Balancing your hormones can sometimes feel like spinning plates. Virtually every aspect of your life has a hormonal effect of some kind, and trying to keep track of it all can be daunting to say the least.
You want to get better.
You want to do it naturally.
You want to find the root cause of your issues and restore your feminine vitality….
But oh how you wish there was just one silver bullet, one pill, one quick-fix that would resolve your issues and give you a fresh start!
Vitex agnus-castus, also called Chaste Tree or Chaste Berry, is often touted as one of these “silver bullets.” I’d even go so far as to say that it is the #1 remedy I’m asked about on my website, in my programs and in my Facebook groups.
While I’ve had excellent feedback over the years from MANY women on the wonders of Vitex, I am not totally convinced that it is the right solution for everyone. This is based on my own experience with the herb and that of others. In fact, I’ve seen it do quite a bit of harm and have asked women to stop taking it on many occasions.
That’s why I am taking a closer look at this natural remedy to see if it lives up to the hype!
What is Vitex?
Vitex is a shrub that grows in the Mediterranean region. It was once called “monk’s pepper” because it was believed to lower libido, so chefs at monasteries used to grind it up as a replacement for pepper and serve it to the monks to help them stay true to their vows of chastity.
Only anecdotal evidence exists as to the effectiveness of this on men seeking to lower their sex drives, which is fine because they account for zero of you reading here today! 🙂
Monks aside, vitex has traditionally been used to help women normalize their menstrual cycles. In particular, it has been shown to increase progesterone during the second half of the cycle (which is the “silver bullet” that many women are looking for).
What is Vitex used for?
Everything and the kitchen sink it seems! Vitex has been used to lengthen a short luteal phase, improve corpus luteum formation, relieve PMS, regulate an irregular cycle, address infertility and even bring back a missing period.
How does Vitex work?
How does this 2,000 year old remedy do all those magical things, and is it right for you.
Numerous studies have shown that vitex does indeed raise progesterone levels, but Vitex itself contains no hormones so it’s not simply boosting progesterone levels by adding more to the body. Nor does it interact directly with the ovaries to stimulate them into producing more progesterone.
The connection between Vitex, Prolactin, Dopamine, Progesterone & Estrogen
Instead, vitex has an effect on the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis (a feedback loop) where it interacts with the anterior pituitary gland and reduces its secretion of prolactin.
FYI – Prolactin helps produce breast milk and prevents ovulation after a woman gives birth. So, if it’s levels go down, a woman is much more likely to ovulate.
This is because prolactin inhibits the development of the corpus luteum by blocking the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) during the luteal phase of the cycle. This is why it can sometimes take well over a year before a woman’s period returns after giving birth.
If she is still breastfeeding (particularly at night when most prolactin is produced) then her body will disrupt the development of a new corpus luteum thinking that the mother already has her hands full and doesn’t need another baby just yet!
Pretty cool how our bodies are always trying to look out for us, isn’t it?
Now, I know you might be saying, “That’s great Nicole, but I haven’t just given birth and I’m not breastfeeding, so what possible impact could prolactin have on me and my cycle?”
Potentially a huge impact!
Excess excretion of prolactin, known as hyperprolactinemia, is actually more common than people think. In fact, 40% of women with amenorrhea or hypothyroidism have hyperprolactinemia.
So what’s going on here? Why are our bodies excreting large amounts of a hormone responsible for milk production when there’s no baby to feed??
The answer lies with yet another hormone which is at the center of this discussion; Dopamine. We all know dopamine. It’s our favorite huggable lovable hormone which brings us so much pleasure. In addition to it making us feel great, dopamine inhibits the secretion of prolactin. The more dopamine we have in our system, the less prolactin. And if we are dopamine deficient, then our prolactin levels will rise (sometimes high enough to impair our fertility).
What lowers dopamine you ask?
Free radicals and inflammation people! I feel like a broken record because I use the word “inflammation” so much these days. I explain it here. Oh, and alcohol and drug addiction cause dopamine levels to drop too. Also, when your life lacks pleasure, dopamine goes down. Yup, if you’re not having any fun, then you best make time to incorporate play.
