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What is Vitex?

By Bronwyn Harris
Updated May 17, 2024
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Vitex, or Vitex agnus-castus is an herbal supplement that has various effects upon the reproductive systems of both men and women. It has been used throughout history to actually reduce the sex drive of both men and women, and is also known as chaste tree, chaste berry, and monk's pepper.

Native to the Mediterranean, vitex is also grown on the East Coast of the United States. The plant produces black peppercorn-like berries, which were used by ancient Romans. Medieval monks and priestesses ate the berries to aid them in keeping their vows of chastity. In addition, it was used in the ancient Roman world to both stop women from hemorrhaging after childbirth and to increase the milk supply of nursing mothers.

Vitex may help in treating PMS, insufficient milk supply in nursing women, irregular menstrual cycles, and decreasing male sex drive. It works by acting on the pituitary gland, increasing production of luteinizing hormone (LH) and decreasing follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). This results in decreasing androgens — male hormones — and increasing progesterone levels.

The herb can also regulate the hormone prolactin, which affects the production of milk in nursing women, uterine fibroids, and premenstrual breast tenderness. Vitex changes the level of hormones, reducing breast pain and bloating associated with PMS, and increasing milk supplies in nursing mothers.

Vitex has been studied in Europe, with women in the study reporting improvement of PMS symptoms and an increase of milk supply. There is anecdotal evidence of it effectively regulating the menstrual cycle and easing the pain of menstrual cramps. In reducing the level of androgens, it may clear up acne, reduce sex drive in men, and treat women with hirsitism, or abnormal hair growth.

Available in tinctures and capsules, vitex can be found at health food stores and on the Internet. The only side effects known to be associated with it are nausea and a rash. The supplement is generally taken daily for three to six months, but should not be used by children or pregnant women. As vitex can decrease fertility in men, this should also be taken into consideration. As with any supplements, users should always talk to a healthcare professional to make sure that the herbs do not interact with any other medications that they may be taking.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon165822 — On Apr 06, 2011

@anon134827: Sorry, but I have to disagree with you. There *is* medical treatment for PCOS. You do need to get yourself checked out, but I've heard of people sorting out their cycle by treating the insulin resistance side of things with a medication called metformin.

If you do have PCOS, you can also modify your diet to help with the insulin metabolism problem. Look out for a book called the insulin resistance diet. It's less about giving things up and more about grouping your foods so your body can process insulin better. Good luck!

By anon134827 — On Dec 16, 2010

@Deea: If your period is that irregular you may have polycystic ovarian syndrome, more commonly known as PCOS. Basically, your ovaries produce little cysts all over them and it causes period irregularities as well as hormone imbalance and a few other symptoms like insulin resistance.

Unfortunately, there is no magic pill. It makes it more difficult to get pregnant and it is very common not to ovulate/or get a period for months at a time. All you need to do is go to the ob gyn and have them do a few blood test to check your levels. Good Luck -R

By deea — On Jan 21, 2010

I'm 25 years old and I have an irregular menstrual period. I was OK when I used to have a menstrual cycle every two, two and half or three months. but, today I'm worried because it has been more than four months and still I've not menstruated.

Once, I thought may be I was pregnant because I live with my boyfriend but the pregnancy test was negative. Now, I don't know what to do. I don't have any idea. Please send me some advice.

I look forward to seeing your advice.

By anon52993 — On Nov 18, 2009

You might have him try Estrogenex.

By anon42350 — On Aug 20, 2009

Give him an estrogen blocker/libido lower in small amounts, when there is an absence in estrogen libido (sexual arrousment/desire) is almost fully gone. do some more research on libido lowering drugs.

By oejk — On Dec 27, 2007

Hi, I am the +40 despairing daughter whose 78 year old domineering father can think about nothing but sex. My 73 year old mother is becoming more and more distressed by his constant sexual demands- she has skin cancer, high blood pressure, has recently had her gall bladder removed. Can someone please suggest what I should give him to curb his sex drive. He is also on medication as he has emphysema, and since he has been given a ready source of oxygen being delivered directly up his nose via tubing he has become more sexually demanding. If my mother does not comply he becomes very aggressive and verbally abuses her. I fear my mother is going through a breakdown. Please any advice will be welcome.

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