Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.
For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.
3 StarsReliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 StarsContradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 StarFor an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:
20 mg a day of a concentrated herbal extract
Vitex has been shown to help re-establish normal balance of estrogen and progesterone during the menstrual cycle. Vitex also blocks prolactin secretion in women with excessive levels of this hormone; excessive levels of prolactin can lead to breast tenderness and failure to ovulate. A double-blind trial has confirmed that vitex reduces mildly elevated levels of prolactin before a woman’s period.1 Studies have shown that using vitex once in the morning over a period of several months helps normalize hormone balance and thus alleviate the symptoms of PMS.2 Preliminary and double-blind research has found that vitex relieves PMS symptoms. The amount in most of these trials was 20 mg per day of a concentrated vitex extract for three menstrual cycles experience a significant reduction in symptoms of PMS.3, 4, 5
Vitex has been shown to be as effective as 200 mg vitamin B6 in a double-blind trial of women with PMS.6Two surveys examined 1,542 women with PMS who had taken a German liquid extract of vitex for their PMS symptoms for as long as 16 years.7 With an average intake of 42 drops per day, 92% of the women surveyed reported the effectiveness of vitex as “very good,”“good,” or “satisfactory.”
Some healthcare practitioners recommend 40 drops of a liquid, concentrated vitex extract or one capsule of the equivalent dried, powdered extract once per day in the morning with some liquid. Vitex should be taken for at least four cycles to determine efficacy.
40 drops of a liquid extract with water or 35 to 40 mg of encapsulated powder each morning
Vitex is occasionally used as an herbal treatment for infertility—particularly in cases with established luteal phase defect (shortened second half of the menstrual cycle) and high levels of the hormone, prolactin. In one trial, 48 women (ages 23 to 39) who were diagnosed with infertility took vitex once daily for three months.8 Seven women became pregnant during the trial, and 25 women experienced normalized progesterone levels—which may increase the chances for pregnancy. In another double-blind trial, significantly more infertile women became pregnant after taking a product whose main ingredient is vitex (the other ingredients were homeopathic preparations) than did those who took a placebo.9 The amount used in this trial was 30 drops of fluid extract twice a day, for a total of 1.8 ml per day. This specific preparation is not available in the United States. Some doctors recommend taking 40 drops of a liquid extract of vitex each morning with water. Approximately 35–40 mg of encapsulated powdered vitex (one capsule taken in the morning) provides a similar amount. Vitex should be discontinued once a woman becomes pregnant.
Fibrocystic Breast Disease
40 drops of a concentrated liquid herbal extract or 35 to 40 mg of the equivalent dried, powdered extract taken once daily in the morning with liquid
Since many women with FBD and cyclical breast tenderness also suffer from PMS, there is often an overlap in herbal recommendations for these two conditions despite a lack of research dealing directly with FBD.
In one double-blind trial, a liquid preparation containing 32.4 mg of vitex and homeopathic ingredients was found to successfully reduce breast tenderness associated with the menstrual cycle (e.g. cyclic mastalgia).10 Vitex is thought to reduce breast tenderness at menses because of its ability to reduce elevated levels of the hormone, prolactin.11
Doctors typically suggest 40 drops of a liquid, concentrated vitex extract or 35–40 mg of the equivalent dried, powdered extract to be taken once per day in the morning with some liquid. Vitex should be taken for at least three menstrual cycles to determine efficacy.
Acne Vulgaris and Premenstruation
Refer to label instructions
Some older, preliminary German research suggests that vitex might contribute to clearing of premenstrual acne, possibly by regulating hormonal influences on acne.12 Women in these studies used 40 drops of a concentrated liquid product once daily.13
Refer to label instructions
In herbal medicine, vitex (Vitex agnus-castus; chaste tree) is sometimes used to treat female infertility and amenorrhea.14 Elevation of prolactin can be a cause of amenorrhea, and vitex has been shown in animals to reduce elevated prolactin levels.15 In a controlled trial, prolactin production was normalized in women with high prolactin levels after three months of treatment with vitex.16 Vitex has also been found to raise levels of luteinizing hormone and subsequent progesterone levels in women with luteal phase defect—a condition that can also lead to menstrual cycle abnormalities, including amenorrhea.17 To date, only one small preliminary trial has studied the effects of vitex on amenorrhea. This study found that ten of fifteen women with amenorrhea began having a normal period after taking 40 drops of a liquid vitex preparation once daily for six months.18 Further research is needed to determine what role vitex may play in the management of amenorrhea.
