Vitex, better known as chaste tree is a well-studied herbal medicine which primarily supports female disorders and it is widely researched for hormonal imbalances. It is best known for its treatment of PMS and menstrual cycle problems (irregular cycles, tissue overgrowth, mood disorders).
Chaste tree has the ability to improve the levels of Progesterone and it appears that it has an effect on regulating the larger glandular system working towards systemic rebalancing of the hormones. It is therefore of primary use as a remedy for post-pill cycle to re-establish hormonal balance.
Vitex supports your pituitary gland to produce progesterone and luteinizing hormone – both of which are necessary for your body to ovulate, for regular menstrual cycles, and for you to avoid symptoms of hormonal imbalance like PMS. When a woman is progesterone deficient or Oestrogen dominant and has what is known as a luteal phase defect Vitex can support her endocrine system to create more progesterone, ovulate regularly, and develop a healthy cycle.
Vitex is an essential inclusion in any herbal prescription for hormonal imbalances as it helps to regulate the balance of Oestrogen and Progesterone by stimulating the Pituitary Glands secretion of FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone). The pituitary gland is also called the “master” gland and it talks to the ovaries, letting them know how much hormone to make. Vitex works on the pituitary gland function, enhancing its ability to do this work.
It specifically has a normalising effect on the Endocrine glands to regulate the cycle by:
- Improving the production of Progesterone in the second half of the menstrual cycle (luteal phase) to reduce PMT associated drops in emotional stability.
- Down regulating the production of Oestrogen. Oestrogen dominance that is at the root of many of your cycle issues such as tissue overgrowth conditions (heavy bleeding, fibroids, adenomyosis, endometriosis).
- It has been shown through studies to increase in both Melatonin and Dopamine levels. These hormones, although not directly linked to female hormonal imbalance play an important role in the improvement of symptoms relating to anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances. Dopamine assists with depression whilst melatonin improves sleep quality, hence improving the overall wellbeing in women with hormonal imbalance and providing a sense of calm/ relaxation and improved well being during PMS and perimenopause.
When you should use Vitex
- After using the birth control pill – Vitex is effective at supporting the body’s return to natural hormone production and cycling. If you are experiencing amenorrhea (no menstrual bleed) after ceasing the pill and your cycle doesn't appear after a couple of months, Vitex is an effective natural treatment option.
- When you are entering perimenopause and find your cycles are becoming more irregular. Vitex can help to regulate your cycles and as such decrease the symptoms associated with perimenopause.
- When you have PMS symptoms like acne and breast tenderness as the result of a Progesterone deficiency and Oestrogen dominance, Vitex can improve the balance of these hormones to offset the symptoms
- When you’re trying to get pregnant – Vitex supports regular ovulation, so if you’re experiencing frequent annovulatory cycles you can take this natural treatment to support the return of your fertility and boost your chances of conceiving naturally.
- When you want to breastfeed – for many years Vitex has been used to increase the production of breastmilk post-partum, although you would only use it short term.
- During menopause to support healthy progesterone production.
- Teenagers looking to regulate their cycles.
Vitex is a relatively slow-acting herb. We therefore recommend taking it for up to 6 months to allow it to support the syncing of your menstrual cycle and reduce your symptoms. Some practitioners suggest vitex should only be taken in the second half of the cycle due to its role in increasing progesterone. We disagree with this approach because through experience we have noted that the irregular use confuses the endocrine system with the stop/start approach. When vitex is taken alone it can overstimulate progesterone levels however through the specific balance of other herbal medicines in Happy Hormones, we do not see this effect.
If you intend to take Vitex and/or are currently on the Pill you should be aware that the Therapeutic Goods Administration TGA has received one report of an unintended pregnancy following concurrent use of Vitex agnus-castus and levonorgestrel, a progesterone-only oral contraceptive pill. One other similar case has also been reported internationally.
For more information: https://www.tga.gov.au/alert/vitex-agnus-castus
You should also speak to your specialist if you want to take Vitex if you are using IVF drugs already as this can cause over-stimulation of the ovaries.Summary
Vitex is a well tolerated and clinically effective herbal medicine which has a strong history and reputation as a general hormonal regulator.