Vitex (Chasteberry) Herb Benefits & Uses for Women

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Benefits and uses of Vitex (chasteberry)
Wellness Mama » Blog » Natural Remedies » Vitex (Chasteberry) Herb Benefits & Uses for Women

Sometimes a plant holds a lot more than meets the eye (many times, actually). I’ve written before about the health benefits of herbs and spices, and today I’d like to cover an herb we don’t hear about every day but that every woman should know about. Ever heard of vitex?

Also called chaste tree or chasteberry, vitex is a large and graceful shrub with purple flowers similar to a lilac. Gardeners love it for its striking blooms and pleasant scent, but those who know about medicinal plants prize it for other reasons.

What Is the Vitex or Chaste Tree Plant?

The vitex plant or chaste berry tree (the Latin is Vitex agnus-castus L., if you want to get technical) is native to Asia and the Mediterranean. Cultures in China, Greece, and Italy used vitex long before its introduction to the United States. Now it’s commonly found in southern gardens because of its ability to withstand warmer temperatures. Vitex is also known as “poor man’s lilac” because of the similarity of the bloom appearance.

In our case, it’s not the landscape we’re after, but the fruit of the chaste tree. This small brown berry (known as the chasteberry) is edible and has a peppery flavor.

Use of the chaste tree berry for medicinal purposes dates back over two thousand years. Many believed chasteberry could suppress libido (although there is no scientific evidence that it does.) The Greek physician Dioscorides prescribed it to soldiers’ wives so they could remain “chaste” while their husbands were away at battle. In the Middle Ages it is said that monks took it to help with the vow of chastity. This is also why chasteberry is known as monk’s pepper.

Vitex Benefits for Female Health

Basically, if you’re a woman, this herb can probably help! When it comes to easing symptoms of PMS — breast tenderness, cramps, cranky mood, and all — vitex is the queen of herbs.

Eases Symptoms of PMS and PCOS

Many clinical trials show chasteberry’s ability to ease PMS and menstrual-related difficulties. Compounds in vitex bind to certain pain receptors, which eases pain in addition to the hormone normalizing effect. In one randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study (translation: very credible), 178 women took vitex in capsule form for 3 full cycles. Compared to the control group, the women in the test group experienced 50% improvement/reduction in symptoms. These include mood swings, anger, irritability, headache, breast tenderness, and bloating.

This is good news for PMS and even PCOS sufferers, especially with the generally safe profile of this herb.

Supports Progesterone and Luteinizing Hormone

Luteinizing hormone (LH) is important to a healthy reproductive system and largely responsible for triggering ovulation in the body. Studies on chasteberry show the herb supports LH production, which in turn normalizes progesterone and the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. This is valuable if it corrects a luteal phase defect, which may contribute to infertility and even miscarriages.

For these reasons, vitex is widely prescribed by doctors in Germany and other parts of Europe for endometriosis. (Doctors prescribing natural remedies? It can happen!)

Regulates Irregular Menstrual Cycles

As I mentioned, vitex is especially helpful for those with irregular cycles since it helps balance female hormones. This applies also to those coming off of hormonal birth control, as it can take years for the cycle to completely regulate on its own. I know it’s a controversial subject, but there are many reasons to consider the switch from hormonal birth control to more natural alternatives.

May Help Memory and Brain Function Post-Menopause

Chasteberry’s balancing action on the hormones also may make it useful for some women during menopause. A 2015 study published in Basic and Clinical Neuroscience found that giving rats vitex extract orally improved memory and learning. The thought is that vitex protects against “menopause-related cognitive decline” with fewer side effects (read: cancer risk) than other forms of estrogen replacement.

Less Certain Claims

Some herbalists suggest vitex to help with fertility and even through the first trimester to help prevent miscarriage. While larger studies need to be done in regard to fertility/pregnancy to know its true impact, smaller studies suggest a connection. It is difficult to know the true effect since some of these studies were small pilot studies or used other herbals along with the vitex.

