How does Vitex work in the female body? Hint: it starts in the brain! Part II

female reproductive system hormonal imbalance ovulation progesterone Jan 29, 2024
woman holding blossoming Vitex, herbalist

(This is part II in my Vitex Blog Series. For part I, see here: For the Love of Vitex, Chaste Tree and Monk’s Pepper)


It’s easy to take an herbal supplement without giving much thought to what it’s actually doing in your body.

If you’re curious to learn how Vitex Berry can positively transform menstrual cycles, hormonal health and fertility, stick around! 

Vitex acts on the pituitary gland, which in turn regulates the production of ovarian hormones. 

Although the pituitary gland is located in the brain, it’s responsible for releasing hormones (luteinizing and follicle stimulating hormone) that trigger ovarian hormones (estrogen and progesterone). It’s like a domino effect!



Basically, estrogen, progesterone, and more of the menstrual cycle hormones all start with the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, both located in the brain!

That’s why, whenever looking to address menstrual cycle and hormonal issues, it makes sense to consider supporting further “upstream,” first, in addition to womb support that might be helpful, including diet, exercise, womb specific herbs, etc. 

(Notice how I said “consider” using Vitex? I don’t always assume it’s the right herb for everyone. I’ll get into the specifics of my caution in part III of this Vitex series.) 


My Top 5 Uses of Vitex as a Clinical Herbalist and Fertility Awareness Educator



  • PMS
  • Irregular cycles / PCOS
  • Elevated Prolactin Levels
  • Luteal Phase Deficiency
  • Support fertility before conception, or in order to conceive 

Let’s break this down a bit further...




These are three specific areas where Vitex can be invaluable for PMS

  • Breast pain - tender / painful breasts, fibrocystic breasts
  • Mood disturbances such as low motivation, poor mood, migraines, depression and restlessness
  • Low progesterone levels in relation to estrogen - Vitex enhances corpus luteum development. The corpus luteum is what produces progesterone after ovulation occurs. So this in turn increases levels of progesterone, and reduces symptoms of PMS because PMS is associated with excess Estrogen in relation to progesterone.


Irregular Cycles


Vitex is a hormonal normalizer and endocrine system support herb

Vitex helps to restore hormonal balance, usually higher progesterone levels in the progesterone:estrogen balance in females

If someone is missing their period / ovulation altogether, or having infrequent periods, Vitex can be useful as a pituitary gland tonic (“tonic” meaning supportive and safe for daily use), which works to get ovarian cycles functioning again.

This would only be one component of a strategy, however. There is a lot more that needs to be taken into consideration when someone is having irregular or absent ovulations / periods (amenorrhea, PCOS, and more).


Elevated Prolactin Levels


Prolactin is a hormone usually associated with pregnancy and breastfeeding. Non-lactating women do not normally show elevated prolactin levels. Excess prolactin is generally seen as a stress response, and is associated with PMS and sometimes infertility.

Vitex helps to keep excess prolactin in check!


Luteal phase Deficiency


What is luteal phase deficiency? In a nutshell, it’s when the second half of the menstrual cycle-- from ovulation to the next bleed begins-- is deficient in one or more ways. This could look like:

  • Low progesterone levels (signs of this can include short luteal phase or lower basal body temperatures than what’s ideal after ovulation) 
  • Short luteal phase length (10 days or less from the time you ovulate to your next bleed)
  • Poor endometrial lining (without getting this measured via ultrasound, possible signs of this may include little blood (endometrial lining) being shed during menses. 


Support fertility before conception, or in order to conceive 


In short, Vitex supports conception by normalizing ovarian hormones. This creates routine ovulation each cycle, allowing for a couple to have a better chance of conceiving.

Vitex also lengthens and supports the luteal phase. A healthy luteal phase is crucial for a fertilized egg to be able to successfully embed in the uterine lining and maintain an early pregnancy. 

I’ll share a bit more below with a fascinating real-life convo between a fellow follower on instagram and I regarding Vitex and pregnancy:

(Note: I don’t usually give individual health information/education on instagram. But, I did answer this woman's questions because they were fascinating and she had been given lots of incorrect info regarding vitex, pregnancy, and fertility. This is a slightly edited version of our actual convo.)

Q: How can chasteberry vitex help me get pregnant? 

A: Hi! Vitex is great to support fertility but it takes time to work so I recommend taking Vitex every morning, through the whole cycle for at least 3 months. Then trying to conceive. How many months in a row have you taken it? 

Also, try to reduce as much stress as possible and make sure you are eating lots of nutrient dense food, including lots of healthy fat. Body needs healthy fat to make hormones which is super important to get pregnant and carry a pregnancy. Hope this helps! Blessings on your pregnancy journey!

Q: And shall I take it after finishing my period until a positive pregnancy test then directly stop? And when can I stop it totally and rely on my body ?

A. You can take Vitex until you get a positive pregnancy test. It can take several months to a year to conceive so don’t get discouraged. If you want more specific guidance, I’d be happy to have an herbal / fertility consultation with you! I’d be able to give much better support once I understand what’s going on fully. Last, you can take Vitex up to a year then take a break. Also, you can take a break from it while you are on your period, then start again.

I teach about timing intercourse correctly, making sure your cervical fluid is healthy which is what keeps sperm alive and healthy etc. lots of things to talk about and ensure everything is looking good when trying to conceive

Q: But I should not stop Vitex now, right ? I wanted to rely on my body to see if it's doing the ovulation alone but I'm scared. Bcz i was a year without ovulation and period so im scared if I quit Vitex, that will happen again.

Im following my ovulation through ovulation clear blue device

It tells me when is my peak and tells me before the peak when is my high fertile days

Can I stop Vitex and still get a period now?

A. Clear blue device is helpful, but making sure you have sex when you have fertile cervical fluid present is really the best way to go

Not sure if you will still have a regular cycle without Vitex. Ideally you will, but there’s no way to know for sure until you stop. If you continue to not have a regular cycle without Vitex, then I really do recommend seeking out a holistic practitioner that can help access your situation more thoroughly. But Vitex is fine to take for up to a year so don’t worry about needing to take it for a while.

Q. Should I be afraid if I get pregnant to stop Vitex ? Bcz i heard it's not safe. And should I use progesterone?

A. You can use Vitex until you confirm pregnancy- it’s safe. Just stop when you get a positive pregnancy test. Some of my clients, including myself, took Vitex during the early weeks of pregnancy as a progesterone alternative. Not saying that you should do that, but just letting you know that that option exists. You’d have to talk to your doctor about taking progesterone and whether that’s indicated for you or not.

Wooo, that was a lot of information! And there are still so many uses of Vitex not covered here. 

For more, see Part III here: Vitex: Not (Always) the New Pill for Women's Ills. I cover Vitex best practices regarding dosage and duration of use, common pitfalls of Vitex and what we can be doing instead of reaching for Vitex first as the new “Pill” for women’s health. 

Warmly, Veronica 

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