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. Jennifer Lyle Avatar
    Jennifer Lyle

    Hi there,

    This is a different subject then above. I’ve had 5 children and tied my tubes with last one 20 months ago. My periods and hormones, PMDD were so bad I could not function or be a happy person for my family. Everything intensified after the litigation. They recommend I get ablation done or birth control. Which both are not good choices. So I tried Chastberry vitex first. I’ve been taking 1 in the morning and one at night for almost 6 months now. It did help my cramps, my PMDD, the bleeding has gotten crazy, it’s mostly better but still have a couple days so heavy I can hardly leave the house. So all effects have been good, except my sexual drive has now almost disappeared! And I have never had any problems with this, ever. I have to ween down and stop the chastberry to try and see if they come back. I’m only 34 years old btw, it almost feels like the chastberry is helping to start premenopause for me? Any suggestions? Has anyone ever said it killed their sex drive?

  2. Morgan Avatar

    Hi, ladies! I wanted to share my Vitex story in hope that it can help anyone in need.

    I started taking Vitex in August 2015 (1000mg a day). I have suffered from extremely painful cramps during AF and also very long cycles. There have been some years where I only saw AF maybe two months out the year. There have been other years where I saw AF multiple times per month. I was completely miserable, not to mention the irregular cycles were having an effect on my ovulation. I had several conversations with my doctor and she diagnosed me with a hormonal imbalance, and at our last talk (before I decided to start vitex) she stated that a year before I was ready to conceive, she would put me on Metformin or Clomid. Of course I went home and did days of research on both and I was not a fan. I then began to search natural fertility aids and that is when I came across Vitex. After starting Vitex, my next 3 cycles were AMAZING! They were each 29 day cycles, I had minor cramps and minor PMS symptoms. In addition to all of that, I am happy to announce that after only 3 months of using Vitex, I got my BFP!!!!!! I actually got it 5x, because I was in disbelief I kept testing. I plan on continue taking Vitex at least until my 2nd trimester. After, I will have all my levels checked and if things seem clear, I will begin to wean myself off slowly but surely. I have a scan schedule on the 18th of this month and then another on the 6th of January. I’ll be sure to provide updates to anyone who is interested!!

    Best of luck to all of you!

  3. ERNA Avatar

    Good day. i have had 2 misscairages both early on in the pregnancy. i have been taking vitex in tincture form now for 2 months. i have read that it can help prevent misscairage in helping progesterone levels. i can only get it in tincture form. my question is can i still take it in early pregnancy if the tincture has alcohol in it? Thank you

  4. Annah Avatar

    Hi. Great article indeed, am 33yrs old and trying to conceive. I also suffer from irregular periods. Sometimes I go for three months without seeing auntie Flo. Looking forward to starting my first dose of vitex in two days, hope it will work in my best interest. Fingers crossed

  5. Kylee Avatar

    Hi Katie, I got introduced to your site through my mom and really love it. I was reading the vitex post and had a question. My cycles are very irregular, very heavy bleeding, painful cramps so bad I have to just lay out on the couch for the first two days. Even Ibuprofen doesn’t completely kill the pain. But I think I should get checked for endometriosis, and was wondering if I should take Vitex, Maca, or a mixture of both. Any info woul be great!

  6. Katie Avatar

    Very good article and very informative. I have previously purchased a tincture that was pitch black in color and once that ran out I purchased from a different company and it was very pale sand/yellow in color. They claim it’s normal but I’m not sure if it’s been diluted or something. I’m nervous to use it :/ Based on your experience what is the normal color of the vitex tinctures? Should I be concerned with the coloring of this one? Looking forward to your response thanks in advance!

  7. Olivia Avatar

    Hi Katie,

    I’ve been taking Vitex for a week now and I’m really not feeling well – I think I may have hopped on the bandwagon too quickly. I didn’t consult with anyone before starting on it, I just went off of the great things I read on the internet. Anyway, I’m so unbelievably exhausted that I don’t know how to cope. I am going to stop taking it, but I’ve found some forums where people say that taking Vitex has caused them irreparable or severe health damage (things like thyroid issues and disrupted sleep and fertility cycles). I’m now really worried that I’ve caused irreversible harm to myself taking this herb without medical recommendation.

    Can you help shed some light? Is it likely that I’ve caused lasting damage?

    Thank you!

  8. Tyra Avatar

    I have PCOS. We are ttc. Failed clomid & femara over the last 6 months. I started vitex & got my first natural period after 5-6 weeks of taking it (first natural period in decades, was on oral contraceptives prior). My question is, should I add Maca to the Vitex supplement that I take?

    Will adding Maca increase my chanes at conception?? Or just stay the course with vitex? My main issue is high testosterone and not ovulating.
    Thanks!!

  9. Sonia Avatar

    Love every article in this blog and I have been following wellness mama for a long time now.

    In the case of Vitex I would like to add to be cautious about it. I have had hormone problems for ever, specially high prolactin levels which stops you from ovulating. After years on medication, that was giving me all kinds of weird reactions (to be able to control the prolactin levels), I decided to try something more natural. I study Vitex for months before buying it and it seemed ok.

    As usual I started with a low dose because I am very sensitive to everything. On the second week on Vitex I started feeling very depressed, on the third week I was not able to do much outside the house and I had nightmares, then on the fourth week, I had suicidal thoughts and high levels of depression. I did not realise it was Vitex doing that to me, I thought there was no help and all I wanted to do was to get out of the misery in my head, even if it meant to leave this world. My husband searched on line for days and days, using all kinds of google search and it was only one woman´s blog who gave me the answer, she had had the same reaction to Vitex like me. I stopped taking it and after 6 or 7 days I started feeling like me again.

