Why Many Women Value Vitex
Around 75% of women struggle with monthly PMS symptoms. Around 10% of women struggle to become or stay pregnant. And every woman eventually goes through the difficult symptoms of menopause.
Clearly, female reproductive hormones can bring much frustration and pain to women throughout their lifetimes. But what if these negative symptoms weren’t an inevitable part of being a woman? What if there was some natural way to find relief? There is! Let me introduce you to Vitex.
What Is Vitex?
Vitex is an herb that comes from the Chaste Tree (also called the vitex agnus-castus tree), a tropical flowering plant often found in the Mediterranean. We get medicinal Vitex from flowers and the seeds of the Chaste Tree.
Historically, Vitex has been used to help women’s hormones, yet it does not contain any hormones itself. Here’s how it works:
Vitex plays a crucial role in balancing your levels of estrogen and progesterone.
In today’s world, many women suffer from estrogen dominance due to chemicals in plastics/pollution, poor food choices, and overexposure to the birth control pill. When you have too much estrogen, you also have too little progesterone – which leads to things like bad PMS or infertility.
There are compounds in Vitex that can actually influence your pituitary gland – which is like the master of your hormone system. In both clinical trials and patient experience, Vitex has been shown again and again to improve progesterone production and relieve hormonal conditions by upping your luteinizing hormone and lowering prolactin.
Let’s take a look at the specific ways Vitex can help your body!
1. Vitex for PMS or PMDD
First up we have one of the most widely researched vitex benefits – and the most common use for the herb. Vitex can greatly help PMS or PMDD symptoms. Here is a sampling of the many positive studies you can find:
- Over 1600 women entered a study looking at 4 characteristics of PMS in particular: depression, anxiety, cravings, and water-retention. The women were treated with Vitex for 3 cycles. In the end, 93% said they experienced a decrease in PMS symptoms (some even said they stopped altogether), and 94% said the Vitex was easy to tolerate.
- 202 women in China completed a multi-center placebo controlled Vitex study. 101 received Vitex treatment; 101 received placebo. The PMS-diary score (general PMS symptoms) was “significantly” lower for the treated women than the baseline. No serious side effects were discovered.
- A 2013 medical review looked at eight trials on Vitex for treating PMS. Seven out of those eight studies showed Vitex was superior to placebo or other medications.
- One study homed in on PMS-related breast pain. They gave some women Vitex and others received a placebo. Researchers concluded, “Intensity of breast pain diminished quicker with [Vitex] group.” This study is not the only one pointing to Vitex’ ability to reduce breast pain associated with your cycle. In fact, it is one of its most potent benefits.
One Reddit user describes her experience with taking Vitex for PMDD:
“One month PMDD was so bad that I tried taking Prozac. I used that for a few days and felt much happier and then the side effects came. Headache, numbness, low sex drive, and I didn’t feel like me at all! After that I quit and decided to go herbal all the way. I’m taking Maca, Vitex and take Raspberry Leaf tea 2x per day. I staggered my usage so I know it was the Vitex that made me feel better emotionally because I used it first.
For the last two cycles my cramps have decreased so much that I do not take medicine most of the time. I feel like I’m in control of my own emotions. I don’t weep or have the crazy swings I’ve had in the past! I spot less in between periods and I’ve had seven day cycles as opposed to two weeks or more.”
2. Vitex for Fertility
Another common use for Vitex is to help women struggling with infertility related to hormonal imbalance.
When the second half of a woman’s cycle is too short, she is said to have a luteal phase defect, a common cause of infertility. This is connected to low progesterone – and as we already know, Vitex can come in and save the day.
- One study looked at 48 women already diagnosed with infertility. Their ages ranged from 23 to 39. For three months, they were given Vitex daily. In the end, seven of the women became pregnant during the trial. 25 of the women finally had normal progesterone levels.
- Another study used a placebo baseline and found that women who used Vitex alongside other homeopathic remedies became pregnant more frequently than those who took nothing.
Vitex has also been used to help bring back a period after a long time on birth control. Some women get off their prescription contraception and find themselves without a period for months. This is obviously problematic for those who want to get pregnant, and Vitex can lend a hand.
Pro Tip: Don’t take Vitex immediately after getting off the pill, give your body the opportunity of a few months to correct itself.
3. Vitex for Acne
Any woman who has seen their otherwise clear face explode in breakouts a few days before their period knows just how much hormones affect acne.
Years ago, scientists started studying the connection between Vitex and acne and found the results to be favorable. Unfortunately, the work mostly stopped there. Newer studies haven’t been performed, so we rely mostly on that older work and patient experience. One Vitex user reports:
“I started taking it for menstrual cycle related issue…to my great surprise, it worked. But before it sorted out my cycle it gave me the best skin of my life. So smooth and glowy. Seriously life changing.”
