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Vitex (Chasteberry) Extract
Vitex agnus castus (also called chasteberry) has been used for 2500 years
to help menstrual abnormalities, ranging from PMS to Menopause. Here is
how Vitex works to restore female reproductive hormone balance:
Many menstrual problems are traced to deficient progesterone production
during the second half of the menstrual cycle, called the luteal phase.
Insufficient progesterone during this phase results in estrogen
dominance, leading to a shortening of the luteal phase, (called luteal
phase defect). A shortened luteal phase with too much estrogen and not
enough progesterone can cause heavy periods, scanty periods, too
frequent periods or no periods. Prolactin, another pituitary hormone,
may also be elevated during this time, causing breast tenderness and
pain, classic symptoms of PMS.
Vitex is not a phytoestrogen, rather it works through the
hypothalamus-pituitary axis, (an important chemical pathway) to balance
female hormones. Vitex increases luteinizing hormone production while
inhibiting the release of follicle stimulating hormone. This combination
of actions indirectly increases progesterone and normalizes prolactin
levels, restoring the estrogen/progesterone balance.
Vitex extract has been extensively studied in Europe, particularly
Germany, where it has been used since the 1950s. Clinical studies show
that vitex extract reduces headaches, breast tenderness, bloating,
fatigue, cravings for sweets, feeling of anxiety and irritability,
depression and mood swings, often after only one month.
Vitex may also help menopausal symptoms. Physicians in Europe regularly
use vitex extract to treat hot flashes.
Vitex may help nursing mothers produce milk. One study of 100 nursing
mothers showed that vitex significantly increased milk flow and
milk-release when compared to placebo.
Well known North American herbalist and author, Christopher Hobbs,
recommends vitex for teenage acne. "I have worked with some teenagers
who had chronic acne for several years who were not willing to change
their diet in any way....If vitex can help in these cases, it seems
likely to help in other cases where dietary improvements are possible,
and in my experience it can help dramatically. I have given it to both
young men and women with equal effectiveness. The remedy often takes
from one to two months before it becomes fully active