Vitex: Not (always) the New Pill for Women’s Ills, Part III

female reproductive system hormonal imbalance vitex women's health Feb 08, 2024
Vitex berry Chaste tree


I know, I know! I’ve said before how much I love Vitex-- a beautiful, potent medicinal plant. And yet. 

Similarly to how Western medicine recommends “the pill” for all sorts of women’s health issues to “regulate the cycle,” Vitex has become the herbal form of “the pill” for those seeking natural ways to regulate the cycle. 

There are pros and cons with this approach. Let me explain.

(This is Part III in my Vitex Blog Series. For part I, see here: For the Love of Vitex, Chaste Tree and Monk’s Pepper), for part II, see here: How does Vitex work in the female body? Hint: it starts in the brain!


Pros of using Vitex, when indicated


It’s safe. Using herbal medicine, especially when it’s deemed a tonic, is safe for long term use and is supportive to our body. Vitex is a tonic, a pituitary gland tonic. 

Vitex does not add any synthetic substance into the body. Humans have evolved alongside herbs for thousands of years. Our bodies are equipped to synthesize and use herbal medicine for our benefit. 

Vitex truly helps to restore ovulatory cycles, and supports progesterone production. This is actually a legitimate way to regulate a menstrual cycle. On the contrary, hormonal birth control will never “regulate” a menstrual cycle. It only serves to cover up symptoms, shutting off your own biological hormones and replacing them with synthetic ones, never resolving any issues with a root-cause approach. (There are a handful of instances where this is appropriate, but that's outside the scope of this post).

Once ovulatory cycles have been restored, and hormonal balance is met, you can stop taking Vitex whenever you like.



Cons of using Vitex


(This is really the only con I can think of…)

If you begin taking Vitex and assume it will help your PMS symptoms, restore ovulation, help ease fibrocystic breasts, improve fertility (progesterone), ease perimenopause / menopausal symptoms, etc, chances are you’d be right.

It likely will help. However, you also rob yourself of digging deeper. Finding out why you had PMS, fibrocystic, painful breasts, absent ovulation, etc., in the first place.

I really appreciate this quote by medical herbalist Paul Bergner:

"Taking Vitex to solve the problem makes as much sense as taking caffeine to cure fatigue. It will worsen the underlying problem while masking it….This is not a wise woman herb."

While I don’t agree with this sentiment AT ALL, I think there is a lot of sage wisdom here. (Also, Paul Bergner has never had the delightful experience of Vitex supporting his menstrual cycle, so he can't ever fully know…)

In my clinical practice, I have never observed Vitex to worsen an underlying problem.

BUT, I do think it’s easy to take Vitex without considering how else you can be supporting yourself. That is, in Paul Bergner terms, like "taking caffeine to cure fatigue.”

For instance, one way Vitex is believed to positively improve PMS symptoms is by binding to dopamine receptors in the hypothalamus. Thus, indirectly improving mood. 

A more sustainable, root-cause approach would be to ask, “Why is somebody dopamine deficient in the first place?”

Magnesium, B-6, Zinc, essential fatty acids (like fish oil), vitamin C, and iron are all needed for dopamine production.

Completing easy tasks, like making your bed each morning or making yourself a cup of tea also regulate dopamine. Eating protein, a 1 oz serving of dark chocolate, or drinking orange juice, also positively impact dopamine production.


The Bottom Line


I see Vitex as being a beautiful, helping hand for us while we also do our part to help ourselves through diet, lifestyle and mindset shifts.

Here are some Vitex best practices you can follow if you decide to try this herb. As always, its recommended you consult with a professional herbalist or naturopathic doctor before taking medicinal herbs. 


When to take Vitex

Vitex is best taken in the morning, with or without breakfast. It’s recommended to take every day of the menstrual cycle, with exception to your menstruating days if that's what feels best for you. Some women take Vitex every day, including during menstruation. 

Duration of use

It’s recommended to take Vitex for 3 months up to a year. It’s safe to take long term, especially if resolving a more severe hormonal condition such as PCOS or amenorrhea. 


Depending on if you’re taking this in tincture form or powdered pill form…

1 ml - 4 ml, or 100 mg - 400 mg 

Start with 1ml and increase dosage if needed. Work with an herbal practitioner if you need further guidance based on your specific circumstance. 

Brand Recommendations

Not all herbal brands are created equal! Here are some of my favorite high quality, online herbal brands:

  • Gaia Herbs
  • Herb Pharm
  • Mountain Rose Herbs 

I hope you’ve found this helpful!

Please reach out with any questions, or to schedule an herbal consultation with me. 

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