It seems that the claim that vitex can restore missing periods (amenorrhea) are overblown based on current data. At most, the research indicates it may help luteal phase defect by evening out irregular periods.

Interestingly, although many cultures have used vitex to support lactation and boost milk supply, there is little scientific data to support this at this time. This study suggests scientists aren’t really sure if it hurts or helps, so more research is needed.

How Vitex Works

How exactly does a plant accomplish these things? Current scientific understanding suggests that vitex works by regulating and supporting the pituitary gland, which is considered the master gland for hormone production.

This article explains:

There are several different theories about how it works:

  1. Binding dopamine receptors, which works to reduce secretion of prolactin by the pituitary gland, in turn inhibiting estrogen and progesterone.
  2. Binding opioid receptors, which decreases the secretion of gonadotropin-releasing hormone.
  3. Vitex contains many estrogen-like compounds that have an impact on the menstrual cycle.

Since vitex works by correcting hormonal imbalances, it is not a fast-acting drug but a long-term remedy. In studies participants supplemented with vitex for as long as 3-5 months before measuring results.

How to Use Vitex

Vitex is available in capsule form or tincture form. It has a bitter taste, so often capsules or a tincture with other herbs is the best option. The most inexpensive option is to grow or order the dried berries and make a tincture at home. To make a tincture, the proportions from this recipe can be used with just vitex in place of the other herbs.

As I mentioned, vitex acts slowly, so it often takes several months to see its full effect. Since it supports the body’s own hormone cycle rather than providing any hormones itself, it works more slowly while the body adjusts to normal hormone production.

The University of Michigan Health website recommends 4 months of use for noticeable effects, with a daily dosage of 40 drops of tincture/concentrate or 1 capsule (powdered).

Caution/Side Effects of Vitex

Given its long historical use, vitex seems to be a very safe herb. I definitely recommend checking with a doctor before taking even natural supplements or herbs, especially when pregnant or nursing.

Mild and infrequent side effects reported include nausea, headache, stomach upset, and skin irritation. According to this article, women with a history of depression should avoid taking vitex.

Those using hormonal contraceptives should use caution when taking vitex due to its hormonal effects. There’s no evidence that vitex interferes birth control but it makes sense that there could be some interaction.

Finally, be aware that vitex may cause some changes in the menstrual cycle. This will stabilize over time, but if you chart your cycle for natural family planning purposes, expect to see some irregularities while your body adjusts.

It is not recommended for men, though maca is a great fertility-promoting herb for both men and women.

This article was medically reviewed by Jessica Meyers, MPAP, PA-C, RH(AHG), who specializes in herbal protocols and functional medicine. You can also find Jessica on Instagram. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

Have you tried vitex before? Will you now? Share below!

Vitex- and herb for hormones and fertility

Sources
  1. Schellenberg R. Treatment for the premenstrual syndrome with agnus castus fruit extract: prospective, randomised, placebo controlled study. BMJ. 2001;322:134–7.
  2. Blumenthal M. German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices. Commission E. The complete German Commission E monographs: therapeutic guide to herbal medicines. Austin, Tex.: American Botanical Council, 1998.
  3. Wuttke W, Jarry H, Christoffel V, Spengler B, Seidlová-wuttke D. Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus)–pharmacology and clinical indications. Phytomedicine. 2003;10(4):348-57.
  4. Dugoua JJ, Seely D, Perri D, Koren G, Mills E. Safety and efficacy of chastetree (Vitex agnus-castus) during pregnancy and lactation. Can J Clin Pharmacol. 2008;15(1):e74-9.
  5. Westphal LM, Polan ML, Trant AS, Mooney SB. A nutritional supplement for improving fertility in women: a pilot study. J Reprod Med. 2004;49(4):289-93.
Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.