Bottom line: You have got to handle your stress (add in some fun) and take back control of your diet/lifestyle in order to fully address a hormonal imbalance, infertility, and period problems. I’ve got done-for-you solutions in my Fix Your Period programs. 🙂
Back to Vitex and how it can influence dopamine levels
Let’s do a little recap here: Low levels of dopamine lead to high levels of prolactin which in turn lead to reduced levels of LH and ultimately lowered progesterone. Say it again. Got it? 🙂
We know that vitex reduces prolactin levels and thus raises progesterone. The way it does this is by binding with dopamine-2 receptors causing a dopaminergic effect. Vitex basically pumps up the effects of your dopamine. Higher dopamine leads to lower prolactin, and potentially higher LH, which then raises your chance of ovulating and thus raises progesterone levels!
BUT, there’s more to the story…obviously it can’t be that easy!
It is more complicated than just raising LH, which is why newer studies explain things a bit better.
As you know, Vitex acts on the brain. Newer research shows that it binds to certain opioid receptors in the brain, as well as the dopamine receptors I mentioned above.
This actually slows down the HPA axis, which reduces the production of stress hormones and the negative impact they have on the brain hormones that trigger our reproductive function – think LH, FSH and GnRH.
FYI – women with PCOS tend to have increased GnRH pulse frequency from the brain, which increases LH. Slower GnRH pulses increase FSH. They also have problems with this opioid system in the brain.
Vitex‘s stimulation of the opioid system actually slows GnRH pulses down. And this triggers more FSH to be produced, and less LH. More FSH grows a follicle, which then produces estrogen, and that estrogen signals the brain to produce LH (which will rise and trigger ovulation).
As you can see, it isn’t as simple as “vitex raises or lowers LH”! If you have PCOS and vitex has either worked or not worked for you, then it might have something to do with what is happening with your LH levels.
NOTE: I think we must always keep in mind that we’re not treating the study, we’re treating the individual so it’s important to go with what is working for you. I pretty much always defer to trained herbalists for these kinds of recommendations, and suggest you do too.
Now that we know what vitex does, we can return to our original question…
Is Vitex a good natural solution to boost progesterone and lengthen a luteal phase?
My answer is yes…and no.
There is no doubt that vitex is a unique natural substance that has the ability to raise progesterone levels and help normalize cycles amongst other things. But natural or not, vitex is still a form of medication that might help decrease your symptoms but will never address the underlying causes of the issues you’re facing, without simultaneously making changes to your diet and lifestyle.
(If you think you might have low progesterone you can take this at home Progesterone Test to confirm if your levels are in range or not. Use code Hormones20 at checkout to get 20% off the test.)
If vitex works for you, this most likely means that you may have a dopamine deficiency, which should not be ignored in the long-run, even if the vitex helps in the short-term. This is especially true for women with PCOS, who are at greater risk for depression and anxiety .
Here’s a firsthand account from a client (if anything like this happens to you while taking Vitex, please discontinue it immediately):
I had heard miracles about vitex and had even prescribed it to several clients who had amazing results within 1-2 months of taking the herb. A naturopath recommended vitex, at no surprise to me, along with several other supplements (DIM, milk thistle and some B vitamins). I bought the tincture and started it, doing 3 weeks on/1 week off. My first cycle was horrendous. My PMS felt longer than ever and my period itself was not any better.
This continued for 3 months. Right after ovulation, I would start to feel depressed and lethargic and by the time I got to right before bleeding, I felt like the world was ending and I was an awful human/girlfriend/business woman etc in a way I never felt without it. It always made my cycle longer – and I was already at 30-32 days.
At first I attributed it to “adjusting” but by the end of three cycles, I had a hunch that this wasn’t right for me. I started reading about how it wasn’t for everyone with PCOS and the voice obviously grew stronger when it got validated. It was when my boyfriend eventually was like PLEASE GET OFF VITEX YOU ARE MISERABLE – that I finally thought, you know, he’s right this phase doesn’t feel like a transition and so I did. I instantly felt less depressed my next luteal phase.
Instead, my very first step for women with PCOS related to insulin resistance, obesity and/or diabetes is to regulate blood sugar levels with my Fix Your Blood Sugar Protocol.
Women love my straightforward approach that makes this seemingly huge problem very manageable!
