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. Irina Avatar

    Hi, the same thing happened to me. I was very depressed, moody and crying all the time after only 6 pills. I had no clue that it could be caused by Vitex until I did some research and saw that many women experienced it and it shouldn’t be taken by people who have a history of depression like I do. Anyways, back to your question …to me it took about a week before I felt myself again but I think that it’s individual.

    1. Sam Avatar

      Thanks Irina, I appreciate your reply , I’m also pre menstrual and I get PMS pretty bad so I am sure once I get in a couple of days, the symptoms should subside. Thanks so much feeling a bit better this morning

  2. Sam Avatar

    Hi There I have been taking vitex 1000mg for 3 weeks for PCOS and PMS and haven been getting depression and anxiety the last week or so and seems to be getting worse. I took my last one yesterday. How long do you think it will take to leave my body so I can start to feel mysf again. Thanks so much

  3. kay Avatar

    Thanks for the info,had my last depo shot Oct 29 last year Ws due for my next jab 23 Jan which I didn’t follow through since I’m ttc and I haven’t had my period yet,and I’m definitely going to try vitex and I’m currently on prenatal vitamins.

  4. Sara Avatar

    I am a BIG supporter of chaste tree berry. After being on birth control for much of my early life as a woman (starting at age 16 and not considering long term effects at the time) I decided to stop and everything would be right, right? Wrong! I stopped having any form of a period and would go 9+ months without any form of a cycle. Because of this I gained 30 pounds and worried the whole time I had ruined any chance of ever having children. I went to a fertility specialist doctor who confirmed via ultrasound I had not been ovulating and was lacking progesterone. The birth control had not only suppressed my hormones as it is supposed to so that you don’t get pregnant, they had been suppressed into almost non existence ( something that is not widely talked about especially with young women who aren’t always thinking of their lives 10 years down the line). After an unnecessary MRI to confirm there was not a possible brain tumor affecting my hormones the doctor actually suggested to me that I go BACK on birth control to “regulate” myself out. And I said “why would I go back to something that has caused so much damage?”. I left and never went back. I started my own research and discovered chaste tree berry and black cohosh. Within a good 6 months I was starting to have more “normal cycles” aka they would appear every 2-3 months but I was so glad! I felt better and knew everything would be okay.

    Long story short this herb does take a long time for you to see a physical change but have faith and it will work. I started on 2 tablets per day and now after several years just take 1. It has been about 5 years since stopping birth control and I would say it took about 2.5 years to actually get a normal schedule going. I also had a few sessions with an acupuncturist who said it was nice to see a younger woman taking control of her body instead of waiting for a problem (aka waiting until I wanted to get pregnant to address the problem, don’t ignore your bodies ladies!)

    I strongly recommend this herb for women!

    1. Meg Avatar

      Hi Sara! Thanks so much for your story. I have had a really similar story line and have discovered that all my hormones are super low now (I’m 25). My naturopath wants me to use NHRT and my western doc wants me to use BC to gain my cycle back but I really want to do it the natural way as I have already gone both of those routes and they are not for me. I am currently taking Gaia Vitex2x in the AM but also want to try black cohosh b/c my estrogen is quite low. I was trying to research how to use black cohosh with Vitex, which is actually how I found this article. Would love to know what you do and which brand! Thank you!!

  5. Ashton Avatar

    hi Katie
    We have been trying to conceive for over a year. We got pregnant and lost it at 8 woks after we went in for an u/s and it had stopped growing and had no heartbeat. It’s been 3 months and we are ready to try again but I had low progesterone last time and I was on cream
    For it. I heard about the vitex and thought it would be something good to try but looking for more info about it and if it really helps and what are other ways to help. Please help
    Me!!

  6. Irina Avatar

    Hi,
    I have started taking Vitex. Is it also safe to take it during pregnancy or should I stop once I get the positive test?

    1. jen Avatar

      Hi Irina,

      A friend and I both took Vitex in the first trimester, weaning off slowly between weeks 11-13. While we did not seek advice, we read widely and made the decision that it was right for us and the hormonal problems we had. It worked for me.

  7. Rissa Avatar

    Is there a possible side effect or danger taking Vitex and increased chance of extra Estrogen production and breast cancer? Also is it safe to continue to take Vitex during ovulation or during your period? Would you advise taking it every day? Is Vitex safe to take with Maca?

    1. jen Avatar

      Hi Rissa,

      I just want to preface this with saying that I am not an expert, just a well-read mum.
      How you take Vitex depends on the problem your are trying to balance. From what I’ve read, for some women it is important to take every day, for others up until ovulation. You’d have to research this more on the web or ask a naturopath to see what is right for you.

      In regards to safety, there was an article I read which speculated that it may not be good to take something that, even indirectl, balances hormones over the long term. It is always better to address the root problem which may be lifestyle, diet, stress etc. In the short term (several months) Vitex seems to help people’s bodies remember the right balance and they can often stop taking it and hormone balance is maintained.

      You can take Maca with vitex. In the powder form you buy in the supermarket it’s basically food and complements vitex.

