Chaste Tree Berry: It’s Good for Migraines

Texas Lilac (vitex agnus castus) Blooms

Weight management, acne, fertility, menopause – there are so many reasons to make sure hormones are balanced properly. When they’re not, the body can communicate in strong (and undesirable) ways. Herbal supplements can help and chaste tree berry – also called vitex and vitex agnus-castus – is one that shouldn’t be ignored. A shrub native to Mediterranean regions, it has a long history of medicinal use, especially for hormone abnormalities and gynecological issues in women.

Vitex is used for:

  • Menstrual disorders (painful menses, lack of menses, heavy menses)
  • PMS and menopausal symptoms
  • Infertility in women
  • Increasing lactation
  • Acne
  • Migraine and headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Benign Prostate Hypertrophy (BPH)

Vitex is a powerful herbal that comes along with some warnings and limitations. It has been used in human studies for periods of time ranging from two months to 1.5 years. The best evidence is using vitex at 20-40mg for 8 weeks for premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a condition with more severe effects than premenstrual syndrome (PMS) though it can be used for both. The other major reason it’s used is for fertility but more research is needed in that area and it also needs to be used with caution once a woman becomes pregnant because of its hormone-mimicking effects.

Vitex Agnus Castus Herb

Though it has been used for fertility and lactation in traditional medicine, use extreme caution with this herbal with hormonal properties and discuss with an herbalist and doctor specializing in pregnancy and lactation before using. It also has some interactions with antipsychotic drugs, contraceptives and birth control, estrogens and reglan/metoclopramide for appetite and treating nausea.

Though vitex has been used for centuries, there is still more to be explored. Researchers continue to look into potential benefits from the antioxidants in vitext that fight against cancer cells, calm inflammation, and are antimicrobial and antifungal. There is some promise that this compound could support those with epilepsy, bone loss or even nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Unlike so many other herbals on the Foodtrients® site, this is one that doesn’t show up in food sources common in the U.S. The leaves and fruit of this shrub have been used in some cuisines as a replacement for pepper, especially in traditional Persian cuisine. Generally, food sources are considered “safe” so this is one that will take some extra consideration. Consider working with an herbalist before using as it could have strong and beneficial effects. Have you used vitex for any health condition? Let us know in the comments!

RESOURCES:

Natural Medicines Database. Vitex. https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=968. Updated 11/2/17. Accessed 6/13/19.

Niroumand MC, Heydarpour F, Farzaei MH. Pharmacological and therapeutic effects of Vitex agnus-castus L.: A review. Pharmacognosy Reviews. 2018;12(23):103.

About Ginger Hultin, MS RDN CSO

Ginger Hultin, MS, RD, CSO, LDN, is a health writer and owner of Champagne Nutrition specializing in integrative health and whole food-based nutrition. She serves as Immediate Past President for the Chicago Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Chair-Elect of the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group and is a Media Representative for the Illinois Academy. Read Ginger's blog, Champagne Nutrition, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Ginger Hultin MS RD CSO LDN gingerhultin@hotmail.com | @GingerHultinRD Chair-Elect, Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group ChampagneNutrition.com  
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