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How Does Vitex Promote Cycle Balance?

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt | Tuesday, March 25, 2008 | 0 comments

Vitex or chasteberry is not a hormone; however, vitex works by acting on the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which in turn secrete hormones or send signals to other parts of the body to trigger the production of reproductive hormones.

Vitex has been shown to help increase the level of luteinizing hormone (or LH) while gently suppressing the secretion of FSH (follicle stimulating hormone). In effect, Vitex stimulates the hormones involved in ovulation and assists in restoring overall hormonal balance.

More specifically, vitex is effective in regulating pituitary gland function and in normalizing the balance of progesterone to estrogen levels. Vitex is particularly supportive in maintaining progesterone levels during the "luteal phase", or second half, of a woman's cycle.

A large percentage of menstrual problems and infertility issues are related to insufficient progesterone production during the luteal phase, which can result in a shortened luteal phase and may possibly contribute to PCOS. With regard to the former, a "short" luteal phase is often referred to as corpus luteum insufficiency or LPD (luteal phase defect). Luteal phase defect is characterized by low progesterone levels during the second half of your cycle.

With regard to PCOS, hormonal imbalance (namely insufficient levels of progesterone) may also contribute to the formation of cysts on your ovaries, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. As Vitex agnus castus has been shown to support progesterone production, Vitex may be suggested as a treatment for menstrual cycle imbalances, luteal phase defect, and possibly PCOS (as normalized progesterone levels and cycle regularity may suppress the development of ovarian cysts associated with estrogen dominance).
Clinical studies now support the fertility-enhancing claims associated with Vitex agnus castus - as well as its facility in treating common fertility disorders. In one commonly-cited study, sixty-seven women with fertility or ovulatory disorders were given a vitex agnus castus preparation, which resulted in a marked improvement of progesterone levels during the luteal phase, earlier ovulation, and thirty-eight achieved pregnancies (Bergmann, 2000).
In another study (Milewicz, 1993), vitex agnus castus was administered to hyperprolactinaemia female patients. The use of vitex resulted in reduced prolactin levels, as well as the normalization of luteal phase progesterone levels for women with luteal phase defect. Shortened luteal phases were therefore normalized (lengthened).

An earlier German study by Amann (1982) reveals that vitex exerts a favorable, positive effect on women with amenorrhea (the absence of menstrual cycle or period), further establishing the efficacy of vitex in restoring hormonal balance and cycle regularity. In another clinical trial conducted at Stanford, women with fertility disorders benefited from using a vitex-containing supplement, with more pregnancies in the vitex group than in placebo groups. Each of these studies demonstrates the fertility-enhancing properties of this unique herb.

Vitex is also recognized as a safe herb. It has no known side-effects, and chasteberry can be taken for up to 18 months continuously. When pregnancy is achieved, discontinue use of vitex-containing supplements, as well as any other herbal-nutritional supplements not specifically approved by your doctor. The benefits of vitex will increase over time, and maximum benefits are typically achieved after a few months of use. It is suggested to not take vitex or fertility supplements while you are using prescription fertility drugs.

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About Catherine: I am mom to three grown sons, two grandchildren and two rescue dogs. After years of raising my boys as a single mom, I remarried a wonderful man who had never had a child of his own. Unexpectedly, I found myself pregnant at 49!
Sadly we lost that precious baby at 8 weeks, and decided to try again. Five more losses, turned down for donor egg, foster care and adoption due to my age and losses - we have accepted that there will be no more babies in our house.

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