Should you try using vitex for fertility if you're having difficulty conceiving? Consider the findings of research and medical professionals.
Vitex, often known as chasteberry, on of the main ingredients in our popular fertility tea blend is appropriately dubbed "the women's herb" for a variety of reasons. To begin, this indigenous Mediterranean plant has been utilised for millennia by many civilizations to support female hormonal balance. Second, vitex is one of the most effective natural allies for easing PMS symptoms. Later in life, it may also assist with menopausal symptoms.
Given vitex's ability to improve various aspects of women's health, you may be wondering about its effect on reproduction. Is vitex a fertility enhancer or does it have a significant effect on conception in any other way?
Here is a review of the scientific literature on vitex and menstruation. Additionally, two women's health specialists weigh in.
VITEX'S EFFECT ON PREGNANCY HORMONES
Before attempting to obtain a definitive answer concerning vitex and fertility, it's critical to understand how the herb affects pregnancy-related hormones.
Vitex has an effect on prolactin (PRL), a hormone generated in the pituitary gland that is primarily responsible for pregnancy and breast milk production. Prolactin levels are much higher in women who have shorter luteal phases (second half of the menstrual cycle). Simply expressed, this imbalance creates difficulties for women who are attempting to conceive.
A doctor may order a prolactin test to see whether a woman's prolactin levels are affecting her fertility. Prolactin levels in women are considered normal when they are less than 25 ng/ml, according to the Pituitary Society.
Additionally, vitex has an effect on progesterone, a female sex hormone. Dominique Fradin-Read, MD, MPH, Founder of VitaLifeMD in Los Angeles, begins, "Progesterone is the hormone that promotes relaxation and stress-free living." “First and foremost, vitex inhibits the synthesis of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) while enhancing the production of luteinizing hormone (LH).” By raising progesterone levels, these mechanisms extend the luteal phase.
Additionally, a 2015 paper titled "Progesterone and the Luteal Phase: A Requisite for Reproduction" says that "natural reproduction is impossible" without both the follicular (first half) and luteal phases of the menstrual cycle operating in sequence.
VITEX RESEARCH FOR FERTILITY RESULTS ON PROLACTIN + PROGESTERONE
A 1993 randomised double-blind trial involving 52 women evaluated the effectiveness of 20 milligrammes of vitex in comparison to a placebo group.
Within three months, researchers found that the vitex supplement group had lower prolactin levels, more normalised luteal phases, and no problems with luteal phase progesterone production.
OBSERVATIONS REGARDING CONCEPTION
Following that, a 2006 double-blind placebo-controlled trial evaluated the effect of a vitex supplement — which also contained a proprietary combination of additional vitamins and minerals — on 93 women who had recently struggled to conceive.
Three months later, the vitex group demonstrated improved hormonal balance. Additionally, 26% of these women became pregnant, compared to 10% of those in the placebo group.
AN IMPORTANT FACTOR TO CONSIDER
While these data appear to indicate a favourable link between vitex and fertility, it is critical to take them with a grain of salt.
LA-based OB-GYN and integrative women’s health expert Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz, MD, FACOG, aka Dr. Suzanne, voices an important point regarding studies behind herbal meds. “They always utilise fewer samples than traditional medicines, implying that their results are less conclusive.”
A woman consults her physician to determine whether vitex can aid in fertility.
ALL SAID, DOES VITEX HELP FERTILITY?
Simply put, it possesses potential—but with qualifications.
At any rate, Dr. Suzanne still recommends vitex to promote general hormonal balance for some patients. To begin, she says that “the evidence seems fairly strong for using vitex for PMS and PMDD. I’ve also used, with some success, vitex for PCOS and other menstrual disorders.”
By addressing menstrual concerns first, she believes that vitex “can consequently restore or increase fertility in a well-selected population.” However, she says its impact depends on the cause of the specific fertility problem at hand.
Lastly, despite the use of vitex in her medical practice, she reminds us that her experience is anecdotal and that we shouldn’t regard it as evidence-based.
Next, Dr. Fradin-Read concurs that infertility results from various hormonal imbalances. That said, she sees the potential for vitex to bolster the foundations of fertility.
Dr. Fradin-Read reiterates that a weak luteal phase and lack of progesterone hinders successful pregnancy. She recognizes studies such as the ones above illustrating success with vitex to increase progesterone secretion, which is essential to support implantation in the uterine lining and maintain healthy fetal development.
If you know or suspect that you have fertility issues, always explore your concerns with a medical professional. This consultation is especially important before you decide to take vitex, as additional treatments may be necessary.
IS IT SAFE TO TAKE VITEX WHILE PREGNANT?
“The safety profile for vitex is very good, and adverse events have been shown to be infrequent, mild, and always reversible,” assures Dr. Fradin-Read. “Still, its use in pregnancy and lactation isn’t currently recommended based on a lack of studies on evidence of safety.”
Mandala idea of chasteberry herbs/vitex supplements to help with fertility
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A VITEX SUPPLEMENT
Dr. Suzanne warns that not all nutraceuticals are created equally. To begin, “product quality is a major issue,” she says. When looking for a vitex supplement, be sure to find one from a reputable company. As with any supplement, always look for the research behind a given formulation.
Moreover, she continues, “it’s imperative to use these products with a qualified doctor who understands both herbal and conventional medicine to avoid contraindications and conflicts.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
So… Can vitex help you get pregnant? It’s hard to say with finality. However, several studies and women’s health MDs suggest it can have a strong, positive impact on female hormonal balance, which in turn can enhance success of a healthy pregnancy.
At the very least, it’s worth consulting your doctor to see if supplementing with vitex can potentially ease fertility struggles. As a final reminder, it’s important to discuss taking vitex—as well as any new supplements—with a medical professional to see what will work best for you.