Vitex: Should You Use It?
This has been a very popular question lately, as more and more women are reading about vitex and all the good it can do. I myself was first introduced to vitex in nutrition school, where we were taught that this medicinal herb was used primarily for women’s health issues. My vitex education continued when I took it myself as I was attempting to balance my hormones naturally and regulate my cycles.
What Is Vitex?
Vitex is a medicinal herb that has been used for thousands of years. This herb is also known as Chastetree Berry, and is mainly found in the mediterranean. It is the berries of the vitex plant that are used as medicine, and this plant is mostly used for female health issues. Vitex can be purchased as capsules, tincture and the dried herb to be used as tea.
What is Vitex Used For?
As I’ve mentioned, Vitex is used for the treatment of female hormonal and fertility issues. The main way that Vitex works is by stimulating the pituitary gland in your brain to produce hormones. Specifically, it stimulates the production of more luteinizing hormone (LH) and progesterone. Both of these hormones spike at or around ovulation. The way that Vitex is able to get your body to do this is by suppressing prolactin production. Prolactin is a hormone that when high enough will prevent ovulation from occurring, so reducing levels of this hormone is key to increasing LH and progesterone for successful ovulation and a strong luteal phase.
Vitex is used for many specific purposes, including:
- Regaining balance after coming off hormonal birth control (like the Pill)
- Painful periods
- Moodiness- especially premenstrual depression and anxiety
- Low progesterone
- Irregular or absent menstrual cycles
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Breast pain/tenderness (mastalgia)
- History of miscarriage
How To Use Vitex
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, vitex can be taken in the form of tea, tincture and capsules. In my personal and clinical experience, I’ve seen tincture as the most effective. Capsules would definitely work as long as the source is of good quality, and hasn’t been sitting on a shelf for a year.
It’s important to note that vitex is a slow-acting herb, and it’s important to be consistent in taking it for at least 3 full cycles or up to 6 cycles to see benefit. Keep your eye on the ball and keep going!
The following dosing information is based on research, however it’s really important to consult a qualified natural healthcare practitioner before taking vitex, to make sure it’s the right herb for you and you’re taking the right amount for your individual concerns.
Power/Capsules: 30mg-40mg once daily
Tincture: 20 drops 2-3 times daily or 5ml daily, taken first thing in the morning
Tea: 2-3 cups strong infusion daily (steeped covered 10-15 minutes)
Generally vitex is a safe herb, however it is definitely not safe for pregnancy. Vitex should also be avoided if you are using dopaminerigc or antidopaminergic meds, progesterone, oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy.
Should You Use Vitex?
Obviously, as I don’t know you personally, I can’t really answer that question. But here’s a few factors that might help you decide whether this herb is right for you.
If you have PCOS, vitex might work or it might not. The reason is that it helps to reduce prolactin, so that LH can rise. In women with PCOS, LH is often already too high, and this in itself could delay ovulation and therefore, your period. However, used after ovulation, vitex might be helpful in keeping progesterone levels high enough to have a good luteal phase.
Depression and Anxiety
If you are already prone to depression (and to a lesser extent anxiety), vitex use might not be the best idea. Why? Well, because of dopamine. Dopamine is a love chemical your body makes that plays a role in prolactin production. If you dopamine is low, your prolactin might be high, leading to low LH levels and a lower chance of ovulation. Vitex will raise levels of progesterone (your calming hormone), which can be too much for some women with depression, as it can make them even more depressed.
As I’ve already mentioned, vitex should not be used if you’re on any kind of hormonal birth control, as it can interfere with effectiveness. However, it can be really helpful when you stop taking the pill to help your body and hormones balance out a bit quicker, making the transition process a little easier on you.