Who should use Vitex and when?
I understand what it’s like to be a modern woman, spinning countless plates and trying to keep everything from crashing down. We just don’t have enough hands and arms or hours in the day to handle all the challenges that our fast paced lives throw at us. For this reason, I often recommend vitex to women who need a boost to get their menstrual health back on track.
Vitex works well for:
- PMS symptoms like breast pain and sensitivity, irritability, headaches, acne and bloating 
- Irregular periods – it can help regulate an irregular menstrual cycle.
- Amenorrhea, especially related to hyperprolactinemia – I don’t recommend it immediately after stopping hormonal birth control because you want to give your pituitary gland a chance to start communicating with your ovaries. If after six months your period still hasn’t returned, then you can try it.
- Raising progesterone, which can lengthen the luteal phase, help with mild endometriosis, help reduce heavy periods, and prevent miscarriage due to low levels of progesterone. 
As I said above, vitex may raise LH levels, which can be problematic for women with PCOS who already tend to have high levels of LH. If LH is high, then there is typically no LH surge, and thus no ovulation. So I don’t really recommend vitex for women with PCOS who have high LH levels in my practice. That is just my experience though. You should absolutely consult with a trained herbalist to figure out the best herbal treatment for you.
How to take Vitex
If possible, see a herbalist who can prescribe vitex based on the symptoms you are currently experiencing. If not, then I recommend taking vitex for 3-6 months. You should see an effect within that time frame, but if you don’t, then I recommend stopping it and moving onto another treatment option.
Vitex is most commonly found in tincture, capsules and loose herbs. It’s pretty bitter so capsules and tinctures are often best, and the dosage can be controlled better this way. Take it in the morning on an empty stomach. I recommend taking vitex throughout your cycle and stopping for the days you have your period.
My clients have had great results with Gaia Herbs Vitex Tincture and the Gaia Herbs Vitex Liquid Capsules, which are like a combination of the capsules and the tincture 😉 The standard recommended dose is 60 drops for the tincture which is equivalent to 500mg, and for the capsules it’s 500-1000mg a day.
Additional study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12809367
34 thoughts on “Does Vitex work for your hormones & fertility?”
I just started Vitex. I was diagnosed with PCOS in January 2019. I didn’t have my LH, estrogen, or progesterone tested but I had normal FSH, thyroid tests were normal, and every other test was normal except my ultrasound which showed enlarged, swiss cheese looking ovaries. My cycles are basically non-existent since having my second daughter in 2017 but I seem to be experiencing ruptured cysts: two in the last 6 months, one followed by a period and one not. Anyway, everything I’ve read said a woman with PCOS shouldn’t take vitex but I seem to be functioning normally except for having polycystic ovaries. I cut just about everything out of my diet and nothing helps so fingers crossed this does
I have taken vitex for almost a year and it did regulate my period and help with consistent ovulation. My last couple of cycles have been a few days longer than earlier on and I suspect vitex may not be working as well as before. I’ve read in multiple places online to discontinue use after 6 months or when you see it is no longer working. I want to take a break from it and try again in the future as needed however my wedding is in 65 days. Should I be concerned about any cycle changes or symptoms that would make me better off waiting until after my wedding to discontinue?
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You said that vitex can be used to help raise progesterone to prevent a miscarriage. Do you have any more details about that? I have had 2 miscarriages in the last 4 months. Before this I considereded my self extremely healthy, now I’m questioning that… I restarted as soon as I miscarried to help get my hormones back in line (along with maca, and mucuna and am not drinking a menstrual tea with red raspberry leaf to help heal) I came here looking for how much vitex I should be taking right now. But after seeing you say that I wanted to hear more. If i were to get pregnant I should continue to take vitex? Do you have any other suggestions for avoiding a 3rd miscarriage?
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I’ve been on vitex capsules for 8 days. Weight gain and acne are now happening and dry mouth too. I only started in my LP, willing to give this a few more months, Ttc at 43 after two MC. Should I expect these side effects to resolve or continue to get worse?
