What to look for in a quality vitex supplement
Maybe six or seven years ago, when I first started taking Vitex, it wasn’t a well-known supplement. Most people I mentioned it to had never heard of it. There was very little research on it. I was going by a mere theory someone had posted on a forum about its proposed mechanism for hormone balancing.
Today, Vitex has become much more prominent in the supplement world. Many more people have heard of this herbal remedy, and more and more studies are emerging.
Still, if you are interested in taking Vitex, there is a good chance that your knowledge on this herb is minimal. You may have questions about what it is, how it works, how to take it, and how to make sure you are getting the right product.
In this guide, I will tell you what you need to know to choose a Vitex supplement which is high in quality.
But first, let’s go over some basic information about Vitex.
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What is Vitex?
Vitex is an extract from Vitex agnus-castus, sometimes called “chasteberry” or “chaste tree berry.”
It has some nicknames as well, like “monk’s pepper” and “Abraham’s balm.”
The plant itself comes from the Mediterranean region. It can grow as tall as 16 feet, and generally thrives best in full sunlight in a warm climate. Its purple flowers make it an appealing plant from an ornamental standpoint.
The extract is taken from the fruits of the Vitex plant as well as its seeds.
If you turn over a bottle of Vitex capsules, you will see how many mg of extract is present in each capsule.
For example, you might see the active ingredient listed as “Vitex agnus-castus (fruit), 400 mg.”
Present in the fruit/seed extract are the following types of nutrients:
- Iridoid glycosides (most notably aucubin)
Sometimes, Vitex manufacturers will tell you how much aucubin is contained in a dose of their product.
They may also tell you how much “agnuside” is present—this refers to the ester of aucubin and p-hydroxybenzoic acid.
What is the significance of aucubin and agnuside?
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This site explains, “Most published research use standardized vitex agnus preparations, which are tested for potency based on their content of agnuside, one of the active components. Vitex agnus has several beneficial substances, therefore it is not necessary that the vitex extract preparation be standardized for agnuside. Vitex agnus is also known as chaste berry herb which can be purchased as a natural supplement. Some products have a minimum of 0.5% agnuside content … As of 2017, we are not aware of any human studies that have used pure agnuside supplement by itself.
So, given this, it would seem that agnuside is at least one of the compounds which Vitex contains that can benefit you. And given that clinical trials focused on products which contain significant agnuside content, it makes sense that you would want to purchase a product which likewise contains significant agnuside.
At the same time, the other “beneficial substances” in Vitex extract mean that a product which contains whole berry/seed extract is entirely suitable (and might even be more helpful than agnuside alone).
More research is required to understand the exact role that each nutrient in Vitex plays in its effectiveness.
But what is important for you to know is that seeing at least 0.5% agnuside listed for a product is nice, but not necessarily vital.
I have used effective products which both did and did not reference agnuside on the label.
Key Point: Vitex is an herbal extract from the fruit and/or seeds of the Vitex agnus-castus plant, and is also marketed as “chase tree berry” or “chasteberry.” Agnuside is one of its beneficial nutrients, but it contains a variety of flavonoids and other potentially helpful nutrients as well.
What Is Vitex Used For?
People take Vitex for a variety of reasons, usually involving hormone balancing in women.
WebMD states that Vitex is “possibly effective for” breast pain, premenstrual dysphoric disorder and PMS.
It says that there is “insufficient evidence for” reducing intrauterine device-related bleeding, infertility, and a wide variety of other uses.
Based on my research, the most widespread use of Vitex seems to be to attempt to treat infertility.
Personally, I take Vitex for my hormonal migraines. It is one of the only things which has significantly improved my quality of life with chronic migraines.
What are the effects of Vitex on hormone levels? Vitex appears to be a dopamine agonist.
By stimulating dopamine, it appears to increase progesterone production while decreasing estrogen levels, and may also reduce prolactin levels as well.
This study from 2017 is one of the most detailed and informative I have read exploring both the mechanisms of Vitex and the conditions that it might be useful in treating.
I recommend reading it from top to bottom if you are looking for insights before using Vitex.
As you read it, and as you look up other recent studies, you will notice that the information on WebMD is a bit out of date as research is emerging which lends credence to some of the uses that WebMD does not list under the heading "possibly effective for."
For example, consider infertility.
Here's a relevant excerpt from the research I linked to:
“Improved fertility was later confirmed in a trial involving 44 infertile patients due to luteal phase defects, treatment with 40 mg of a dried Vitex agnus castus (VAC BNO 1095) preparation increased both, serum progesterone and estradiol [23, 24]. Following this treatment ovulatory cycles were present in 93% and fertility rate was restored in 71.4% of the patients. These results are comparable to those shown in Figs. 1 and 2 and indicate that VAC extracts may indeed be helpful in cases of infertility.”
Key Point: Vitex is used for a variety of conditions. More and more research is emerging to support Vitex for treating a wide range of conditions which involve hormones.
What is the Correct Vitex Dosage?
Now, one of the most confusing things about purchasing and using Vitex is figuring out what dosage to take.
Returning to WebMD, here are a few relevant excerpts:
- For premenstrual syndrome (PMS): Generally, 8-40 mg of vitex agnus-castus has been taken daily for 2-3 menstrual cycles.
- For premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD): 20-40 mg of vitex agnus-castus extract taken daily for 8 weeks has been used.
- Breast pain: 3.2-4.8 mg of vitex agnus-castus dried fruit extract have been taken daily for 2 months. Also, 40 mg of vitex agnus-castus has been taken daily for 3 months.