Comments

164 responses to “Vitex (Chasteberry) Herb Benefits & Uses for Women”

  1. Fae Avatar

    Hi Katie,
    I’m curious about this in affect with nursing. I’m still nursing my 17m old and my cycle hasn’t returned. I don’t think I’m infertile, and I have a false period it seems each month without spotting so after reading this I was thinking it may help.

    What are your thoughts? Did you use this?

  2. felicia Avatar
    felicia

    my period have size for over three month now and am not pregnant nor infected. am very much affriad that am not a complete woman please what medication should i take.

  3. Stacy Avatar

    Is it ok to take Vitex during your period? Should I lower the dose during this time? currently taking 3 pills in the morning 400 mg/each. Also going to start taking Maca in a few days. Trying to conceive #2.

  4. Lisa Avatar

    I starting vitex when my son was 8 months old and still breastfeeding. Then 3 months later (still breastfeeding) I became pregnant. I miscarried at 10 weeks due to blighted ovum. It is now 2 weeks since my m/c. I have weaned my son and hope to become pregnant very soon. Should I take vitex again or do you think it caused the miscarriage? Can it mess cycles up at all or only help? Also, I noticed mid-cycle spotting while on vitex. Does this mean I shouldn’t be taking it? I find it so difficult to find people who actually know anything about this subject. Thanks!!!

    1. Lisa Avatar

      To update those who are thinking about taking vitex. After several months of weird cycles after the miscarriage, I got back on Vitex. 3 months later I was pregnant, so it really works.

      1. Prati Avatar

        Thanks a lot!!! I highly appreciate people who take out the time to update the results.

        One question, as you have taken it during breastfeeding, Does it increase the milk supply as well? I have a 7 month old son and thinking of taking it for increasing my milk supply.

        1. Henry Avatar

          No it stops prolactin released by your pituitary which is almost the opposite of creating milk. Try fenugreek fennel or aniseed teas

      2. Andrea Anderson Avatar
        Andrea Anderson

        Hi Lisa! Did you continue to take Vitex while pregnant as well? I’m 5 weeks today and began taking Vitex just last month to lengthen my luteal phase (began day 1 of my cycle) :). Just trying to research how long I should continue taking it for. Thank you!

  5. Monique Avatar

    Hello kati,

    Just started on Maca and Vitex from day one to date. I don’t seem to have any serious problem but we can’t conceive even with ivf in the last 2 years. We have 7 failed ivf. My progesterone seems to reduce even when am on progesterone tablets. I thought its progesterone deficiency so I decided to try both maca and vitex together. My periods are regular but very scanty and comes for three days only at times two days. My tests shows that my uterine lining is ok, I even uterine scratching to help shed any stagnante blood and that time I bled for four heavy days. Now, I have saw boobs, headaches, mild pelvic cramps, bloated and feeling full all the time. My last period was 4th March 2014, with these feelings, do you think I might be pregnant? I have not tasted ‘yet, waiting to see if AF comes on. My cycle range between 29 days and 31 days.

  6. Deb Avatar

    I recently purchased vitex tincture, maca, and prenatal vitamins in hope to regulate my periods and I would like to have children with in the next year. This last year has been very stressful for me and I have a history of irregular periods but I think the stress makes it worse. Is there anything else I could take to help this process along? am I taking the correct herbs and vitamins?

  7. Stephanie Avatar
    Stephanie

    Hello,
    I just wanted to add my experience with vitex. I’ve had very irregular cycles for as long as I can remember. My two last cycles were 92 days and 75 days long. I’ve been taking vitex and this time my cycle was only 41 days, which is great news for me 🙂 So as far as I can see, it (as well as a lot of prayer!) has helped shorten my cycle length. I was also diagnosed with hypothyroidism and am taking levothyroxine everyday. We’ve been trying to conceive for about a year with no luck yet. My question is, do you think vitex is the right herb for me to be taking to increase fertility or should I try Maca as well?
    thank you!