Refer to label instructions
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Numerous herbs are used traditionally around the world to promote production of breast milk.19 Herbs that promote milk production and flow are known as galactagogues. Stinging nettle(Urtica dioica) enriches and increases the flow of breast milk and restores the mother’s energy following childbirth.20Vitex(Vitex agnus castus) is one of the best-recognized herbs in Europe for promoting lactation. An older German clinical trial found that 15 drops of a vitex tincture three times per day could increase the amount of milk produced by mothers with or without pregnancy complications compared with mothers given vitamin B1 or nothing. Vitex should not be taken during pregnancy.21 Goat’s rue (Galega officinalis) also has a history of use in Europe for supporting breast-feeding. Taking 1 teaspoon of goat’s rue tincture three times per day is considered by European practitioners to be helpful in increasing milk volume.22 Studies are as yet lacking to support the use of goat’s rue as a galactagogue. In two preliminary trials, infants have been shown to nurse longer when their mothers ate garlic than when their mothers took placebos.23, 24 However, some infants may develop colic if they consume garlic in breast milk.
Refer to label instructions
Clinical reports from Germany have suggested that vitex may help relieve different menstrual abnormalities associated with premenstrual syndrome, including dysmenorrhea.25 These studies used 40 drops of a liquid preparation that delivers the equivalent of 40 mg of the dried berries of the plant.
Refer to label instructions
Vitex is recommended either alone or in combination with other herbs, such as dandelion root, prickly ash, and motherwort, by some doctors to treat the symptoms of endometriosis.26, 27 Although vitex affects hormones that in turn affect the severity of endometriosis,28 and it may be effective for premenstrual syndrome,29 no research has tested the effect of vitex supplementation on women with endometriosis. Similarly, no other botanical medicines have been scientifically researched for treating this disease.
Refer to label instructions
Among women taking vitex, menorrhagia has reportedly improved after taking the herb for several months.30 With its emphasis on long-term balancing of a woman’s hormonal system, vitex is not a fast-acting herb. For frequent or heavy periods, vitex can be used continuously for six to nine months. Forty drops of the concentrated liquid herbal extract of vitex can be added to a glass of water and drunk in the morning. Vitex is also available in powdered form in tablets and capsules. Thirty-five to forty milligrams may be taken in the morning.
Pregnancy and Postpartum Support
Refer to label instructions
Numerous herbs, known as galactagogues, are used in traditional herbal medicine systems around the world to promote production of breast milk.31 These are known as galactagogues. Vitex is one of the best recognized herbs in Europe for promoting lactation. An older German clinical trial found that 15 drops of a vitex tincture three times per day could increase the amount of milk produced by mothers with or without pregnancy complications, as compared with mothers given vitamin B1 or nothing.32 However, vitex should not be taken during pregnancy.
Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)
Hippocrates, Dioscorides, and Theophrastus mention the use of vitex for a wide variety of conditions, including hemorrhage following childbirth and assisting with the “passing of afterbirth.” Decoctions of the fruit and plant were also used in sitz baths for diseases of the uterus. In addition, vitex was believed to suppress libido and inspire chastity, which explains one of its common names, chaste tree.
Vitex contains several different constituents, including flavonoids, iridoid glycosides, and terpenoids. The whole fruit extract, rather than one of its individual constituents, appears to be necessary for the medicinal activity of vitex.33 Vitex does not contain hormones. The benefits of vitex stem from its actions upon the pituitary gland—specifically on the production of a hormone called luteinizing hormone (LH). This indirectly increases progesterone production and helps regulate the menstrual cycle. Vitex also keeps prolactin secretion in check.34, 35 The ability to decrease mildly elevated prolactin levels may benefit some infertile women as well as some women with breast tenderness associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
A controlled clinical trial found that women taking 20 mg per day of a concentrated vitex extract for three menstrual cycles had a significant reduction in symptoms of PMS, including irritability, mood swings, headache, and breast tenderness.36 Another double-blind trial found that women taking vitex had slightly greater relief from symptoms of PMS, including breast tenderness, cramping, and headaches, than those taking vitamin B6.37 These trials support the findings of preliminary vitex trials for women with PMS.38, 39 Vitex (32.4 mg per day), in combination with some homeopathic remedies, has also been found in a double-blind trial to successfully treat breast tenderness (also called mastalgia).40
A review of other trials and case reports suggests there is at least preliminary support that vitex should be considered for women with irregular periods, infertility, and mildly elevated prolactin levels.41 Double-blind trials have confirmed the effectiveness of vitex at lowering mildly elevated prolactin levels in women.42 According to one small trial, acne associated with PMS, may also be reduced using vitex.43
How to Use It
Caution: Agnus castus should not be taken during pregnancy. The German Commission E monograph recommends a daily intake—30–40 mg of the dried herb—in capsules or in liquid preparations.44 Vitex is typically taken once in the morning with liquid for several months consecutively.