Comment…please I don’t no if I can take vitex because I usually have hot flash at left aboardomal,and I have been trying to conceive for the pasted 8 months now to no avail.please I need your advice
Hi Nicole, thank you this post was super informative! I had my initial consult with my naturopath for the first time and she prescribed me a tablet to lift my progresterone levels and a powder to clear my excess eostrogen. Prior to this, the only issue I had with my period was that it was heavy and painful (but not debilitating as magnesium B6 and naproxogen helped symptoms). My periods were regular, the tablet she prescribed had 2g (2000mg) of Vitex and I didn’t think I should take it during my period but she said to keep taking it consistently to regulate my hormones. Since then, my next period came 3-4 days early, I have zero pain and my period only lasted one day (super light flow). This really concerned me and I don’t even know if this is a good or bad thing (my usual doc said heavy periods mean you’re fertile?) so I’ve been feeling abit conflicted and my naturopath said she doesn’t know why my period only last a day and that it may have been because my hormones are regulating. Not to mention I have lost my libido. Please give me some guidance ?
Hi Vanessa, so glad the post was helpful. Unfortunately I cannot give recommendations specific to your health on blog post comments. You definitely need to consult with your doctor again and find out what is in these things she has given you. Always make sure you are in the know about what you are taking. This is very important.
Sometimes vitex can throw your period off in an attempt to regulate your cycle. However, this is something that should definitely be discussed with your naturopath. Go with your gut on this. If you feel conflicted about how to take vitex, then discuss this with her and make your own decision. I always recommend stopping during your period but that’s my opinion 🙂
Also, heavy periods do not mean you are fertile. That’s a myth. Read my post on heavy periods here: https://nicolejardim.com/heavy-periods/
Hi Nicole. Thanks for the article! I have low progesterone and am trying to conceive. I’m just wondering if taking Vitex for a month or more, but then stopping Vitex upon getting pregnant, would lead to a drop in progesterone and could therefore cause miscarriage? Many thanks.
Hi Sarah, this is definitely a question for a trained herbalist. I always recommend working with one, especially where conception and pregnancy is concerned. Also, you won’t likely see much change if you take vitex for just a month. You’d need to take it for longer to see substantial benefit. 🙂
A bit late now, but a few years ago I took Vitex because I suspected low progesterone was the reason for my fertility issues. I conceived. One day I forgot to take my Vitex and I miscarried a few days later. I do not know if it was really the case but I sure felt horrible. Later, we saw a fertility doctor. I expressed my concerns about the progesterone, he tested my blood (they take so much there at fertility specialist) and prescribed me progesterone. The pregnancy lasted. I might be late answering the original poster’s answer but it may help someone else.
Great information, thank you! I hope it’s not too late to post a question. I am 40 y/o TTC and have endometriosis and heavy periods. I’m regular in terms of cycle length. I also have PMDD. I got my hormone levels tested and my OB said they look great. My progesterone is 11.9. Isn’t that on the low side? I started Vitex for a week and broke out on my face and chest pretty bad(way worse than usual) and I took a break today. I’m debating decreasing to every other day. My capsule is 400mg and I’ve been taking one in the AM. I also felt depressed today and I’m in CD 11, so close to ovulation(which it was confirmed I am ovulating)I’m wondering if my situation sounds like a bad fit with Vitex or if I need to hang in there? I’ve also been gaining weight which is unusual for me. Thanks so much for any input!
I can’t make specific recommendations for your health on here, but I encourage you to go with your gut on this one. If you’re noticing symptoms you never experienced before vitex, then trust what your body is telling you. Vitex might not be the right fit for you. Additionally, vitex isn’t going to help address the endometriosis and heavy periods – you will have to look closely at your diet, stress levels, and supplement regimen and make adjustments there. I offer all of this in my Fix Your Period Program. Based on your symptoms you’d want to check out track #1 of the program here: https://nicolejardim.com/programs
And, if your progesterone was tested 6-7 days after ovulation occurred, then yes it is low. You’d want it to be around 17-22 – this is the functional medicine range. Unless your OB is a functional medicine doctor who is looking at your test results from a functional medicine perspective, she’s likely missing important signs of hormonal imbalance. Just my two cents. 🙂
Hi Nicole, I read somewhere (can’t remember the source!) that vitex is okay for women with PCOS if taken in the luteal phase. Have you read anything to support this? I followed this and had great success. I had already stabilized my blood sugar levels and I still needed some help with my progesterone , which is why I turned to vitex. I did discontinue after 6 months, this month being the first without it so I shall see what happens with my monthly report card! Thanks for the informative post.