  8. Dalin Avatar

    Hi Katie. I had my son in 2011 and my periods have been irregular ever since. They lasts between 5-7 days but comes every other week, sometimes 3 times a month. Can Vitex or Chasteberry help regulate it? Please help!

  9. Priya Avatar

    Hi, Your blog is truly inspirational. Thank you so much for writing and inspiring us.
    You have written good things about the Vitex and Maca. Can you please let me know if it is ok to take both . My doctor suspects I might have stage 1 Endometriosis . I am Hypothyroid as well. Which one would you suggest.
    Thanks
    Priya

  10. Mariam Avatar

    Hi Katie can you please help me! I started taking chaste tree just over a month ago (Dec 22) (1 cap 300mg p/day, also contains Dong Quai) to help shorten my 44 day cycle as maca didn’t seem to make a difference. Several weeks later I got my period at a 33 day cycle (11-16 Jan) but then the weirdest thing happened I got them AGAIN on 21-26 and again today (30th Jan).
    Is this just how chaste tree works to balance by cycle or should I stop taking it?? Needless to say I am beyond confused and a little freaked out.

      1. melissa Avatar

        wellness mama, do i take this everyday for 3 months to see effect or just premenstrual? I’m taking this to alleviate the heavy mood swings i get prior to start of menstrual cycle. or do you recommend something else?
        Thanks! :p

  11. Lauren Baldwin Avatar
    Lauren Baldwin

    Hey Wellness mama, I know this post is a bit old, but I have been adding supplements to my diet recently for endometriosis and fertility. We also tried to conceive for 2 years with no success. I have a diet full of organic fruits/vegetables, some pastured meats, lots of pastured eggs, coconut oil, safe pots/pans, etc. I also have completely cut out all/most toxins in the home from shampoos, cleaners. etc. I read the articles you posted about Vitex but also read several more that said to NEVER take Vitex with endometriosis or any hormone sensitive condition such as breast/ovarian/uterine cancers. It seems that everywhere I look, it says to either take it for endo or completely avoid it! I’m so confused!

  12. Nicole Bliss Avatar
    Nicole Bliss

    I have been struggling with horrible menstrual cycles and avoiding prescriptions. I am so glad I came across this and can’t wait to give it a try

  13. Lucy Avatar

    Do you know if it is safe to use in combination with maca? And you mentioned that it is good for milk production so I assume it’s safe to use while nursing?

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      It is generally considered safe while nursing, and you can use in combination with maca, though depending on your goal, one or the other might work…

  14. Amy Frev Avatar
    Amy Frev

    So to make a tincture you would just fill a jar 1/3 to 1/2 full of the Vitex berries and then fill the rest with alcohol (Vodka, 80 proof)?

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      Yep 🙂 You can also pour a tiny amount of boiling water over the berries first to pull more of the properties out and then add the alcohol but that is an optional step…

  15. sarah Breinich Avatar
    sarah Breinich

    I just started on Vitex, Maca and Tribulus, so I was glad to see vitex mentioned here. I might have to look into making the tincture myself to save money, like you said. I’m hoping it will help restart my cycle (along with diet) and help me to conceive again. fingers crossed!

  16. Tal Rosenberg Avatar
    Tal Rosenberg

    well, my experience with this herb was a scarring one…
    Hearing that it helped with hormone issues (acne, pms, menstrual cramps) I decided to give it a try-
    I made a tincture (together with Yarrow and Chamomile) and would splash a bit in a glass of water and drink it regularly. (tasted gross)
    after a few weeks I noticed the reasons I had started taking it for just seemed to worsen!
    My acne was worse then ever before, and I would have terrible cramps (that I had to control with pain killers). I stopped taking it and havn’t had the guts to take a tincture internally ever since.
    Any ideas why this happened??

    1. Jen Avatar

      Hi there,

      I am guessing that as our bodies regulate our hormones symptoms could worsen and then improve. I did read that that can happen.