  8. Justine Avatar

    Hi
    My naturopath has suggested Chaste Berry for heavy periods, low progesterone, infertility and short cycle. I have had some really scary heavy bleeds where I had to take progesterone to stop the bleeding as the amount of blood loss was dangerous. As I have read you shouldn’t take Chaste berry and progesterone together I am worried that if I take CB and have a heavy bleed I won’t be able to stop it with progesterone. Am also worried as have read that it can make periods heavier which woud be terrible for me.

  9. maria Avatar

    I have been taking vitex for about a month now had my first period I have PCOS and I just want to know if it really works and how long it takes to take effect and if anyone has acctully had a baby I just have been trying for ever to have a baby I really need advice… and to know I am not at another dead end.

    1. zam Avatar

      Hi maria i just wanted to let you and others know about my experience with vitex. After years(8) of infertility i got pregnant yet still ended with mc. Then i read about vitex, i started taking it. What i find out was that i was not ovulating. So i had low progesterone, causing me to have irrigular periods, or heavy at times. Anyway i started taking vitex, vitamin b6 and prenatal vitamin. Here is the dosages vitex 1500-3000mg, vitamin b6 200mg prenatal vitamin. Believe me i got healthier more energy. I started getting my periods, ovulating regular after 5months of taking i got pregnant with my daughter. I recently started taking it again i will update if i get pregnant soon. I love vitex it helped me in every way.

      1. Maria Avatar

        Hi Zam, did you continue taking Vitex once you discovered your pregnancy?

  10. Leigh Avatar

    Hello!

    I was on BC for several years. I stopped taking BC on Jan 31. In hopes to try to have another baby. Got my period march 3rd. June 21. May 31. I haven’t had it since. I have taken several pregnancy test. Before I got on BC I had very irregular periods. I have read a few articles about vitex and it regulating you …Do you think this would be something good for me to take? Not sure what is going on here.

    Any help would be appreciated.
    thank you!

    ~Leigh~

  11. Kir Avatar

    Hi – I am just confused about when to stop taking Vitex. If I start taking it and find out I am pregnant (probably 2 weeks after conception), should I stop taking it right away? Should I stop taking it immediately after ovulation each month and start again when my cycle restarts?
    When I do stop because I am pregnant, do I go cold turkey or should I wean myself off?
    Same questions for anything else I should stop once pregnant (I think you mentioned Red Raspberry Leaf, for example).
    THANK YOU for your help Wellness Mama!

    1. Katie - Wellness Mama Avatar

      I’d ask a doc to be sure. I took pre-ovulation each month and stopped after ovulation since this cycling is actually beneficial to the cycle anyway. I took raspberry leaf during pregnancy but this is definitely controversial so I’d ask a doc to be sure.

      1. sange Avatar

        Hi;
        I had 2 misc in 2012 and I never stop trying but nothing has happend. Where or who can I get hold of vitex and maca captules. I would really like to try again if it’s possible because I’m 40yrs old.

  12. Tira Avatar

    Hi Katie,

    Please help me I am a 42 year ole women and have been taking Vitex for about 3 months now and I would like to get off now. Can you please advise on how I should do this. I only take a capsule once a day. I feel like when I first started it I had weird bleeding once I was off or I thought I was a day later bad cramps and walla I would start again. Now that has stopped but I start to get weird like crying spells for no reason at all so I want to get off of this what do you suggest I do? PLEASE LET ME KNOW..

    Thanks so much,
    TZ

  13. Ann Avatar

    Hi,I’m 32 and have been ttc for the past 6yrs with no luck.My periods are irregular ever since I started menstruating.I can go for 3 to 4 months without seeing AF and when she comes,it gets so heavy and lasts for12 to 14 days.Recently a friend advised me to take aloe Vera gel which I’m taking for the past two weeks now but I’m considering vitex together with Maca.Could there be a problem taking these herbs while taking aloe Vera gel?

    1. Katie Avatar

      Have you ever been tested for PCOS? I have very similar symptoms, and was finally diagnosed when I was 28. It may help discover a path of healing once you actually know the cause of your symptoms.

  14. Ruksana Ali Avatar
    Ruksana Ali

    Hi
    Quite informative site and I love to read everyone’s stories .i have a PCOS and tried many things and conceived 2 kids…thank God.
    I have a history of missed periods then long horrible periods.
    Began maca recently.it did bring on the period and gave me energy and I loved that.But I found it made the period ultra heavy.to the point that I stopped maca..and I was taking only 1/4 teaspoon.i wish to try maca again but I agree some hormonal conditions are worsened by maca.

    To anyone with heavy bleeds please please try raspberry leaf tablets.it’s been a godsend four me.

    Takecare guys..wish u all a good health .

    1. Maryam Avatar
      Maryam

      Ruksana,

      Can you please share what things or herbs you tried to conceive please. I think I might have PCOS too.

      Thanks a bunch

      1. Ruksana Avatar
        Ruksana

        Hi

        Do get pcos checked.i had to go to my doc n ask to b checked.

        I wud definitely say try metformin. Many doc give it for pcos as its also an insulin resistance. It made me periods regular ( 2 montly) and i conceived with 6 months.it also made me lose weight.

        I benefitted from maca as well.

