far.
Because of this, I did once take the time to ask my physician assistant what she thought about my long term use of Vitex (several years now). She checked her medical databases and told me she found nothing indicating that anyone had experienced serious adverse effects from Vitex. Her conclusion was that if it was working for me, I may as well continue to use it.
Could you cycle Vitex? Probably, though I have yet to try it. I have heard some people mention withdrawal symptoms when they quit Vitex abruptly.
So all in all, research on Vitex may be sparse right now, but so far, the existing data suggests that this herb is safe and well tolerated by those who take it appropriately for the right conditions.
How Do You Take Vitex?
Taking Vitex is easy. Follow the directions on your bottle. Vitex comes in capsule form, with powder inside each capsule. Usually it is suggested that you start with a slightly higher dosage than you will be taking over the long term, and then decrease after a few weeks to the long term level.
I do suggest that you swallow Vitex with water, as this makes it go down easier. You do not need to take it with food; I have gotten away with taking it by itself before. But it definitely is easier to digest with a meal. Usually it is recommended to take it at the start of the day with breakfast. I take it with dinner and it works just fine. So Vitex is quite flexible; you can basically take it whenever you want during the day.
Remember, to get the best results with Vitex, you should take it for a period of months.
Recommended Vitex Products
Conclusion: For Those With Estrogen Dominance, Vitex Can Bring Migraine Relief
Estrogen dominance is not a very well-known health condition—and doctors are still debating whether it even exists. But for those who suffer from this hormone imbalance, the migraine pain and other symptoms are very real.
Thankfully supplements herbs like Vitex can help to bring your hormones into balance. Once everything in your body is functioning at a more ideal level, you should find that your migraine pain reduces significantly or even subsides entirely. It’s been an amazing experience for me; I hope that it makes just as big a change in your life!
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