With its emphasis on long-term balancing of a woman’s hormonal system, vitex is not a fast-acting herb and is unlikely to give immediate relief to the discomfort associated with PMS. For premenstrual syndrome, frequent or heavy periods, vitex can be used continuously for four to six months. Infertile women with amenorrhea (lack of menstruation) can remain on vitex for 12 to 18 months, unless pregnancy occurs during treatment.
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
At the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.
Interactions with Medicines
As of the last update, we found no reported interactions between this supplement and medicines. It is possible that unknown interactions exist. If you take medication, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a new supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
Side effects may include minor stomach upset and a mild skin rash with itching. Vitex is not recommended for use during pregnancy and should not be used concurrently with hormone therapy (e.g., estrogen, progesterone).
1. Milewicz A, Gejdel E, Sworen H, et al. Vitex agnus castus extract in the treatment of luteal phase defects due to latent hyperprolactinemia: Results of a randomized, placebo-controlled double-blind study. Arzneimittelforschung 1993;43:752–6 [in German].
2. Dittmar FW, Böhnert KJ, et al. Premenstrual syndrome: Treatment with a phytopharmaceutical. Therapiwoche Gynäkol 1992;5:60–8.
3. Loch EG, Selle H, Boblitz N. Treatment of premenstrual syndrome with a phytopharmaceutical formulation containing Vitex agnus castus. J Women Health Gender-Based Med 2000;9:315–20.
4. Schellenberg R. Treatment for the premenstrual syndrome with agnus castus fruit extract: prospective, randomized, placebo controlled study. BMJ 2001;20:134–7.
5. Ma L, Lin S, Chen R, et al. Evaluating therapeutic effect in symptoms of moderate-to-severe premenstrual syndrome with Vitex agnus castus (BNO 1095) in Chinese women. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol 2010;50:189–93.
6. Lauritzen C, Reuter HD, Repges R, et al. Treatment of premenstrual tension syndrome with Vitex agnus castus. Controlled, double-blind study versus pyridoxine. Phytomed 1997;4:183–9.
7. Dittmar F. Das pramenstruelle Spannungssyndrome. Jiatros Gynakologie 1989;5:4–7.
8. Propping D, Katzorke T. Treatment of corpus luteum insufficiency. Zeitschr Allgemeinmedizin 1987;63:932–3.
9. Gerhard I, Patek A, Monga B, et al. Mastodynon® for female infertility. Randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical double-blind study. Forsch Komplementärmed 1998;5:272–8.
10. Halaška M, Beles P, Gorkow C, Sieder C. Treatment of cyclical mastalgia with a solution containing Vitex agnus extract: results of a placebo-controlled double-blind study. The Breast 1999;8:175–81.
11. Böhnert KJ. The use of Vitex agnus castus for hyperprolactinemia. Quart Rev Nat Med 1997;Spring:19–21.
12. Amann W. Improvement of acne vulgaris with Agnus castus (Agnolyt ™). Ther Gegenw 1967;106:124–6 [in German].
13. Amann W. Acne vulgaris and Agnus castus (Agnolyt ™).Z Allgemeinmed 1975;51:1645–58 [in German].
14. Veal L. Complementary therapy and infertility: an Icelandic perspective. Complement Ther Nurs Midwifery 1998;4:3–6 [review].
15. Sliutz G, Speiser P, Schultz AM, et al. Agnus castus extracts inhibit prolactin secretion of rat pituitary cells. Horm Metab Res 1993;25:253–5.
16. Milewicz A, Gejdel E, Sworen H, et al. Vitex agnus castus extract in the treatment of luteal phase defects due to latent hyperprolactinemia. Results of a randomized placebo-controlled double-blind study. Arzneimittelforschung 1993;43:752–6 [in German].
