Confused about Vitex and PCOS? You're not alone.
Part 1: Vitex and Luteinizing Hormone - The Shocking Truth!
When I was first learning about herbal medicine, I learned that Vitex, also known as Chaste Tree Berry, was very specific for helping to regulate irregular menstrual cycles. Since I had irregular cycles due to PCOS, this was very interesting information to me.
PCOS is a condition I focus on in my clinical practice, and I have always considered Vitex a suitable herbal choice. But recently, I started to hear other experts on PCOS say that Vitex is an herb they do not use in most cases of PCOS. The reason given is that it raises LH (Luteinizing Hormone). LH is already chronically elevated in many cases of PCOS and contributes to the imbalances that causes problems with ovulation and menstrual cycle regularity.
I wanted to see the research on this myself, so I started to look. But what I found was evidence showing that Vitex lowers LH. Finally, I had a personal communication with a practitioner who pointed me to the reference material for this claim. Ironically, the reference was from a book in my own library, and what I found shocked me.
The book I am referring to is the highly respected Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy by Mills and Bone, which is often cited in publications due to its excellent reputation. The confusion over this question of how Vitex affects LH is somewhat owed to the fact that this book has 2 editions. The first edition, published in 2000, states that Vitex raises LH, while the second edition, published in 2013 corrects this information. While the theory that Vitex raises LH did not originate with Mills and Bone, the first edition of the book does seem to have perpetuated the idea.
Here is what happened. The evidence that Vitex raises LH had been reported in a 1961 animal study, but that study had not actually measured LH levels! The authors of the study had stated their opinion that Vitex was raising LH based on their observations of the animals. This formed the basis for the widespread belief that Vitex raises LH, and it was promoted in the literature, as well as with product information from German suppliers of Vitex products.
With this piece of misinformation figured out, you may have even more questions, such as:
· What is Vitex doing in the body?
· Is Vitex useful clinically in PCOS or not?
· What is the correct dose of Vitex to use?
These are all great questions that I plan to address. Stay tuned for part 2!
Zoleykha F, et al. (2021). Effect of Vitex agnus-castus ethanolic extract on hypothalamic KISS-1 gene. Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine, Vol 11(No 3), 292-301. Association for the Advancement of Restorative Medicine. (2022). Chaste Tree Berry (Vitex agnus castus 2). Retrieved from Restorative Medicine: https://restorativemedicine.org/library/monographs/chaste-tree-berry-vitex-agnus-castus-2/ Mills S, Bone K. (2000). Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy, first edition. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone. Bone K, Mills S. (2013). Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy, Second Edition. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.
My name is Jillian Bar-av and I am a Registered Herbalist and Licensed Nutritionist who works with busy women to help them have the energy to do what they love. I specialize in conditions that affect the reproductive system and urinary tract, such as PCOS and Interstitial Cystitis. I believe that it takes healthy people to create a healthy planet, and I want to make a difference for both.
For more information, to sign up for my newsletter, or to book an appointment, go to: www.greenspringherbs.com