    So, if you take Vitex and start feeling depressed, now you know it can be one of the reactions, so stop taking it and look for another natural remedy to help you.

    Needless to say I never got pregnant, still with hormone problems, even worse now that I am peri-menopause, so hormones are really having crazy parties in my body. Never the less I will always try something natural rather than lab drugs.

  10. Tina Avatar

    I have under active thyroid and PCOS. I currently take levothryoxine and metformin medication for these two conditions. Reading about the wonders of chaste berry here, what would you suggest as I consider switching to the berry. Not sure about this but It appears I shouldn’t be taking it with metformin from reading other comments. does this apply to levothyroxine as well?

    Thanks

  11. Julia Avatar

    I’m noticing a pattern with my eczema flaring up more just before and during menstruation. I just started adding maca to my diet to try to balance my hormones. Could I also add this or should they not be used in conjunction? Is one better than the other?

  12. MELISSA Avatar
    MELISSA

    I am new to the TTC club. I have been having issues with irregular periods and ovulation issues. I recently found an article about Vitex & Maca Root, along with Royal Jelly capsules for fertility. I have been taking all 3 (3 vitex daily & 1-2 maca daily & 1 royal jelly daily) for 1 week. I already see a difference. Fingers crossed these will help me conceive.

  13. Elena Barajas Avatar
    Elena Barajas

    Romona ,

    Continue to take the Vitex . Please do not stop cold turkey . You can do more harm by doing so . I’ve been on Vitex since 4/18/15 and I just found out I’m 6 weeks pregnant . My doctor told me to continue taking it until at least 13 weeks . It helps keep progesterone up . Stopping cold turkey can do more harm than good and can quite possibly cause a M/C.
    Take care and don’t stop taking the Vitex .

    Elena

  14. Ramona Avatar
    Ramona

    I have been taking Vitex and Red Raspberry Leaf to regulate my cycle and help with my fertility. Now, I’ve found out that I’m three weeks pregnant, and half of the stuff I read says stop taking them because they could cause a miscarriage and the other half says keep taking them because they prevent miscarriage. I don’t have an appointment with my doctor until next week. Can anyone advise me? If I should stop taking them, do I stop completely right away or wean myself off? Thank you.

  15. fay Avatar

    Please can anyone help me if it is safe to take vitex and does it stop menstruation
    i have been taking it for 4 monthes but no regular cycles , sometimes It takes 40 days and does ovulation happen
    ,I am 48 good helth and didnt have improper cycles since nov 2014
    need your help
    thank you

  16. Belle Avatar

    Hello! I just want to know if its okay to take vitex while I am on hypothyroidism drug? My doctor prescibe me this medication because I’ve been trying to cincieve for more than 3 years now.Please advise. Thank you so much.

    Bella

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      You might want to check with your doctor about it… There are lots of drugs for that, and your doctor should have an idea about drug interactions.

  17. Alana Avatar

    Hi all,

    Can someone please tell me if it’s ok to start taking chasteberry supplements whilst I am breastfeeding my 7 month old son? I’m only partially breastfeeding him, could this make a difference? From what I have read on the internet it says no, it’s not safe.

    I’d love to start taking them as I have low progesterone levels and stage 3 endo. My luteal phase is only 5-9 days long.

    I’d be grateful for anyone’s knowledge and opinions

    Thank you

    1. jen Avatar

      Hi there,

      A lot of the time drugs and herbs may be safe but because no one is willing to test these on breastfeeding mums they prefer to just say no to it. From what I have read, it is probably safe but it might decrease your supply. It also may not, as it effects you depending on the hormone imbalance YOU have. Vitex balances your particular hormones in an indirect way. It’s not as though you are putting a synthetic hormone into your body that would then go to baby.
      I had short luteal phase and miscarried twice due to suspected low progesterone. I started taking vitex and within a couple of months my cycles were 28 days and ovulation was very obvious! I kept taking it through the first trimester, weaning off over weeks 11-13. I was still breastfeeding my 3 year old when I started talkig Vitex but had barely any milk as she had nearly self weaned. I hope this helps and I’m sorry it’s so hard to know if these things are 100% safe.

      1. Kara Avatar

        Hi Jen!

        I am in my first trimester (11 weeks) and as I had been taking Vitex for about a year before I conceived (to help with severe PMS and to regulate my cycle a little more), I was afraid to stop it cold turkey. Like you, I decided to wean myself off of it. Pre-concepetion, I was taking 2 capusules a day, at 500 mg each for a total of 1000 mg a day. Once I saw my bfp, I cut that doseage down to 1 capsule per day. from weeks 9 until now, I have been dumping approximately half of the capsule out. and taking what is left. My question is: how did you wean yourself off in the last couple of weeks of your first trimester? I know everyone is different, so I am not looking for scientific certainty, just anecdotal.. Thanks so much!

  18. Elena Avatar

    Hi,

    I’m 34yrs and suffer from PCOS and anovulation. Up until Jan 2015 I was having cycles every month, lasting only 2 days. I’m wondering if Maca or Vitex would help in regulating my cycles, and help me with ovulation .

    Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    THANK YOU

  19. sunny Avatar

    i m 22 year boy having night false n quick false issue…will vitex leaves help me on this ????

  20. Leanne Avatar

    I took Fertilaid which is Vitex 8 times. I stopped it because I am going on Clomid and I didn’t like the way it made me feel. It has changed my menstrual cycle. I went from 22 days on average to not getting it at all now. I am on day 36 and still no period. I need to menstruate to take Clomid to ovulate. The comments from other women on numerous other sites are not good. The information regarding the bad side effects have made me very nervous. I am extremely worried. I want to cry. I stopped taking it 4 days ago and still no period. I want this out of my system. How long does Vitex stay in my system?

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