What Is Vitex?

Also Known as Vitex agnus-castus

Vitex capsules

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak 

What Is Vitex?

Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus) is a plant used in herbal medicine. Also known as chaste tree or chasteberry, it's often used to remedy women's health problems. Vitex supplements typically contain extracts of the fruit and/or seed of the plant.

Vitex's entire mechanism of action is unknown, but it may indirectly influence several hormones, such as prolactin, progesterone, and estrogen. For example, it is thought that vitex reduces the release of prolactin by activating dopamine receptors. Prolactin is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland that helps promote breast development and milk production.

This article will discuss vitex, its purported uses, and considerations for supplementation.

Dietary supplements are not regulated in the United States, meaning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. When possible, choose a supplement that has been tested by a trusted third party, such as USP, ConsumerLabs, or NSF. However, even if supplements are third-party tested, that doesn't mean they are necessarily safe for all or effective in general. It is important to talk to your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take and check in about any potential interactions with other supplements or medications.

Supplement Facts

  • Active ingredient: Berry and possibly other parts of the plant Vitex agnus-castus
  • Alternate Name(s): Chaste tree, chaste berry, monk's pepper
  • Recommended Dose: No recommendations; however, 4 to 40 milligrams/day is commonly used
  • Safety Considerations: Not for use in people who are pregnant, lactating, or have other hormone-sensitive conditions. Discuss with your healthcare provider before taking this drug if you have Parkinson's disease, as it may decrease the effectiveness of birth control or hormone pills.

What Is Vitex Used For?

Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare provider, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, or primary care provider. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent a disease.

Vitex has a long history of use in a range of female conditions. The name "chaste tree" comes from the belief in folk medicine that it could suppress libido.

In herbal medicine today, vitex is frequently used to manage the following:

There is a lack of large-scale clinical trials testing the effects of vitex. While vitex has been marketed for its use in managing acne, fibrocystic breast disease, benign prostatic hyperplasia, migraines, and joint conditions, there is insufficient science to back these claims.

Premenstrual Syndrome

Supplementing vitex may improve symptoms associated with PMS, such as anxiety, breast pain, moodiness, and headaches. Researchers suggest that by decreasing prolactin release, vitex helps balance other hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone.

For a report published in the journal Planta Medica, researchers reviewed 12 previously published clinical trials investigating the effects of vitex on conditions affecting the female reproductive system. Despite some limitations within the reviewed trials, the results indicated that vitex might be beneficial in managing PMS.

A more recent systematic review found that although vitex had a positive effect on PMS symptoms, a high degree of bias was found in the studies reviewed. A 2019 study similarly found that vitex helped relieve symptoms of PMS but the studies available were not of great quality and therefore, could not prove the efficacy of vitex.

Vitex may help manage symptoms associated with PMS, but more research is needed to study the efficacy of its use.

Menopausal Symptoms

Menopause is diagnosed once a person has gone without a period for 12 months. Although it's a natural process, it is accompanied by several unpleasant side effects, including:

  • Chills
  • Hot flashes
  • Mood changes
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight gain

Vitex has been marketed to help manage the symptoms of menopause, but the research findings to date are inconsistent. There is currently a lack of rigorous clinical trials testing the effects of vitex on menopausal symptoms. The available studies include small sample sizes, different products, combination products, and other outcomes.

A study published in 2019 included 46 women who used either a herbal remedy or placebo. The herbal remedy was a combination of vitex and Nigella Sativa. After eight weeks, the herbal product resulted in significantly lower scores of self-reported menopause symptoms. However, another clinical trial evaluating a product that contained St. John's Wort and vitex combined did not work any better than the placebo.

Therefore, it is difficult to determine whether vitex offers any benefit for menopause symptoms.

Supplementing vitex appears safe for menopausal women, but there isn't strong evidence suggesting benefits from its use. Discuss with your healthcare provider before supplementing, especially if taking hormone pills.

Infertility

A nutritional supplement containing a blend of vitex, green tea, L-arginine, vitamins (including folate), and minerals may help improve fertility in women, suggests a study published in Clinical and Experimental Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The study included 93 women aged 24 to 42. All women had been unsuccessful in getting pregnant for six to 36 months. Three months into the study, 26% of the study members treated with the vitex-containing supplement had become pregnant (compared to just 10% of those given a placebo). However, it isn't easy to know if the study results are due to vitex or other ingredients in the supplement.

One suggested mechanism for this is the effect of vitex on lowering prolactin levels. Abnormally high prolactin levels, often seen in luteal phase defects, can make it hard to get pregnant.

Is Vitex Good For Depression?

Research shows that vitex may reduce mood swings, depression, and anxiety in postmenopausal women. While it may be a useful supplement for women in menopause, it is not a replacement for depression medication. If you are experiencing depression, consult with your healthcare provider.

What Are the Side Effects of Vitex?

Vitex may trigger a number of side effects, including:

  • Bleeding between menstrual periods 
  • Dry mouth
  • Hair loss
  • Headache
  • Itching
  • Mild digestive upset
  • Nausea
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Skin rash.

Side effects resolve after discontinuing vitex. Talk to your healthcare provider if your side effects continue or worsen.

Vitex capsules
Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak 

Precautions

Pregnant or nursing individuals should avoid using vitex. In addition, people with hormone-sensitive conditions (such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and cancers of the breast, ovaries, or prostate) shouldn't take vitex without consulting a healthcare provider who is knowledgeable in its use.

Because vitex may influence levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, individuals with Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia, or any other condition in which dopamine levels are affected should avoid vitex (unless under the supervision of a qualified health professional).

