Vitamin supplements guide   Vitamins & health supplements guide

 
Vitex (chasteberry) quick review
Botanical description: the fruit of the chaste tree, Vitex agnus castus, belongs to the Verbenaceae family.
Active constituents: iridoid glycosides, flavonoids, progestins, slkaloids (viticin), volatile oil, and essential fatty acids.
Health benefits: normalizes irregular menstrual periods and relieves premenstrual symptoms such as bloating, breast tenderness, and moodiness.

Dosage: the German Commission E recommends a daily intake of 30–40 mg of dried herb.
Side effects: itching, rash, headache, hair loss, fatigue, agitation, dry mouth, tachycardia, nausea and increased menstrual flow.
 

Vitex (chasteberry)


Vitex (or chasteberry) is the fruit of the chaste tree, whose botanical name is Vitex agnus castus, belongs to the Verbenaceae family. Native to the Mediterranean region and western Asia, the chaste tree is related to the grape (V. vinifera) and distantly to vervain and lemon verbena. Vitex agnus castus is shrub or small deciduous tree that bears slender spikes of violet-blue, 8-10 cm flowers. This deciduous, aromatic tree grows to twenty-two feet with palm-shaped leaves. The fruit appears after whorls of violet flowers on long terminal shoots. The medicinal part of the plant is its peppercorn-sized fruit. The berries are aromatic and have a peppery taste. The fruit is small, reddish-black fruits that look, smell and taste like black peppercorns. Vitex agnus castus has several other names including Agnus castus, hemp tree, sage tree, wild pepper, chasteberry, Abraham's balm, lagano, monk's pepper, chaste tree, chaste tree berry, and chastetree.
 

Active constituents of vitex


The main constituents of vitex include iridoid glycosides (agnoside, aucubin), flavonoids (casticin, kampferol, quercetagetin, vitexin), progestins (progesterone, hydroxyprogesterone, testosterone, epitestosterone, androstenedione), slkaloids (viticin), volatile oil (1,8-cineol, limes, linalool, terpinyl acetate,alpha pinenes and beta pinenes), and essential fatty acids (palmitic acid, oleic acid, linoleic acid, stearic acid).
 

Medicinal uses and health benefits of vitex


Vitex is reputed to have a hormonal effect and is often used for disorders of the female reproductive system. The German
Commission E has approved vitex for normalizing irregular menstrual periods and relieving premenstrual symptoms such as bloating, breast tenderness, and moodiness. Chasteberry works by helping the pituitary gland to raise progesterone levels. Chasteberry induces the pituitary gland to free a luteinizing hormone and stop a follicle-stimulating one. Vitex contains an active ingredient that binds to dopamine (D2) receptors in the hypothalamus/anterior pituitary, which action inhibits the release of prolactin. Decreased serum prolactin levels result in increased secretion of progestrone during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. Vitex can help normalize the ratio of hormones required for normal menstrual function and fertility. Chasteberry can help to lower prolactin levels and aid in the normal functioning of the ovaries, thus providing opportunities for conception. High prolactin levels can also cause amenorrhea (absent menstrual cycles) and breast tenderness associated with PMS, and low prolactin levels can mean reduced milk production. PMS problems are usually caused by low progesterone levels in relation to the estrogen level. Patients who experience PMS have high levels of prolactin, vitex may correct the hyperprolactinemia, permit normal corpus luteum formation and alleviate the distress of PMS. Vitex agnus castus may stimulate the flow of breast milk in lactating mothers. Chasteberry works to stabilize these hormone levels and can be beneficial in controlling symptoms of declining hormone levels such as hot flashes, sweating, vaginal dryness, nervousness, anxiety or depression. Chasteberry acts to restore hormonal imbalances responsible for endometriosis-related pain, which can be severe.
 

Dosage and administration of vitex


Vitex products are available in a number of different dosage forms including fresh and dried berries, capsules containing powdered chaste tree berries, and liquid preparations such as extracts and tinctures. The German Commission E recommends a daily intake of 30–40 mg of dried herb. Vitex should be standardized to 0.5% agnuside and 0.6% aucubin per dose. Vitex is typically taken once in the morning with liquid for several months consecutively. Because chasteberry acts slowly in the body, it can take from one to six months to see permanent results. Benefits in PMS are usually not evident until after treatment for three consecutive menstrual cycles. To increase milk production, women are advised to take chasteberry the first 10 days after giving birth.
 

Side effects, precautions, interactions


Side effects from taking vitex include itching, rash, headache, hair loss, fatigue, agitation, dry mouth, tachycardia, nausea and increased menstrual flow. Large doses may cause ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. Vitex is generally not recommended in pregnancy due to its unknown effects on the pituitary. Women who have cancers of the breasts or reproductive system, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids, and men who have prostate cancer should not take vitex. Vitex may interfere with HRT or oral contraceptives. They can also interfere with drugs that affect dopamine levels.