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. Lynn Manning Avatar
    Lynn Manning

    Hi!

    I’ve been taking Chasteberry in capsule form for several years – actually – at the start of menopause. It’s been a lifesaver. But now, I haven’t had a period for two years and I’m wondering how long should I continue taking it – and do I just stop taking it – or wean myself off? My doctor has no clue. Thanks.

    Lynn

  2. Zillay Avatar

    I have high prolactin is it okay to take Vitex? Will it help to balance my prolactin and what else I can take. I want to conceive.

  3. Sophia Avatar

    I am 35 y/o and was trying to regulate my menstruation cycle. I have always been irregular and get my period every few months or so. Now that I am trying to prepare my body for pregnancy I started taking VITEX (chastberry) to regulate my periods. Once I got my period I suddenly stopped taking the the Vitex and continue bleeding past my cycle. So I realized I didnt wean myself off the pills so I started taking them again. When I showed my GYN the the Vitex in an effort to show him what I am doing to regulate my cycle he didnt know anything about it and gave me progesterone pills to stop the bleeding and told me to take iron. I am still bleeding and actively on Vitex. I am suppose to get a consult this weekend with a holistic provider. I figured whats going on is that my estrogen levels are high and need to balance out with my progesterone. I just dont know how long I should take the Vitex or the dosage so hopefully the holistic practitioner can assist with that. Estrogen levels being high have killed my libido. This is such a pain. Totally frustrated just looking for light at the end of the tunnel. I really want to just understand and know my fertile time so I can plan pregnancy.

  4. Inio Avatar

    I am 41yrs, i have high prolactin and low oestrogen, i have been trying to concieve but no way, i read about vitex chasteberry can it help and how do i get it in southern Nigeria and how much. Tnx

  5. Marisa Avatar

    Hello,

    I saw this on another blog about vitex:

    “The only research done on maca in women is to raise estrogen levels post menopausally. Women with early menopause or premature ovarian failure may have good results with it, but if a woman has low progestersone the last thing they need is more estrogen in their systems.
    And because they do opposite things, there is no need to take maca and vitex together.”

    I saw you recommend somewhere else on your blog that you can take them both at the same time, so I’m very curious what your thoughts are. Thank you! 🙂

  6. Teresa Avatar
    Teresa

    I just wanted to share my experience because I was not aware of the negative effects of Vitex which are not mentioned in many places, I had only seen glowing reviews until I dug a little deeper and realized it was the cause of some issues for me.
    I started taking 800 mg last month but stopped after about 5 days because I felt like my milk supply had gone way down (I breastfeed a toddler and have always had excellent supply, she is very well fed, so I am not just paranoid about it). We would like to conceive but my luteal phase is short so I tried again this cycle but started on 400 mg. On the sixth day of taking it I developed a bad headache, which has still not gone away after 3 days. It took away my appetite (I have some nutrient deficiencies which require me to eat well daily, so this left me worse off), left me nauseous, and messed up my digestion. (I stopped taking it but am not sure how long it will take to start feeling better)
    After looking up vitex and headaches and than other side effects, I began to realize that my extremely heavy period that lasted 9 days (rather than a light 4-5 day flow) was most likely due to the 5 days I took vitex last month. In addition, both toddler and I have been sleeping very poorly and she has been very clingy and fussy, I know it has affected her even though everyone likes to claim it has no effect on breastfeeding.

  7. Joy Avatar

    Hi. I’ve been having issues the past 6 months – have been experiencing anovulatory cycles. I have been drinking vitex as a tea every day for about 4 months and am not seeing any results. DH and I are ttc our first – even though we’re both in our 40’s. Do you think a capsule form would be better ? Am also considering maca – would that help with ovulation ? Any info you could give would be greatly appreciated. I’ll be seeing a natropath dr in a few days. Thanks so much for the great posts! Very informative and helpful!

  8. Miranda Avatar
    Miranda

    Hi Wellness Mama,

    I am so grateful for your blog and all that I’ve learned from you. Thank you so much for your (unwitting) contribution to my life! I’ve got a couple of questions about Vitex. I would prefer taking Vitex as a tea, since I have the dried berries and I don’t mind the bitter taste. I’m wondering what measurements would you use to make a Vitex tea? And how much would you drink daily?

    Love, Miranda

  9. Kelly Avatar

    Hi Wellness Mama,

    I just love your blog and refer to it often. I am a 47-year-old peri-menopausal woman and had my last period in January. Ugh. I feel better in general when I am menstruating and lately have been having some cramps periodically and getting my first bit of acne EVER in my life. My doctor (who is thankfully a holistic-leaning MD) mentioned that I should try Chasteberry 700-1000 mg per day. I started Vitex capsules about two weeks ago, and my cramps, acne and moods are worse. I am guessing that this is just part of the hormonal adjustment, but I wondered if you could shed some light on this to help me decide if I am on the right track.