So, the doses which have been researched have been relatively low, ranging up to 40 mg once or twice a day.
What you will instantly discover when you begin comparing products is that it seems to be typical for supplement manufacturers to put around 400 mg of Vitex in a capsule.
I'm not sure why this is the norm, but you will be hard-pressed to find a supplement which contains 40 mg or less. The lowest dose I have found is 80 mg.
There is no long-term data on the safety of larger or smaller doses of daily Vitex yet.
Personally, I feel unconcerned with taking 400 mg daily, as I have done so for a period of years and have experienced no obvious adverse effects.
Additionally, I return your attention to the 2017 study on this fruit extract, which states the following:
“Taken together it appears now well established that prolactin is indeed involved in generation and promotion of breast cancer. This makes it highly likely that such cancers may be prevented and their progression slowed down by dopamine agonists. Particularly VAC extracts with their low side effects seem favorable for the prevention of breast cancer by reducing mastodynia and fibrocystic mastopathy.”
So, if anything, it seems logical that Vitex might even have a long-term protective effect against breast cancer.
More research is required in this area to say whether this is so.
Key Point: Research conducted on the use of Vitex has all been on relatively low doses of 40 mg or less. But there is no evidence that larger doses such as 400 mg (as you will find in most capsules) are harmful. There is even speculation that the prolactin-suppressing effects of Vitex could have a protective effect on women's health.
What to Look for in a High-Quality Vitex Supplement
Now that we've gone over some basic information about what Vitex is and what dosages are appropriate, we have laid the groundwork to talk about what to look for in a quality Vitex supplement.
Recommendations Specific to Vitex:
- You can probably be pretty flexible about the dosage. A lower dosage (i.e. 40-80 mg) it's hard to come by, but appears to still be effective based on research. A higher dosage (i.e. 400 mg) is much easier to come by. While such higher dosages have not yet been researched, there are no indications at this point that they are harmful. And from personal experience, I can say that I have found 400 mg a day to produce excellent results in my case.
- Vitex extract standardized to include of 0.5% agnuside content may not be crucial, but it is great when you can find it. Published research has focused on such standardized Vitex products. Some products label the aucubin content instead (which is just fine).
- Get a product which contains whole berry extract, not just agnuside or aucubin. That way, you will not only get the benefit of the agnuside, but also all the other healthy compounds contained in the agnus castus fruit extract.
Along with the recommendations specific to shopping for Vitex above, you should also pay attention to the following when you are selecting a Vitex nutritional supplement:
- Easy to take. With Vitex, this should not be much of an issue, since this is an easy-to-digest nutritional supplement. Still, some capsules might be larger or smaller than others. Thus, some may be easier to swallow than others.
- Pure with no fillers. There's no reason for a Vitex supplement to contain unnecessary additives or artificial ingredients. Shop for a product which contains only Vitex and the minimal ingredients required to form a capsule.
- Potent. A Vitex product should contain the amount of extract listed on the label. In terms of potency, we have discussed standardization. It is hard to say at this point how important standardization is, but it is our current best measure of potency.
- Organic. Choose a Vitex product which is organic and non-GMO, and which has been sustainably planted and harvested.
- Third-party tested. More and more supplement manufacturers are putting their products through third-party testing to verify their purity and potency. Consider looking for this so that you know for sure what is in your supplements.
- Gluten-free and no allergens. If you have any known allergies, make sure that you buy a Vitex supplement which contains none of the allergens that can affect you.
- A good value. Check to see how many capsules are in a bottle as well as how many are in is serving so that you can calculate the cost per unit. I have noticed that this supplement has increased a bit in price over the past few years, likely in response to rising demand. But on the whole, it is quite inexpensive.
- A trusted brand. Pick a brand that has built a strong reputation for quality nutritional supplements.
Key Point: Do some research and product comparison before you choose a Vitex supplement to purchase. Some products are higher in quality than others.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Vitex Supplement
To get the best possible results from the Vitex supplement you end up purchasing, here are some recommendations and cautions:
- Do not take Vitex while pregnant or breastfeeding.
- If you are on birth control, be aware that Vitex can interfere with its effectiveness.
- Vitex is a supplement to be taken every day consistently. Sporadically skipping days has never caused me any problems, however, so do your best, but do not panic if you miss a dose.
- It seems that most people take Vitex in the mornings, so this might be the ideal time of day. You can take it any time of day, however, as suits your needs.
- The benefits you can experience taking this supplement are cumulative over a period of months. If you stick with it, you may notice more and more improvements before you hit a plateau (it took me around six months to hit that plateau).
- Some people do report Vitex side effects, especially starting out. It may take you a few weeks or even a few months to fully adjust to the supplement. This does not happen to everyone (I had zero adjustment period and currently have negligible side effects. The positive effects, on the other hand, have been life-changing).
- Keep a journal of the changes you notice on the supplement. While it is a fit for many hormonal imbalances, it is not a fit for every person’s situation. If, after a few weeks, you do not notice improvements, it could be that a different supplement is necessary for your particular hormonal profile.
Key Point: You will get the best results from Vitex if you take it consistently, take notes about how it affects you, and give your body some time to adjust.
Conclusion: It is Worth It to Take a Little Extra Time to Choose the Right Vitex Supplement
We have now talked about important considerations when shopping for a Vitex supplement.
You know what to look for in terms of purity, potency, reputation, dosage, cost and more.
It takes some time to compare products and select the one which offers you the best value, but taking that extra time will pay off when you get better results from your purchase.
As you shop, continue to explore our archives to keep learning more about this amazing nutritional supplement.