A number of research studies suggest that consumption of vitex increased production of progesterone. For example, Stony Brook University in New York reported that wild monkeys consuming vitex leaves and fruits excreted more progesterone that other monkeys. They were also more likely to conceive.
In another study, a chasteberry preparation was used in a study of 3,162 women to assess the effectiveness of vitex for corpus luteum insufficiency. 77.4% had menstrual cycle disturbances of various types and the others suffered from a range of gynecological problems which included symptoms of corpus luteum insufficiency. The average length of treatment was 5 months. Hormone cytology and symptoms were used to assess the treatment.
The women reported the treatment as completely effective (33%), significant improvement (55%), and no change (7%). Their doctors reported very good results in 68% of cases, adequate in 22%, and no change in 7%.
In a third study, 20 women with secondary amenorrhea took a chasteberry extract for 6 months. Lab testing was done to measure progesterone, FSH, and LH, and pap smears were done at the beginning of the study, at 3 months, and at 6 months. At the end of the study, the researchers were able to evaluate 15 of the women. Ten out of the 15 women had a return of their menstrual cycles. Testing showed that values for progesterone and LH increased, and FSH values either did not change or decreased slightly.
In a fourth study, 18 women with abnormally low progesterone levels were given vitex daily. After 3 months of treatment, 13 showed increases in progesterone and 2 became pregnant.
Possibly 15% or so of women who have PCOS also have excessively high levels of the hormone prolactin. This is called "hyperprolactinemia".
Why would too much prolactin be a problem?
Prolactin is known mostly for helping your create breast milk.
But actually, prolactin is almost bewildering in its complexity. Thus far, more than 300 distinct biological activities of prolactin have been identified.
Prolactin plays a central regulatory role in your body, including the placenta, uterus, ovaries, immune system, and the skin, just to name a few.
High levels of prolactin are commonly found with corpus luteum insufficiency as well as hypothyroidism, which is another common attribute of PCOS.
So attaining an optimal level of prolactin is very important if you're going to reduce infertility and other symptoms of PCOS such as acne or hair loss.
Fortunately, components of vitex have been shown to reduce prolactin levels if they are high. It inhibits prolactin release by the pituitary gland.
By reducing prolactin availability, vitex can help to improve your fertility and possibly also relieve skin conditions such as acne or hair loss.
In a study from Medizinische Hochschule in Germany, 52 women with luteal phase defects due to latent hyperprolactinemia (high prolactin levels) were given either chastetree berry extract or a placebo. Prolactin levels were normalized after three months in the treatment group and deficits in luteal progesterone production were eliminated. Two of the women became pregnant.
In another study, 13 women with high prolactin levels and irregular cycles were given a vitex compound. Their prolactin levels fell, and a normal menstrual cycle returned to all of the women.
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