    Thanks so much!

  10. Ivory Avatar

    I’ve been taking vitax 2 capsule a day for about a week trying to conceive would Maca be something good to add with vitax ? Thank you.

  11. Liv Avatar

    I’ve been taking VITEX for about a month and a half and have not gotten my period since. My cycles have been long (about 42 days) but regular since coming off of birth control 9 months ago, but since I’ve been taking VITEX I have not gotten my period. Currently on CD 55. Is this normal? Should I stop taking VITEX? I also haven’t noticed any difference in my horrible symptoms since going on VITEX – insomnia, depression, anxiety, acne. My progesterone levels are super low (0.6) and we’re trying to conceive, so any advice would be appreciated! I was hoping VITEX would help, but can’t tell if it is making things worse. Thank you.

  12. Tina Avatar

    hi sorry for the late question on this post back really had to ask a question…. Anyway i purchase a bottle of NatureWay vitex capsule last week an haven starting taking it yet because i was wonder is it safe to take during your menstrual cycle or should it b taken after it has ended… cause i’m trying the vitex cause i heard it dood for women who is TTC an its good for Hormones Imbalance. Thank U

  13. John Avatar

    Hi, heard so much about vitex capsule , am also in vitex for almost a month now, complimenting it with vit e and folic acid, pls is there any other thing I can add? Am TTC, having irregular menses, low progesterone, no ovulation and can I include metformin?

  14. Olivia Cleveland Avatar
    Olivia Cleveland

    I’m not trying to remedy infertility but instead just regulate my hormones (I have horrible periods). Is this something that would be taken every day or at the beginning of pre-menstrual cycle to alleviate PMS symptoms and then stopped after my menstrual cycle ends?

  15. Sara Avatar

    I am 41 and started suffering from perimenopause about a year and half ago. It may seem early to some but for me it’s about right considering I began my menstrual cycle at the age of 10. I went from having periods that were 3 to 4 days long , light, and I didn’t even have symptoms they were coming. To massive cramping, to the point my mom said it was like contractions in child birth ( I have not had children), irregular periods some 17 days other’s 19 and son on, to extreme bleeding and massive clotting, hot body on the inside felt like me entire body had a small fire in it, extreme tiredness and fatigue and so on .. It just came on and stayed on and got worse as the months progressed.

    I started taking an everyday vitamin ..Larger dose of Garden of life Vit C to make more progesterone, Spectrum Flax seed oil capsules to help with progesterone, Now Vit K 2, I then added Organic India Turmeric because it’s good for getting rid of indometriosis, uterine cysts, and tumors, Gaia Liver Cleanse ..to help my body get rid of any built up estrogen in my liver, Gaia Vitex Berry to help support my pituitary gland in balancing my hormones and lastly Emerita Progest cream. So far I am 4 months in ..for every day vitamins and progest cream and 2 months in on the additional supplements. My periods are back to a 28 day cycle. Heat is gone from my body, moods better, lighter periods, large clotting is getting less, Cramping is getting better but I still used Swansons Cramp Bark to help with the cramping that I had. I know it all takes time but I already have seen a huge improvement and am so thankful for all these natural ways to treat this rather than ending up on BC from a dr. which would only worsen issues.

    Love your blog ! Thanks for all the info on so many great issues !

    1. Joy Avatar

      Sara, I am very glad you were able to control it all and reduce the bad periods and heavy bleeding. I had the same type of thing happen to me over the past twelve months. I was 40 and my period went crazy and the cramps were so bad, I was told too it was like child birth as I never had kids. It turned out I had fibroids growing at an alarming rate that I had to have an emergency hysterectomy within 5 months. I basically collapsed from pain and blood lost one day and woke up in the hospital having blood transfusions and four weeks later the surgery. Does anyone know a herb or two that will help with estrogen dominance. I basically feel like my period is always beginning but as it cannot I do not get the relief that women get when it starts and the estrogen is counterbalanced.

  16. Jackie Avatar

    I’m currently 8 weeks pregnant. My doctor has me on chaste tree 1 tsp once a day to maintain progesterone levels since my last pregnancy ended in mc. I’ve been taking it for two weeks now and my last hcg and progesterone levels were great. However, It is causing cramping and just a few days ago I was spotting. I was sent for my next hcg and progesterone check today and should find out tomorrow if another mc has occurred. My question is, if progesterone levels are normal, can vitex be fatal during pregnancy? Also, has it even been active During the two weeks I’ve been taking it since its a slow acting herb?

  17. Natalie Avatar

    Good day! I would like to start taking Vitex & Maca. I’ve had 2 failed IUI’s & my FSH is so high that IVF has not worked either. Haven’t been able to get pregnant is many years. I have endometriosis & had surgery last year. How should I begin taking Vitex & Maca? Thank you for your help!!! Xx

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