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Vitex and Fertility: Addressing Common Fertility Disorders
Vitex (vitex agnus-castus), a central ingredient in FertilAid for Women, is a medicinal herb that has been shown in clinical studies to support fertility and treat common fertility disorders, particularly those associated with cycle irregularity and hormonal imbalance. With a long, safe history of human use, vitex was traditionally taken as a treatment for menstrual disorders, infertility, and menopause symptoms (Daniele, 2005). While the popularity of vitex as a nutritional fertility supplement is now starting to grow in North America, women in Europe have used vitex for over sixty years to regulate the monthly cycle and support their chances of becoming pregnant sooner. In the last decade, modern clinical science has validated the balancing, fertility-promoting properties of vitex - and a number of important clinical studies indicate that vitex does indeed exert a normalizing effect on the monthly cycle, as well as balance the hormones involved in ovulation and menstrual regularity. Better yet, vitex also appears to increase the odds of pregnancy.
Vitex and Hormonal Balance
Vitex agnus castus works by acting on the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus, which are responsible for releasing hormones or triggering hormone responses throughout the reproductive system. Vitex has been shown to regulate pituitary activity and promote the balance of estrogen and progesterone levels. The estrogens are important during the first two weeks of woman's cycle, preparing the reproductive system for ovulation, while progesterone is dominant during the second half the cycle (the luteal phase) and is instrumental in maintaining a pregnancy. Hormone balance is key to a healthy menstrual cycle and regular ovulation. Here, vitex has proven very efficacious in supporting progesterone levels during the luteal phase (after ovulation takes place). In sum, vitex both stimulates and regulates the key reproductive hormones involved in ovulation and assists in restoring balance and menstrual regularity.
Vitex has been shown to be particularly effective for disorders connected with hormonal imbalance, including LPD (luteal phase defect) or corpus luteum insufficiency. Many menstrual issues or infertility obstacles are associated with low or irregular production of progesterone during the luteal phase, which may contribute to LPDand possibly to a more complicated fertility condition, PCOS. Symptoms of LPD are associated with cycle irregularity and a short luteal phase, precipitated by lower-than-normal progesterone levels during the second half of your cycle. With regard to PCOS, hormonal imbalances and low progesterone may also contribute to the formation of ovarian cysts that lead to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Women with PCOS also tend to exhibit higher-than-normal levels of prolactin, which may inhibit fertility. As vitex agnus castus has been shown to support progesterone production and suppress prolactin, vitex may be suggested as a herbal remedy for menstrual cycle imbalances, luteal phase defect, and possibly PCOS (as normalized progesterone levels and cycle regularity may suppress the development of ovarian cysts associated with estrogen dominance).
Vitex agnus castus is also recognized as a safe herb. Vitex has been used since ancient times for various health benefits, and since the mid-1900s for hormonal imbalances and infertility issues. Vitex has no known side-effects and can be taken for up to 18 months continuously. When pregnancy is achieved, discontinue use of vitex agnus castus-containing supplements, as well as any other herbal-nutritional supplements. The benefits of vitex will increase over time, and maximum benefits are typically achieved after a few months of use. It is suggested to not take vitex or fertility supplements while you are using prescription fertility drugs.
Clinical Research on Vitex Agnus-Castus and Fertility
Clinical studies now bolster claims associated with vitex agnus castus as an herbal remedy for cycle irregularity, hormonal imbalance, and some common fertility disorders. In a benchmark study, sixty-seven women with ovulatory/cycle disorders were treated with vitex agnus, which resulted in a "marked improvement of progesterone levels during the luteal phase, earlier ovulation, and thirty-eight achieved pregnancies" (Bergmann, 2000).
In another key study, (Milewicz, 1993), vitex agnus castus was given to hyperprolactinaemia female patients (women with high prolactin levels). The use of vitex reduced prolactin levels, as well as the normalized luteal phase progesterone levels for women with symptoms associated with LPD (luteal phase defect). Shortened luteal phases were normalized or made longer.
A study by Amann (1982) reveals that vitex exerts a favorable effect on women with amenorrhea (the absence of menstrual cycle or period), further establishing the efficacy of vitex in restoring hormonal balance and cycle regularity.
In another double-blind clinical study, women with diagnosed fertility issues benefited from a vitex agnus castus-containing preparation. Results of the study reveal more pregnancies for women using the vitex than in groups where vitex was not administered.
- 1Bergmann J, Luft B, Boehmann S, Runnebaum B, Gerhard I. The efficacy of the complex medication Phyto-Hypophyson L in female, hormone-related sterility. A randomized, placebo-controlled clinical double-blind study. Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Natureheilkd 2000; 7(4):190-9.
- 2Amman W. Favorable effect of Agnus castus (Agnolyt) on amenorrhea. ZFA (Stuttgart). 1982 Feb 10;58(4):228-31.
- 3Gerhard I I, Patek A, Monga B, Blank A, Gorkow C. Women with fertility disorders benefited from V. agnus-castus obtaining more pregnancies then the placebo group. Forsch Komplementarmed. 1998;5(6):272-278.
- Propping D, Katzorke T. Treatment of corpus luteum insufficiency. Zeitschr Allgemeinmedizin 1987;63:932–3.