In addition, there's some concern that vitex may decrease the effectiveness of oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy.

Dosage: How Much Vitex Should I Take?

Always speak with a healthcare provider before taking a supplement to ensure that the supplement and dosage is appropriate for your individual needs.

There is not enough scientific evidence to establish a recommended dose of vitex or chasteberry. However, doses of 4 to 40 milligrams (mg) daily are generally used. Different doses have been studied in research studies investigating the herb's effect on various conditions.

The right dose for you may depend on various factors including your age, medical conditions, and the specific formulation (extract) used. Read the supplement fact labels to understand what is in it, and speak to your healthcare provider to get personalized advice.

Can You Take Vitex Forever?

There are no official recommendations for how much vitex you should take or how long you can take it. Consult with your healthcare provider if you are considering using vitex long-term. While vitex is considered safe for most people, there is not enough research to say with certainty that it is safe for long-term use.

What Happens If I Take Too Much Vitex?

There are no reports of toxicity from vitex in humans. However, one study found that long-term supplementation at high doses was toxic to rats.

Interactions

Vitex may reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills. Therefore, using an additional form of birth control is recommended. Taking vitex may also reduce the effectiveness of estrogen pills. Vitex can also interact with medications used to reduce dopamine levels. This may include medications used for mental disorders or Parkinson's disease.

If you are taking any of these medications and are considering adding vitex, discuss it with your healthcare provider first. It is essential to carefully read the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel to know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included. Review this supplement label with your healthcare provider to discuss potential interactions with foods, other supplements, and medications.

How to Store Vitex

Storage requirements may vary among manufacturers. Follow the directions provided on the supplement for storage.

Sources of Vitex & What to Look For

Vitex comes from a shrub that is found in the Mediterranean and Asia. The fruit and seed of the shrub can be used to make supplements. There are no other food sources of vitex.

Vitex Supplements

Vitex is sold as a single nutrient or in combination with other nutrients. It is most often sold in capsule or gummy form. You'll find it in many health food stores and online.

Summary

Vitex is an herbal product that can have an effect on hormone levels. Some research has shown that it may improve symptoms of PMS, menopause, or even help with infertility. However, stronger research data in the form of prospective, randomized clinical trials are needed. If you think that vitex may help you, be sure to discuss it with your healthcare provider first.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the benefits of vitex?

    Some purported uses of vitex include the prevention of premenstrual syndrome, menopausal symptoms, and infertility. However, there is a lack of large-scale, clinical research to back up its effectiveness.

  • Does vitex have side effects?

    Side effects of chasteberry or vitex include but are not limited to headache, nausea, gastrointestinal issues, menstrual disorders, acne, pruritus (itching), and a rash.

12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Webster DE, He Y, Chen SN, et al. Opioidergic mechanisms underlying the actions of Vitex agnus-castus L. Biochemical Pharmacology. 2011;81:170-177. doi:10.1016/j.bcp.2010.09.013

  2. Natural Standard. Natural standard herb & supplement guide - e-book an evidence-based reference. St Louis: Elsevier Health Sciences.

  3. Die MV, Burger H, Teede H, Bone K. Vitex agnus-castus extracts for female reproductive disorders: a systematic review of clinical trialsPlanta Medica. 2012;79(07):562-575. doi:10.1055/s-0032-1327831

  4. Verkaik S, Kamperman AM, van Westrhenen R, Schulte PFJ. The treatment of premenstrual syndrome with preparations of Vitex agnus castus: a systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2017;217(2):150-166. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2017.02.028

  5. Molaie M, Darvishi B, Jafari Azar Z, et al. Effects of a combination of Nigella sativa and vitex agnus-castus with citalopram on healthy menopausal women with hot flashes: results from a subpopulation analysis. Gynecological Endocrinology. 2019;35(1):58-61. doi:10.1080/09513590.2018.1499086

  6. van Die MD, Burger HG, Bone KM, et al. Hypericum perforatum with Vitex agnus-castus in menopausal symptoms: a randomized, controlled trial. Menopause. 2009;16(1):156-163. doi:10.1097/gme.0b013e31817fa9e0

  7. Westphal LM, Polan ML, Trant AS. Double-blind, placebo-controlled study of Fertilityblend: a nutritional supplement for improving fertility in women. Clin Exp Obstet Gynecol. 2006;33(4):205-208.

  8. Tayebi N, Emamghoreishi M, Akbarzadeh M. Effect of vitex agnus-castus on depression of postmenopausal women: A randomized clinical trial. Shiraz E-Med J. 2021 Jan;22(6):103381. doi:10.5812/semj.103381

  9. Daniele C, Thompson Coon J, Pittler MH, Ernst E. Vitex agnus castus: a systematic review of adverse events. Drug Saf. 2005;28(4):319-332. doi:10.2165/00002018-200528040-00004

  10. Owolabi M, Abass M, Emeka P, Jaja S, Nnoli M, Dosa BenjaminOS. Biochemical and histologic changes in rats after prolonged administration of the crude aqueous extract of the leaves of vitex grandifolia. Phcog Res. 2010;2(5):273. doi:10.4103/0974-8490.72322

  11. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Chasteberry.

By Jennifer Lefton, MS, RD/N, CNSC, FAND
Jennifer Lefton, MS, RD/N-AP, CNSC, FAND is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist and writer with over 20 years of experience in clinical nutrition. Her experience ranges from counseling cardiac rehabilitation clients to managing the nutrition needs of complex surgical patients.

Originally written by
Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong

Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.

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