Vitex agnus-castus, also known as Chaste Tree or Chaste Berry is a shrub that grows in Mediterranean countries.
Numerous studies have shown that Vitex raises progesterone levels, but Vitex itself contains no hormones or progesterone so the way it raises progesterone is not by putting it in your body directly nor by stimulating your ovaries into producing more progesterone. The way Vitex works is by lowering the levels of prolactin (the hormone that stimulates milk production after childbirth). The naturally high levels of prolactin in breastfeeding mums lowers their fertility ensuring this busy mum looks after their little one for a while before becoming pregnant with another baby.
Unusually high levels of prolactin can be present even in non-breastfeeding women. In fact, 40% of women who suffer from amenorrhea or hypothyroidism have too much prolactin. In non breastfeeding women a high level of prolactin will have the same effect on the body of a breastfeeding woman, inhibit your fertility by impacting on your progesterone levels but at a time when you may ACTUALLY be seeking to get pregnant or have a healthy cycle.
Unusually high levels of prolactin in non-breastfeeding women are related to dopamine, the huggable lovable hormone related to our sensations of pleasure amongst many other things. Besides making us feel great, dopamine inhibits the secretion of prolactin (regardless of whether you are lactating or not). In other words, the more dopamine in our system, the less prolactin. And so if we are dopamine deficient, our prolactin levels will rise (sometimes high enough to impair our fertility).
Low levels of dopamine are associated with stress and the impacto of free radicals on your health. Alcohol and drug addiction lowers dopamine as does having a life devoid of fun and pleasure so you ultimately you need to incorporate relaxation and fun on your life style as well as avoiding. With regards to the antioxidants needed to combat the free radicals around you, some good news, CACAO is packed full of antioxidants, but this is not your ordinary bar of chocolate full of milk and sugar, I am talking about a small amount of dark chocolate added to your diet every day bringing in serious amounts of blissful antioxidants to your body as does green tea. If you are looking for a recommendation for a supplement to purchase, I would choose this one. Follow the instructions on the bottle.
So going back to Vitex, it is known to be a natural substance that has the ability to raise progesterone levels and help normalise your menstrual cycle. But natural or not, Vitex is still a form of medication that might help decrease your symptoms but will NOT address the underlying causes of your menstrual or fertility issues, without simultaneously making changes to your diet and lifestyle.
If Vitex works for you, this most likely means that you’re suffering from a dopamine deficiency and/or some other kind of hormonal imbalance. This should not be ignored in the long-run, even if the Vitex helps in short-term.
Chronically low dopamine, in many cases, leads to depression and Vitex has been shown to often make this worse. The reason for this is, progesterone is a calming hormone so when Vitex causes progesterone levels to rise in people who are already depressed it can push them down even deeper. This is especially true for women with PCOS who are known to be at greater risk for depression and anxiety.
So if you experience PCOS or suffer or have suffered from depression and or anxiety. DO NOT use Vitex.
Having taken care of the DO-NOT-HAVE-VITEX cases, here is a list of those women who would benefit from having it
- PMS symptoms such breast pain and sensitivity, irritability, headaches, acne and bloating
- Irregular periods
- Amenorrhea, especially related to hyperprolactinemia – I DON’T recommend it immediately after stopping hormonal birth control because you want to give your pituitary gland a chance to start communicating with your ovaries once more without any interference. If after six months your period still hasn’t returned, then you can try it.
How to take Vitex
If possible, see a herbalist who can prescribe Vitex based on the symptoms you are currently experiencing. If not, then I recommend taking Vitex for 3 months. You should see an effect within that time frame. If the effects are positive, continue for another 3 months and then stop and review, but if you don’t see progress or feel WORSE or DEPRESSED or ANXIOUS, then I recommend stopping it immediately (do not wait until the 3 moths are over) and move onto other treatment options.
Vitex is most commonly found in tincture, capsules and loose herbs. It’s very bitter so capsules and tinctures are best, and the dosage can be controlled better this way. Take it in the morning on an empty stomach. Take Vitex throughout your cycle except the days you have your period (your bleeding days).
The product I use is this, Follow the instructions for dosage on the box.