17. Brown DJ. Herbal Prescriptions for Health and Healing. Roseville, CA: Prima Health, 2000, 235–8.
18. Loch EG, Katzorke T. Diagnosis and treatment of dyshormonal menstrual periods in general practice. Gynäkol Praxis 1990;14:489–95.
19. Bingel AS, Farnsworth NR. Higher plants as potential sources of galactagogues. Econ Med Plant Res 1994;6:1–54 [review].
20. Gladstar R. Herbal Healing for Women. New York, Simon and Schuster, 1993, 177.
21. Mohr H. Clinical investigations of means to increase lactation. Dtsh Med Wschr 1954;79:1513–6 [in German].
22. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum and Beaconsfield, UK: Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd., 1988, 318.
23. Mennella JA, Beauchamp GK. Maternal diet alters the sensory qualities of human milk and the nursling’s behavior. Pediatrics 1991;88:737–44.
24. Mennella JA, Beauchamp GK. The effects of repeated exposure to garlic-flavored milk on the nursling’s behavior. Pediatr Res 1993;34:805–8.
25. Loch E, Böhnert KJ, Peeters M, et al. The treatment of menstrual disorders with Vitex agnus-castus tincture. Der Frauenarzt 1991;32:867–70 [in German].
26. Batchelder HJ, Hudson T, Lewin A, et al. Therapeutic approaches to endometriosis. The Protocol Journal of Botanical Medicine 1996;Spring:25–60.
27. Hudson T. Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. Los Angeles: Keats Publishing, 1999:79–88.
28. Sliutz G, Speiser P, Schultz AM, et al. Agnus castus extracts inhibit prolactin secretion of rat pituitary cells. Horm Metab Res 1993;25:253–5.
29. Lauritzen C, Reuter HD, Repges R, et al. Treatment of premenstrual tension syndrome with Vitex agnus-castus. Controlled, double-blind study versus pyridoxine. Phytomedicine 1997;4:183–9.
30. Bone K. Vitex agnus-castus: Scientific studies and clinical applications. Eur J Herbal Med 1994;1:12–5.
31. Bingel AS, Farnsworth NR. Higher plants as potential sources of galactagogues. Econ Med Plant Res 1994;6:1–54 [review].
32. Mohr H. [Clinical investigations of means to increase lactation.] Dtsch Med Wschr 1954;79:1513–6 [in German].
33. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 108.
34. Sliutz G, Speiser P, Schultz AM, et al. Agnus castus extracts inhibit prolactin secretion of rat pituitary cells. Horm Metab Res 1993;25:253–5.
35. Böhnert KJ. The use of Vitex agnus castus for hyperprolactinemia. Quart Rev Nat Med 1997;Spring:19–21.
36. Schellenberg R. Treatment for the premenstrual syndrome with agnus castus fruit extract: prospective, randomized, placebo controlled study. BMJ 2001;20:134–7.
37. Lauritzen C, Reuter HD, Repges R, et al. Treatment of premenstrual tension syndrome with Vitex agnus-castus. Controlled, double-blind study versus pyridoxine. Phytomed 1997;4:183–9.
38. Dittmar FW, Böhnert KJ, Peeters M, et al. Premenstrual syndrome: Treatment with a phytopharmaceutical. Therapiwoche Gynäkol 1992;5:60–8.
39. Loch EG, Selle H, Boblitz N. Treatment of premenstrual syndrome with a phytopharmaceutical formulation containing Vitex agnus castus. J Women Health Gender-Based Med 2000;9:315–20.
40. Halaska M, Beles P, Gorkow C, Sieder C. Treatment of cyclical mastalgia with a solution containing Vitex agnus extract: results of a placebo-controlled double-blind study. The Breast 1999;8:175–81.
41. Bone K. Vitex agnus-castus: Scientific studies and clinical applications. Eur J Herbal Med 1994;1:12–5.
42. Milewicz A, Gejdel E, Sworen H, et al. Vitex agnus castus extract for the treatment of menstrual irregularities due to latent hyperprolactinemia. Arzneim Forsch 1993;43:752–6 [in German].
43. Amann W. Improvement of acne vulgaris following therapy with Agnus castus (Agnolyt). Ther Ggw 1967;106:124–6 [in German].
44. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 108.
The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2014.
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