Hi Nicole. So I stopped using the pill 14 months ago. Ever since I’ve had irregular cycles. My cycles is also very short, between 16-21 days at the most. It seems I ovulate very early in my cycle, like between CD5-CD9. My gynae prescribed Clomid 50 mg for one month as well, nothing happened. It seems I do ovulate, but just very early. So we are thinking that the endometrium is maybe too thin to support implantation since I ovulate so soon after my period (like one day after my period) . I have been taking Vitex for the past 3 months, no difference yet. I do have two boys already, aged 6 and 8 years old. I am 33 years old. With both of them I fell pregnant within 3 months off the pill and I’ve always had very regular 28 day cycles before my 2 pregnancies.
Hey Nicole, do you just give advice to women to take this pill or are you the founder of it? Thanks
Thank-you for this helpful information. I am 39 and have been TTC for 2 years. I have been diagnosed with a short luteal phase and very low progesterone. I was taking Vitex liquid for 2 months and to my surprise I found out I was 5 weeks pregnant! After a 6 week ultrasound with a strong heart beat we were feeling hopeful. My OB strongly suggested I begin progesterone supplements. I was concerned about the sups messing up the hormonal feedback loop but didn’t want to have any regrets. I miscarried 10 days after starting the sups at 8.5 weeks. My question is can vitex AND progesterone sups work together? Could Vitex alone sustain a pregnancy thought the first trimester? Any info would be appreciative as we prepare to try again. Thanks!
Thank you for the informative article. What about a 48 year old woman in periomenopause who has chronic 10 pounds of water retention and bloating. I eat perfectly. Oatmeal, kale shakes with protein and coconut oil, organic spinach shakes with organic blueberries, pineapple and strawberries. I eat nuts, one kind bar a day, salmon twice a week, occasionally grass fed beef. I bike 50-60 miles a week and weight lift five days a week and not one pound is coming off. Just had my labs down and the hormone doctor said that my estrogen is slightly high while relative to my progesterone which is slightly low. The hormone doctor said that he did not think that DIM or calcium d’ glucarate would work for me since I eat so well already. I really do not want to take progesterone. I was considering chasteberry but do not know. I would appreciate your opinion. Thank you. Sincerely, Catherine
Your articles are for when it abtyulselo, positively, needs to be understood overnight.
Thanks for coigbnrutint. It’s helped me understand the issues.
Thank you so much for your great work! I am impressed how you link all different symptoms with the big hormone picture (which is extremely complex, uff!)
Your blog arrived on time! I don’t know what else I can do to regulate my cycle. I have Hashimoto’s which can’t be adjusted properly, and always had a tendency for estrogen dominance. I used to have cycles of 27-32 days, but the last 3-4 cycles lasted more than 50days?!
The thing is that I have already changed my diet radically, and my blood sugar is much more stable (have not measured it, but the symptoms of hypoglycemia have basically disappeared), and my PMS is less and my menstruation is much less painful. However, my cycles are so long now, and I don’t feel my ovulation anymore. My progesterone is low in relation to estrogen, but a trial of using progesterone creme was horrible, it made me depressive within 2 days. My MD would like to give me pregnenolone now . What do you think about this?
I took vitex for 3 months and it made me feel very sad and depressed. Also it reduced my period cycle from 32-38 days to 22 days and my period during the third month taking vitex last 3 weeks in a row, that is the reason I decided to stop using it. It was really scary. As you said it is not for every body. I was taking it to avoid PMS and to regulate my period. The only good thing is that after stopping vitex I had two cycles of 22 days and I did not get my period this month because I am pregnant! Thanks for your great work and giving us all this information.
Congratulations Mirosly! I’m so happy for you! 🙂
What do you think about tea with chaste berry like Yogi Tea Women’s Moon Cycle?
