Vitex agnus-castus (chaste tree berry) is a well-known herb that has been used for centuries in Europe for hormonal imbalances in women.
It may help women with PCOS who are lacking a normal menstrual cycle and thus don't ovulate or menstruate.
A high percentage of these menstrual problems are related to insufficient progesterone during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. This condition is called a luteal phase defect or corpus luteum insufficiency. A corpus luteum insufficiency is defined as an abnormally low progesterone level 3 weeks after the onset of menstruation. Insufficient levels of progesterone may result in the formation of ovarian cysts.
In addition, some PCOS women have too much prolactin, which can inhibit fertility. Vitex may help with both of these problems
"I've spent thousands of dollars, been to five different gynecologists and had no results from their treatment for PCOS for the past ten years. It was one of your success stories that gave me the courage to try the alternative.
I'm happy to tell you that I took the vitex tablets and I am now 3 months pregnant. My husband and I are very happy. I now definitely believe that alternative medicine is the best way to go."
- Janet Beckford
Chaste tree berry acts on the hypothalamus and pituitary
glands inside your brain by increasing luteinizing hormone (LH) production and
mildly inhibiting the release of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). The result
is a shift in the ratio of estrogen to progesterone, in favor of progesterone.
The ability of chaste tree berry to raise progesterone levels in the body is an
indirect effect, so the herb itself is not a hormone.
When you don't ovulate to start the second half of your monthly
cycle, your body does not produce enough progesterone. The resulting
progesterone deficiency contributes to symptoms of PCOS. It also contributes to
a hormone imbalance called "estrogen dominance". Women with
polycystic ovary syndrome frequently have estrogen dominance combined with a
progesterone insufficiency. This is part of the hormonal imbalance typically
associated with this disorder.
If you were to take oral progesterone or apply progesterone
cream to your skin, and a normal cycle occurs, then you can suspect that you
have a problem producing enough progesterone.
Chaste tree berry helps your body to solve this problem.
A progesterone-induced menses indicates an intact
reproductive system that just isn't going through its cycle. It suggests that
the body is producing enough FSH to stimulate the ovaries, and that the ovaries
are able develop follicles. It also indicates that production of estrogen by
the follicles is sufficient to cause the lining of the uterus (endometrium) to
grow and that the sloughed endometrium is able to pass through the cervical
opening and the vagina.
Therefore it's possible that the problem is a dysfunction in
your hypothalamus or pituitary glands in your brain. The ability of chaste tree
to influence the hypothalamus or pituitary then makes this herb a good
possibility for treating infertility associated with lack of a normal monthly
Also, high levels of the hormone prolactin are commonly found with corpus luteum insufficiency. Vitex is useful for reducing high prolactin levels. It inhibits prolactin release by the pituitary gland, especially when you are under stress.
Chasteberry is not a hormone, nor does it contain hormones. It is a gentle and slow-acting herbal extract as opposed to a hormone prescription that can be expected to have a forceful and immediate impact on your glands and organs.
It does not have the side effects that synthetic hormones have.
There's not a huge body of research about the chaste tree berry in relation to PCOS. However, there is enough evidence to suggest that it could be useful for issues associated with polycystic ovary syndrome such as infertility, acne, hyperprolactemia, female hair loss, and chronic inflammation.
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