        And i would suggest trying raspberry leaf tablets for heavy /painful periods.
        I tried 2 years of chastree vitex, clomid.did not work for me .

        my progesterone was 0.5.which is pre menopausal levels.n i was just 33.im glad i didn’t give up.

        Good luck.hope all goes well

  15. Megan Avatar

    Hi

    Im so glad I found this blog . I recently had a missed miscaraige ( went for 9 week u/s and showed baby stopped growing at 6 weeks with no heartbeat . I have bee told by doctors that this is normal but it’s hard to have no answers especially when it took us half a year to conceive . When I went to my nutrition store the lady mention thyroid problems plus I’ve been reading tons on low progesterone . I do have lots of the symptoms for low progesterone but my doctors won’t seem to give me any testing since this is my first mc . And yes I’ve seen 4 different doctors with no help. . I am currently taking prenatal vitamins , b complex , and maca but I want to do my very best to make sure the next time I get pregnant , I get a healthy baby in my arms 9 months later .i read that month to month hormones change and if your progesterone is low during the literal phase of you cycle you baby will not make it . Do you think vitex will help safely increase my chances of getting pregnant and making a healthy baby ? Is it safe to take until and during my first few months if pregnancy and with my other vitamins ?
    I would live to hear any success stories and advise 🙂

  16. lois Avatar

    I have suffered from small acne all thru my 20s, esp during my menstral cycle. Im 30 yrs old and have dry skin mostly. I came upon the Citrus Clear face wash, and within 1 week, my acne cleared up 80%. I wear heavy makeup daily for work, and wash my face every night with Citrus Clear before bed. This really takes the makeup off well, makes my skin feel fresh and it can breathe. I apply the Citrus Clear Moisturizer (sensitive skin) as a moisturizer as well every morning and night.

    1. Pam Avatar

      I’ve always had bad acne … Usually a week before my period. I would break out with this big cysts on my face and they would be just gross and greasy…. It wasn’t until my acupuncturists, told me to try the specific carbohydrate diet. So I started that diet in November 2014, and my face cleared right up… Only broke out with acne once and that was when I tried eating quinoa… It’s illegal to eat on the scd diet, but to balance hormone levels. I wanted try it… Still haven’t broken out since…

      Does anyone know if there is a support group for people that have tried for over 5 1/2 yrs and no success in getting pregnant … My husband and I have been trying for 5 1/2 yrs… Been on the adoptions list for almost a year, was told it could take ten years to get a child… And then in April I was told that I have polycystic ovarian syndrome … Mean cyst on the ovaries and that makes it a bit harder to conceive … I was on the pill for two months ( broke out with acne the whole time) got off the pill and went straight on vitex right away… Been on vitex a month and haven’t noticed a change. But I was on vitex before two years ago and once my three months hit… Oh my, no cramps during my cycle, no pms before my cycle… I felt like I could live again. I was looking forward to my period instead of complaining about it…

  17. Ann Avatar

    I just had a miscarriage on June 8th. I took vitex capsules and red raspberry tea capsules from before I got pregnant and was gonna continue till 12wks. But when I went for my ultrasound at 11wks. they could not find a heartbeat! Do you think it was from the pills or was it something else! I really thought I was doing everything to try and keep this pregnancy since I suffered 2 previous losses! Any info would be greatly appreciated since my own doctor didn’t even want to care for me any longer let alone answer questions once she found out I wasn’t pregnant any longer!

      1. Ann Avatar

        Thank You so much Katie I really appreciate all your help! If I get pregnant again I will switch to progesterone cream!

      2. Nat Avatar

        I just wanted to say that I am really bummed that in a previous article.. On how to become pregnant you talk about Raspberry Leaf but do not say that it could cause a miscarriage. I took it everyday because I was following your advice and had a miscarriage. I don’t know if that is what caused it but now I sit here wondering. Very frustrated that you didn’t include that side note to stop once pregnant directly next to the information about it.

        1. Katie - Wellness Mama Avatar

          Hi Nat- I am so sorry for your loss! I’ll add a note about your experience to the post, but all of the evidence I’ve seen shows that it is fine, even during early pregnancy. At the recommendation of my midwife, I’ve taken it early on with all of my babies, and never had a problem because of it. This article has some good information about where the idea that it wouldn’t be safe in early pregnancy came from https://www.motherandchildhealth.com/pregnancy-birth/red-raspberry-leaf-tea-can-this-herb-ease-childbirth/ but in short, a concentrated extract of part of the plant was used in a study, but the whole leaf has never been shown to cause miscarriage in any literature that I’ve seen. That being said, I’d definitely always check with your own doc or midwife before continuing to take anything during pregnancy.

        2. Deedee williams Avatar
          Deedee williams

          Listen as a registered nurse. Don’t blame her because she didn’t include it. That is no guarantee that this cause the miscarriage( raspberry leaf) it could have been stressed, and many other things but because you decided to take it you’re upset because she didn’t include something she may not have known? Unless she made the leaf herself how does she know? It could have been hormones that they put in out foods, chemicals that we inhale every single day or something else you put but don’t blame her because you’re angry about loosing your child. I ask the best of Gods blessings upon you

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