Women experience fluctuations in hormones throughout their menstrual cycle, which can result in multiple physical side effects, as well as during menopause, when their periods end. These symptoms can be frustrating, but there are natural options available for dealing with them. One such herbal remedy is vitex.
Also known as chasteberry, the use of vitex (Vitex agnus-cactus) can be traced back thousands of years to the Mediterranean and Asia, where this shrub-like tree grows. Vitex earned the nickname "chasteberry" because it was once believed to promote chastity. The fruit of the chaste tree, vitex has traditionally been used to create medicinal supplements for women's health.
Vitex for Women's Health
Vitex has become so popular as a women's supplement because of its reported impact on hormone levels. Some studies suggest it stimulates the pituitary gland, encouraging production of the hormone dopamine. Vitex may also encourage the release of the hormone progesterone, which is produced by the ovaries and adrenal glands. For this reason, vitex has been credited with helping with the following:
- Premenstrual syndrome (cramps, bloating, fatigue, etc.)
- Irregular periods
- Breast pain
- Hormonal or adult acne
- Milk production for breastfeeding
- Menopausal symptoms (night sweats, hot flashes, etc.)
A 2013 systematic review of published research in the medical journal Planta Medica surrounding vitex concluded its positive effect on premenstrual conditions as well as hyperprolactinemia, which is an excess of the hormone lactin following pregnancy. Some women also take vitex to promote fertility while trying to conceive, since the hormone progesterone plays such an important role in conception, but more research is needed to determine if vitex is in fact a suitable treatment for infertility and how much to take.
How to Use Vitex
Vitex can be found in both liquid and pill (capsule or tablet) form. The most important thing to note about vitex supplements is you have to commit to taking it for at least three months to begin seeing results. Vitex works gradually over time so it may take a while to see the full benefit. Be sure to take your vitex consistently on a daily basis for the best result.
Women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or taking hormonal birth control shouldn't take vitex unless under the direction and supervision of their doctor, due to its impact on hormone levels. Women with breast cancer shouldn't take vitex, as fluctuations in hormone levels can impact their condition. Anyone taking medication for cognitive conditions should also avoid vitex, due to its suggested impact on dopamine levels. Vitex may cause digestive upset, dizziness or skin irritation, but these side effects aren't common or serious.
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