Hey Kristin, I don’t really have an issue with teas that have vitex in them because there likely isn’t enough of the ingredient to have a significant effect on someone. However, if they are drinking it 1-2 times every single day, that might be a different story. I think a 1-2 times a week or 4-6 times a month is probably fine. 🙂
Thank you so much for this! I am currently taking vitex tablets (brand name Premula) being for moderately high prolactin levels. After 60 days I have felt quite a difference, as I had little PMS leading up to my period, my cycle was 32 days long instead of the usual 45 days and my acne has improved immensely. The only difference I found, was that my menstrual bleed increased quite substantially.. I am also taking liquorice, thuja and white peony (tableted form from mediherb). Have you found that it ever increases people’s bleeds? Or do you think it’s just the combination I am taking? I am in my final year of Naturopathy in New Zealand 🙂
Thanks for the work you do, you’re my idol!! <3
Hi Maddi! Thank you so much for your comment and sweet words! I am so appreciative <3
Vitex could definitely be causing it as one of the "side effects" is increased menstrual flow. Licorice could potentially be causing this because it raises cortisol and blood pressure and I saw a few references to it increasing menstrual flow or being used to bring back a period. It also can raise estrogen levels which would explain heavier periods for sure. I don't recommend using licorice for too long and blood pressure should be monitored throughout use. I've never used thuja or white peony before so I can't speak for them but a quick search online shows that white peony is a blood mover, so it helps with stagnation, which could cause more bleeding I imagine. And then Thuja promotes menstruation so I imagine this could have a similar effect to the licorice and white peony.
Hope this helps! I learned something new here too 🙂
Hi, Nicole, This was a really timely and helpful post for me. I’ve been on Vitex for 9 months now. It did do exactly what I’d hoped which was lengthen my luteal phase and balance out my cycle. (I’d been on the pill for 18 years, got off to try to conceive and of course my cycle went haywire.) However, over the past few months, I’ve been wondering, should I stop? Especially since my periods have been getting shorter (down from 4 days when I was on the pill to 3 days, and then in the last couple of months 2). I’m going to try IUI soon if I don’t get pregnant naturally so I’m sure they will want me off herbs anyway, but one thing I haven’t been able to find ANYWHERE is how long SHOULD you stay on vitex? If it worked for you, do stay on it? Or should I have stopped a few months ago? And should you taper off or go cold turkey?
Hi Stephanie! Great questions. I am not a herbalist so I can’t say for sure what you should be doing but based on what I have been taught, it doesn’t make sense to stay on vitex if you are starting to see side effects. You can just stop it cold turkey for a few months and see what your cycle does without it. Then if you want to start back on it you can, but I wouldn’t recommend being on for more than 6 months. Diet and lifestyle are such a huge component of hormonal health and fertility so I think these should be your main focus. Hope this helps! Wishing you all the best! xo
Loved this post with new info on Vitex I did not know! Im wondering about the client that had the adverse “reaction” to the Vitex….Its says she took it for 3 weeks then stopped when period came / 1 week off…is it not true, for women still menstruating , that they should only take vitex from cycle day 14-28? This looks like the opposite and it turned my knowledge of the herb upside down…Also, what do you think of increasing dopamine via herbs and nutrients in addition to vitex to increase LH ?
THANKS! Love your new site:)
Thanks Erin! Yes, based on what I’ve been taught, you should take vitex through your cycle and stop during the time you bleed. Since it works to help a woman ovulate, you definitely want to take it during the follicular phase. However, I have also found that different practitioners choose to prescribe vitex in different ways, so I figure it’s best to go with what you know works. Since I’m not a herbalist I don’t often recommend combinations of herbs so I can’t speak to using other herbs in conjunction with vitex. 🙂 xo
I loved this article! As always, you provide us with such great information – thank you!!! I have mildly elevated prolactin levels and the section of the article regarding dopamine and prolactin really stood out to me. Other than making time for more fun, is there anything else you can recommend to help our bodies increase dopamine levels? Thanks again! You are amazing and I appreciate all you do!
Hi Rachel, thanks! Glad you love the article. I strongly recommend technology and social media breaks for improving dopamine levels. We can become addicted to that in much the same way we become addicted to alcohol, sugar, drugs etc. And as I said in the article, are you eating foods that are causing chronic inflammation in your body? What about stress? That hijacks your pituitary gland and causes all sorts of downstream problems. Those are the most important places to start 🙂