Be Careful With Supplements: Vitex (Chasteberry)

Be Careful With Supplements: Vitex (Chasteberry)

For the past six or so years, I have been continuously trying to figure out how to deal with hormonal issues. This has led me to read about many different supplements and medications that have helped other women who go through the same things as I do.

Vitex (a plant) is one of the things that some women swear by when it comes to dealing with their menstrual cycle issues. Upon learning about it, I decided to try it. Needless to say, my experience with it was not good.

In this post I will be talking all about vitex and specifically how it affected me.

Women’s hormonal discomforts

Many women and non-binary people experience varying levels of discomfort during their menstrual cycles. This can be due to their hormones being out of balance and/or because their bodies are sensitive to hormone shifts. Either way, it is very common.

Some of the things women deal with are as follows:

  • Physical PMS/PMDD symptoms: Acne, bloating, increased hunger, joint aches, headaches/migraines, lightheadedness, breast pain, insomnia and more.
  • Mental PMS symptoms: Sadness, depression, anxiety, irritability etc.
  • Mental PMDD symptoms (more extreme than PMS): Sadness, depression, anxiety, rage, mood swings etc.
  • PCOS: Acne, oily skin, hair loss/thinning, weight gain/difficulty losing, bloating, fertility issues and more.
  • Heavy periods.
  • Irregular periods.
  • Endometriosis flare ups- Abdominal pain, nausea, painful periods, pain during sex and more.
  • Infertility.
  • Menopause/perimenopause- Hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings, weight gain and more.

There are some other things women and non-binary people go through but these are the most frequently talked about things. Not all women have it bad or experience much of anything though.

Women who want to treat these issues usually end up taking/doing the following things:

  • Birth control: May balance hormones.
  • Diet and exercise: May help to balance hormones and is goes toward an all-around healthy life.
  • HRT: Replaces hormones during menopause.
  • Spironolactone: Blocks androgens and reduces blood pressure.
  • Pain relievers: Tylenol, Advil, Naproxen etc. for aches and pains.
  • Antidepressants: These may help the mood issues some women get during their cycles.
  • Acne products: These can include creams, antibiotics, gels etc.
  • Hair growth products: These can include serums, oils and shampoos/conditioners.
  • Fertility medication and IVF
  • Alternative/Traditional medicine: Some examples include herbal teas, plant extracts in capsules, vitamins etc.

These treatments effect each person differently so it is best to look into them as much as you can and consult with your doctor.

Vitex as a women’s health supplement

Vitex is the name of a plant that is used for women’s health purposes. It is also known as chasteberry and vitex agnus castus. This plant is native to the Mediterranean region which includes Italy, Greece, Spain, Tunisia, Syria, Monaco and Libya.

Vitex needs to be grown in hot and dry conditions with full sun. The tree can grow to be about 10 feet tall and looks great in one’s yard/garden. It is very pretty with violet flowers and berries. Just like most other plants, it contains flavonoids, essential oils and fatty oils.

In traditional medicine starting in the 14th century, the leaves were used for suppression of the libido in men and women. It was eventually found that the leaves and fruit possibly provide hormonal benefits for women. Since this finding, it has been marketed for this purpose.

Its use for women’s hormonal health is due to how it can alter hormone levels. Vitex has been shown in some studies to increase progesterone levels, regulate prolactin levels, increase estrogen levels and lower testosterone levels.

Because of the effects on hormones, some studies and anecdotes claim that it treats the following ailments:

  • Breast pain/tenderness: This is something that commonly occurs around ovulation and shortly before one’s period starts.
  • Bloating: This is something that commonly occurs before one’s period starts and sometimes lasts throughout it. For some women it also occurs during ovulation day.
  • Mood issues: Women who experience PMS or PMDD tend have mood related problems. With PMDD, the mood problems are more severe.
  • Hot flashes: This is commonly seen in menopause but some women also experience it shortly before their periods.
  • Insomnia: This is something that happens shortly before one’s period starts and during menopause.
  • Acne: Some people are plagued with acne before their periods start or the whole month due to a hormonal imbalance.
  • Infertility: Some people have a hard time getting and/or staying pregnant. This can be due to not ovulating frequently and/or progesterone levels being off. Infertility is commonly seen in people with PCOS and endometriosis.
  • Heavy bleeding (menorrhagia): Some people have periods that include a lot of bleeding. This involves needing to change a pad/tampon every hour and passing large clots. These types of periods may even last longer than the usual range of days (2-7 days).
  • Headaches/migraines: These commonly occur shortly before one’s period and during menopause.

Even though the medical research done on vitex isn’t considered as providing the strongest evidence of efficacy, there were some positive results for these issues shown in them. Also, if you take a look at reviews and women’s health forums, you will see that many people have been happy with the supplementation of it.

Despite some people getting good results, there are also many people who have gotten bad results from it. Because of this, it has been found that vitex can cause the following undesirable effects:

  • Worsening headaches/migraines
  • Mood issues
  • Bad acne
  • GI issues
  • Rashes
  • Insomnia

As you can see, taking vitex may lead to uncomfortable side effects. It can potentially add new symptoms or make current ones worse.

Another thing to be aware of is that vitex can interact negatively with certain medication and conditions. Below are some precautions that comes with vitex supplementation:

  • May interact with birth control.
  • May interact with antipsychotics.
  • May interact with Parkinson’s medications.
  • Should not be taken if you have breast, ovarian or uterine cancer.
  • Women with PCOS and endometriosis should think twice about taking it.
  • Should not be taken if you are receiving fertility treatment.
  • Should not be taken by someone with Parkinson’s even if they are not on medication for it.

If one does decide they are going to take vitex, there are quite a few brands that sell it as a supplement. You can find it in capsules, liquid drops and teas. There are even some women’s health related supplement blends that contain it.

Dosages of up to 40 mg of the concentrated fruit extract and up to 1000 mg of the dried fruit are recommended. It is said that supplementing with vitex may take three months of consistent use to start working.

My experience with vitex

I had read about vitex helping some women on a reddit forum. It sounded like it was worth a shot at the time.

Instead of doing research into it, I decided to just buy some right away (not a good idea!). I went with capsules that contained 400 mg of the dried fruit in each one and planned on taking two of them a day as the label stated to do.

I was hoping for the vitex to help me with the bloating, acne, headaches and low moods that I get before my periods. Balancing my hormones with birth control was not something I have ever been excited about so I thought that this could possibly be a good alternative.

Unfortunately, vitex was not a good alternative for me. Yikes!

Every possible negative side effect that one could have from it- I experienced. This meant that the issues I was trying to fix got worse! The nausea, horrific rashes on my back, ice pick headaches etc. were unpleasant to say the least.

The silly thing is that I took vitex for a few weeks because I thought things would get better. Of course they never did so I have no one else to blame but myself for feeling miserable. I should have stopped taking it after a couple days.

Clearly, vitex was and is not for me. You live and you learn I guess. I am really glad that it works for other people though!

In conclusion

Vitex is a hormonal health supplement option for those that are into plant based treatments. There are some benefits that have been seen from it as well as some risks. As with everything, it is best to do some research on it before trying it.

It was disappointing that it didn’t work for me. Since then I have continued to search for ways to make my menstrual cycles go better. All I can do is keep reading and trying things out.

Have you tried taking vitex? If so, what was your experience with it?

If you are interested you can check out my other post about a women’s health supplement (evening primrose oil).

Thanks for reading!

#womenshealth #menstrualcycles #nonbinary #supplements #chasteberrysupplement #vitexsupplement #menstrualcup #periods #pms #pmdd #hormones

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