The same reasons that Vitex helps PMS or fertility are the same reasons it can potentially clear up your skin – it helps balance your hormones. Particularly, that boost of progesterone may be helpful.
However, if your acne has nothing to do with hormones, Vitex is probably not your solution. Look into areas such as food allergies, natural cleansing products, and medical-grade treatments.
4. Vitex for PCOS
Let’s start off this next section with a warning. Though Vitex may help some cases of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), Vitex can make PCOS worse for some women.
Remember how Vitex increases progesterone by upping your luteinizing hormone? In women with PCOS, their luteinizing hormone is often already too high. Vitex would make you worse. Some women with PCOS have perfectly fine levels of luteinizing hormone. In this case, Vitex may be able to help you balance your estrogen/progesterone to improve your symptoms.
So, if you’ve been diagnosed with PCOS, you must first ask your doctor for bloodwork to check your luteinizing hormone and prolactin. If your doctor gives you the go ahead, only then try Vitex to improve your cycles.
5. Vitex for Menopause
Since Vitex can help women through their monthly cycles and fertility, it’s no surprise it can also help women through the next phase of life: menopause.
Alongside other herbs like dong quai and black cohosh, Vitex has been shown to reduce frustrating menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, and poor quality of sleep for both pre-menopausal and post-menopausal women.
While there is not a lot of research on the benefits of taking only Vitex for menopausal support, researchers still agree that “pharmacological evidence supports a role for [Vitex] in the alleviation of menopausal symptoms and suggests that further investigation may be appropriate.”
6. Vitex for Migraines
Most of the information that connects Vitex to migraine help is unsurprisingly still attached to the menstrual cycle. So, if you only get migraines around your period, or if your migraines get worse or more frequent around that time, Vitex just might alleviate your pain.
100 women who suffer from migraines around their periods completed a 3-month vitex study. They were given 40 mg each day. At the end, 66 of the women said the vitex improved their migraines dramatically. 26 women reported a mild improvement. Only 8 out of the 100 said there was no effect.
The researchers concluded that “the use of [Vitex] in migrainous women affected by PMS resulted to be safe and well tolerated, and may positively influence the frequency and duration of migraine attacks.”
How to Take Vitex
Vitex is an interesting supplement because it is not a quick fix neither is it a permanent solution. The reason many of the studies I mentioned throughout this article studied women over three months is because Vitex is slow-acting herb. You cannot take it one day and have clear skin and no cramps the next day.
You need to give Vitex a good try for 3 or 4 months – by then, you will be able to see if Vitex will be a solution for you.
But you also won’t be taking it for the rest of your life. It’s a kickstart. Most hormone experts/natural practitioners recommend taking it for 6 months and then getting off of it. The effect it has on your pituitary gland will start wearing off around that 6-month mark.
It is possible to get back on Vitex again if you really enjoyed the benefits, but you should talk to your doctor about the right amount of time to wait in between rounds (often a couple of months)
Pro tip: Most people recommend taking Vitex in the morning for best results.
Can Everybody Take Vitex?
Due to the hormonal effects of Vitex, it’s not a suitable herb for all people.
SEX: While there are a few instances where Vitex may be appropriate for men, it is primarily an herb for women.
AGE: If your teenager has PMS problems, talk to her doctor before trying Vitex. Because their hormone systems are still developing, Vitex could potentially disturb the process.
PREGNANCY: There is very little evidence to show whether Vitex is safe or harmful while you are pregnant or breastfeeding (despite the fact some women use it for lactation support).
INTERACTIONS: If you have any of these other conditions or take these medications, you must consult a doctor before taking Vitex:
- If you have a condition or cancer affecting any sort of body part affected by hormones (breasts, uterus, ovaries, etc.)
- If you are in the process of IVF or any other fertility treatment
- If you have any sort of psychotic disorder (Vitex’ effect on dopamine may cause problems for you)
- If you have Parkinson’s disease
- If you are taking the following medications: birth control, estrogen pills, antipsychotics, metoclopramide
Hormone Healing with Vitex
With Vitex, there is hope for out-of-whack hormones! While the many positive studies on Vitex show us its effectiveness, remember that Vitex is not a solve-all solution.
As female hormone expert Alisa Vitti writes on her blog:
Vitex can act like jumper cables to the pituitary gland and stimulate it to make the right level of hormones again. However, Vitex alone will not fix your infertility, PMS, PCOS, or Endometriosis long term, IF you don’t also change your internal hormonal ecosystem with food.
Vitex should be one of the many tools in your hormone-healing toolbox, not the only one. Good food, good exercise, reduction of chemicals, and additional herbs or vitamins are also important for holistically healthy hormones!