Vitex Agnus-casus & Vitex glabrata,
by Cathy Wong, Nutritionist and wellness expert. Medically reviewed by Richard N. Fogoros, MD -article reprinted from verywellhealth
Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus and/or Vitex glabrata) is a plant used in herbal medicine. Also known as chaste tree or chasteberry, it's often taken as a remedy for women's health problems. Vitex supplements typically contain extracts of the fruit and/or seed of the plant.
Vitex may influence hormone levels in a number of ways. For example, it's said to promote the release of luteinizing hormone and, in turn, increase levels of progesterone (a hormone known to play a key role in regulating the menstrual cycle). Vitex is also thought to affect levels of prolactin, which is involved in stimulating breast development and milk production in women.
Vitex has a long history of use as a folk remedy for a range of female conditions, such as post-partum hemorrhage and to help with the "passing of afterbirth." The name "chaste tree" comes from the belief in folk medicine that it could suppress libido.
In alternative medicine, vitex is frequently used in treatment of the following issues:1?
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Fibrocystic breast disease
Infertility in women
Heavy menstrual periods
Benign prostatic hyperplasia
In addition, vitex is said to increase production of breast milk.
Although there's a lack of large-scale clinical trials testing the effects of vitex, some research suggests that the herb may protect against certain health conditions. Here's a look at several potential health benefits of vitex:
For a report published in the journal Planta Medica in 2013, researchers reviewed 12 previously published clinical trials investigating the effects of vitex on women's health. Despite some limitations within the reviewed trials, the results indicated that vitex may be beneficial in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome.
In a more recent study (published in Advances in Therapy in 2014), taking vitex once daily for three menstrual cycles appeared to reduce the intensity of premenstrual symptoms such as bloating, irritability, headache, and skin problems. The study involved 60 women, ages 18 to 44.3?
In a research review published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2009, scientists found some evidence that vitex may alleviate menopausal symptoms. However, the review's authors note that there is currently a lack of rigorous clinical trials testing vitex's effects in menopausal women.4?
A nutritional supplement containing a blend of vitex, green tea, L-arginine, vitamins (including folate), and minerals may help improve fertility in women, suggests a study published in Clinical and Experimental Obstetrics & Gynecology in 2006.5?
The study involved 93 women (ages 24 to 42) who had tried unsuccessfully to conceive for six to 36 months. Three months into the study, 26 percent of the study members treated with the vitex-containing supplement had become pregnant (compared to just 10 percent of those given a placebo). This finding indicates that nutritional supplements could provide an alternative or adjunct to conventional fertility therapies, according to the study's authors.
Possible Side Effects
Vitex may trigger a number of side effects including; bleeding between menstrual periods, dry mouth, hair loss, headache, itching, mild digestive upset, nausea, rapid heartbeat, and skin rash.6?
Use of vitex should be avoided by pregnant or nursing women. In addition, people with hormone-sensitive conditions (such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and cancers of the breast, ovaries, or prostate) shouldn't take vitex.
Because vitex may influence levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, individuals with Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia, or any other condition in which dopamine levels are affected should avoid vitex (unless under the supervision of a qualified health professional).1?
In addition, there's some concern that vitex may decrease the effectiveness of oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy.
Dosage and Preparation
There is not enough scientific evidence to establish a recommended dose of vitex or chasteberry. Different doses have been studied in research studies investigating the herb's effect on various conditions.1?
The right dose for you may depend on various factors including your age, medical conditions, and the specific formulation (extract) used. Speak to your healthcare provider to get personalized advice.
What to Look For
Vitex is most often sold in capsule form. You'll find it in many health food stores and online. In addition, to chasteberry and chastetree, vitex may also be called monks pepper, lilac chastetree in health food stores.
If you choose to buy a vitex supplement (or any herbal medication or supplement), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that you look for a Supplement Facts label on the product that you buy. This label will contain vital information including the amount of active ingredients per serving, and whether or not other ingredients have been added, such as fillers, binders, and flavorings.7
Also, the organization suggests that you look for a product that contains a seal of approval from a third party organization that provides quality testing. These organizations include U.S. Pharmacopeia, ConsumerLab.com, and NSF International. A seal of approval from one of these organizations does not guarantee the product's safety or effectiveness but it does provide assurance that the product was properly manufactured, contains the ingredients listed on the label, and does not contain harmful levels of contaminants.