Vitex Agnus Castus, or Chaste Berry, is a powerhouse for balancing female hormones naturally, modulating menstrual cycles and spicing up your love life with that special someone. Chaste Berry (Vitex) comes to the scene to balance out your moon cycle and support healthy female hormones. Vitex has come a long way since medieval times when only monks knew what this spicy herb could do, getting the name "Chaste" Berry from male monks who used Vitex to calm their sexual desires, and support celibacy.
This naming however, is only partially true, and medieval monks are contradicted by other herbal traditions as well as modern herbalism. The greek physicians who came after the Romans, as well as modern herbalists, found that Vitex was a modulator of sex drive, rather than a suppressant: meaning that if libido was too high it could lower it, if too low it could increase it.
In more recent times, Vitex has become well known for its uses in supporting the reproductive health of females, and is not typically recommended for males. The monks may have been correct about the "chaste" inducing effects of Vitex on Males, but several herbal traditions mention Vitex as a specific for female "frigidity" and "impotence", terms describing states of low libido in females.
Due to the female hormone stimulating effects of Vitex, use in males to increase libido seem likely to be ineffective, and may have the opposite effect - a dampening effect which the monks found beneficial in their celibacy. For increasing male libido there are several better options such as damiana (turnera), horny goat weed (epimedium), ashwagandha (withania) as well as a whole host of other masculininity enhancing herbs. (1)
Now let us explore deeper into the science on Vitex (Chaste Berry) and how precisely it may modulate female reproductive hormones. One of the primary actions of the medicinal compounds in Vitex is stimulating dopamine receptors and releases that feel good chemical that gets you motivated – whether crushing the to do list, or yearning to do the one you’re crushing on; dopamine is closely involved. One of the primary ways that dopamine effects libido is from its inhibitory effects on a hormone called prolactin (PRL), which mainly functions to stimulate milk production. However, prolactin also happens to suppress libido and sensual desire – so by increasing dopamine, Vitex suppresses this often-unwanted effect of prolactin.
Fascinatingly, although males are not known for producing milk, prolactin is a major factor in inhibiting libido for both sexes. It goes without saying that you should run not walk from vitex if you are pregnant, planning to be, or are breastfeeding as it counteracts the natural increase in prolactin that is crucial to nourishing your baby. As an important note to make, Vitex should not be thought of as a purely libido boosting herb as traditional use has shown that it is more of a regulator, decreasing overexcited levels or increasing low levels, as mentioned previously. (1)
This gives Vitex a dual nature, it is an herb for supporting those who want more libido – and for those that want less. Botanical medicine is of course much more complex than pharmaceutical medicine due to the fact that several therapeutic compounds are present within Chaste Berry: essential oils, terpenes such as alpha-pinene (an aromatic substance found in pine trees, and cannabis) and vitexin & vitexinin. These plant compounds also have significant anti-inflammatory effects, protect the nervous system, and even help memory.
Vitex also acts as a hormonal regulator, believed to be due to this herbs ability to increase both estrogen and progesterone. This effect is largely why vitex has long been used to harmonizing menstruation, whether it be the roller coaster of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), irregular cycles and even for menopausal symptoms. Overall, vitex is one of the most specific botanicals for female hormonal imbalances, whereas herbs like Black Cohosh, Motherwort, Angelica Sinensis have wide ranging supportive effects such as relieving cramps, tough menstrual flow, in addition to modulating hormones. (2)
Traditional Chinese Medicine offers us further insight into the holistic pattern that Vitex Agnus Castus supports naturally. It is considered to tonify reproductive qi, specifically in Uterus Qi deficiency – which is essential a decrease in the energies and substances that allow the Uterus to function harmoniously. Issues like increased menstrual cycle lengths, irregular and painful uterine cramps before onset of flow and lack of libido are common in this energetic pattern. Interestingly Vitex also has effects on relaxing muscle tension generally, relieving joint pains and nerve pains such as those common in the fibromyalgia. (2)
DOSAGE | PREPARATION
Chastetree Berry (Vitex) Primarily used in the form of tincture and long infusion (strong tea)
Tincture Dosage (Standalone Vitex): 1-3ml daily of 1:2 strength (40% alcohol)
For Hormonal Regulation: Take 1-2ml upon awakening (2)
Thanks for reading!
Bogdan Makartchuk, ND
Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine (NUNM)
Founder of The Herbal Remedy, an Herbal Medicine Store located in Sayville, New York (Long Island).
Host of the Herbal Hour Podcast: Available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and your favorite podcast player.
1) Wood, Matthew. The Earthwise Herbal Volume 1. 2008
2) Holmes, Peter. The Energetics of Western Herbs Vol 2. 1994