Vitex ( Vitex agnus-castus ) is a plant used in herbal medicine. Also known as a chaste or chastity tree, it is often taken as a remedy for health problems in women. Vitex supplements generally contain extracts from the fruit and / or seed of the plant.
Vitex can affect hormone levels in a number of ways. For example, it promotes the release of luteinizing hormone and, in turn, increases the level of progesterone (a hormone known to play a key role in regulating the menstrual cycle). Vitex is also believed to affect prolactin levels, which is involved in stimulating breast development and milk production in women.
What is Vitex used for?
Vitex has a long history of use as a remedy for a number of female conditions, such as postpartum hemorrhage, and to help with "placental discharge." The name "chaste tree" comes from the belief in traditional medicine that it can suppress libido.
Today, in herbal medicine, vitex is often used to treat the following conditions :
Additionally, vitex is believed to increase breast milk production.
Despite the lack of large-scale clinical trials examining the effects of vitex, some studies show that the plant can protect against certain diseases. Here are some of the potential health benefits of vitex:
In a report published in the journal Planta Medica in 2013, researchers reviewed 12 previously published clinical trials examining the effects of vitex on women's health. Despite some limitations in the reviewed studies, the results indicated that vitex may be useful in the treatment of PMS .
In a more recent study (published in the journal Advances in Therapy in 2014), taking Vitex once a day for three menstrual cycles appears to reduce the intensity of premenstrual symptoms such as bloating, irritability, headaches, and skin problems. The study involved 60 women between the ages of 18 and 44 .
Symptoms of menopause
In a review of the study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2009, scientists found some evidence that vitex can alleviate menopausal symptoms. However, the reviewers note that there are currently no rigorous clinical trials available on the efficacy of Vitex in menopausal women .
A dietary supplement that contains a blend of vitex, green tea, L-arginine , vitamins (including folic acid), and minerals can help improve fertility in women, according to a study published in Clinical and Experimental Obstetrics & Gynecology in 2006 .
The study included 93 women (24 to 42 years old) who had tried unsuccessfully to conceive a child for 6 to 36 months. Three months after the start of the study, 26 percent of the study participants who received a supplement containing vitex became pregnant (compared with 10 percent of those who took a placebo). This finding indicates that, according to the study authors, nutritional supplements could be an alternative or a complement to traditional fertility treatments.
Possible side effects.
Vitex can cause a number of side effects, including bleeding between periods, dry mouth, hair loss, headache, itching, mild indigestion, nausea, heart palpitations, and skin rashes .
Pregnant and lactating women should avoid the use of Vitex. Also, people with hormone-sensitive conditions (such as endometriosis , uterine fibroids , and breast, ovarian , or prostate cancer ) should not take vitex without consulting a specialist who knows its use.
Because vitex can affect levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, people with Parkinson's disease , schizophrenia, or any other condition that affects dopamine levels should avoid vitex (unless under the supervision of a qualified healthcare professional) .
Additionally, there is some concern that vitex may reduce the effectiveness of oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy.
Dosage and preparation
There is insufficient scientific evidence to establish the recommended dosage for Vitex or Blueberries. Various doses have been studied in studies examining the effects of the herb under various conditions .
The correct dose for you may depend on a number of factors, including your age, medical conditions, and the specific formulation (extract) used. Talk to your doctor for personalized advice.
What to look for
Vitex is most commonly sold in capsule form. You will find it in many health food stores and on the Internet. In addition to the chaste and chaste tree, the vitex in health food stores can also be called monk pepper, a lilac chaste tree.
If you decide to purchase a vitex supplement (or any herbal medicine or supplement), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that you look for the supplement label on the product you purchase. This label will contain vital information, including the amount of active ingredients per serving and whether other ingredients such as fillers, binders, and flavors have been added .
Additionally, the organization invites you to search for a product that has a seal of approval from a third-party quality testing organization. These organizations include the United States Pharmacopeia, ConsumerLab.com, and NSF International. A seal of approval from one of these organizations does not guarantee the safety or effectiveness of a product, but it does provide assurance that the product was manufactured correctly, contains the ingredients listed on the label, and does not contain harmful levels of contaminants.