      I am taking it again and this time I’m experiencing a lot of anger and fatigue. Im taking it for low progesterone. The first time I took it a think I had increased low mood before feeling great the next month and has a 28 day cycle for first time in several months. It started to work within weeks. I became pregnant but lost it at 4 weeks because I weaned off Vitex too soon.

    2. Joanna Avatar

      @Tal Rosenberg: it sounds like there is an imbalance with your estrogen more. Do you know if you produce more estrogen? I am reading Period Manual Repair book and I remember seeing something regarding your symptoms deal with estrogen levels being off. My menstrual cycle hormonal imbalances suggest I need to increase my progesterone levels to prevent my excruciatingly painful menstrual migraines/depression/anxiety. Also look into reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility it is highly recommended. Many blessings to all women dealing with any issues regarding fertility and hormonal health ?

  17. Charlotte Avatar
    Charlotte

    I have been struggling with secondary infertility for three years and was diagnosed with endometriosis last year. After reading your post about fertility I was looking at adding maca as a supplement. Now I’m not sure if I should do vitex instead, or maybe both? I also started taking fclo about a month ago. Should I be taking just the fclo or the fclo/high vitamin butter? I’d really like to help my body heal or rebalance so that I can conceive again naturally, but I’ve also been waiting for so long that I find myself contemplating ivf. I already eat grain free, organic produce, pastured meat, and I use coconut oil.

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      I”d probably stick with the Maca for now as it works more quickly and is a little stronger. The Vitex might help more with the endometriosis, but the Maca will probably help you conceive more quickly… FCLO is probably fine on its own if you are eating enough butter and coconut oil…Best of luck!

    2. bianca Avatar

      I was useing vitex and maca root for a month along with opks for my irregular periods and I just got a postive hcg test !!! My husband took a multivitamin and maca root and this how we conceived

      1. ERIKA LAI Avatar

        Bianca,
        Your post really inspired me. I just bough the chaste tree extract and the maca. I’ve been taking the maca for almost a year now and still not conceiving. I’m hoping that taking both of them may increase my chances. How did you take those supplements? Pills, extracts..? thanks

  18. Kathleen Quiring Avatar
    Kathleen Quiring

    I used vitex in capsule form to help me overcome infertility two years ago (in combination with other vitamin supplements). I can’t say for certain that any one factor helped me conceive (it was almost certainly a combination of factors), but I’m back to using it again, with the hopes that it will help me conceive a second time! Glad to see it profiled here.

    PS – I found your breech home birth story yesterday SO INSPIRING! I think I help my breath through the whole thing . . . So intense! Congrats!!

    1. Jamie Blevins Avatar
      Jamie Blevins

      I was wondering what vitamin regimen you used to conceive?

  19. Connie Avatar

    I enjoy learning about natural methods to help with fertility, but I’m in that stage in life where you’re preventing birth. I was wondering if you could write about natural birth control methods. I’ve read that there are a few methods out there using herbs, but I would like to hear your opinion on the subject.

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar
      Wellness Mama

      PLanning to write on that soon, but I don’t recommend the herbs as many of them are abortifacent and have some nasty side effects (like increased risk of some cancers, etc)

      1. Connie Avatar

        I’m looking forward to reading it. And yes, that was what concerned me about some of them.

      2. Caitlin Avatar
        Caitlin

        I just bought Chastetree berry powder,to be made into a tea. I have gotten conflicting information on when I should start taking it.During menstruation or after?How ,any days after?Or it does not matter at all? I’m taking it for a slight hormonal imbalance.

    2. Kate Avatar

      Use Natural Family Planning (NFP). The female body is actually quite hostile to conception, except for a handful of days out of a woman’s cycle. If you avoid relations with your husband during that time you have a better chance of remaining unpregnant than with any other known method. There are even apps for tracking your cycle….And BONUS! You’re not loading your body up with drugs that not only impede conception, but also change behavior and have been linked to cancer, yada, yada…

    3. Kate Avatar

      Also….chastberry will help your hubby remain chaste during that time

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