Vitex is a great herb for both men and women, but it is most known for regulating menstrual cycles and improving fertility. The common name for vitex is chaste berry or monk’s pepper. Vitex is native to the Mediterranean and Central Asia. It prefers to grow in creek beds and river banks. It has beautiful slender spikes of lavender blue flowers that bloom in summer and early fall.
Vitex produces a fruit that appears as tiny black peppercorns with a pepper-like aroma and flavor. The ripe berries are what is used medicinally. In the Middle Ages, the berries were a symbol of chastity and were used to suppress sexual excitability, as monks would use them to replace pepper and suppress their libido, thus the name ‘monk pepper’.
Vitex-agnus works to enhance luteinizing hormone and suppress prolactin. What does that mean you ask? Well it helps regulate female cycles by promoting ovulation and progesterone production. Studies have confirmed that chaste tree has successfully been used to regulate irregular cycles and can be used to stabilize the menstrual cycle after use of hormonal contraception and for women trying to get pregnant. Vitex can also be used as liver support, an antiseptic and to suppress men’s sexual desires, or so they say.
Symptoms of relative progesterone deficiency or elevated prolactin (also known as luteal phase defect):
- painful menses
- insufficient lactation
- menopausal symptoms
- perimenopausal depression
- postpartum depression
- polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- premenstrual syndrome
- threatened miscarriage
- uterine fibroids
- irregular menses (heavy periods, spotting, infrequent menses or complete lack of menses)
Although vitex has shown prolactin inhibiting effects, it has been found to be effective for increasing milk production. Studies have demonstrated that vitex in breastfeeding mothers is effective for maintaining adequate breast milk production.
Yarnell E . Botanical medicine in pregnancy and lactation. Altern Complement Ther. 1997;3 (April):93-100.