Herbal Treatment For Hormonal Imbalance
The chaste berry (vitex agnus-castus) has been a part of the herbal pharmacopoeia for centuries. The ancient Greek physicians used chaste berry to suppress the libido, aid healing in external wounds, treat complaints of the spleen, and as an aid to childbirth. Taking a tip from the Greeks, the English employed chaste berry to suppress libido and so did the Catholic Church, who placed the herb into the pockets of new monks, to help them keep their vows of chastity. The very name of the herb invokes the idea that it aids in remaining chaste, though no scientific proof exists to support the idea that the herb suppresses libido.
In addition to good general health, the key to conception is ovulation and regulating the menstrual cycle. Vitex (chaste berry) has long been used with excellent results for relieving all sorts of gynecological issues caused by hormonal imbalance. Early American doctors used the herb to help stimulate the production of breast milk in new mothers and as a means of hastening or bringing on menstruation. Today, Vitex is still deemed useful for a variety of female complaints, for instance, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and the absence of menstruation (amenorrhea).
A great many conditions relating to menstruation problems are due to the insufficient production of progesterone during the luteal phase of a woman's cycle. This is called a luteal phase defect or corpus luteum insufficiency and is defined by very low levels of progesterone 3 weeks into a woman's cycle. This, in turn, can cause ovarian cysts to form. Some women who suffer from PCOS are found to have too much prolactin. Vitex can be useful in both cases: in luteal phase defect, and in PCOS.
When there is no menstruation due to a lack of ovulation, this suggests that the body is producing enough FSH to stimulate the ovaries and the ovaries may develop egg follicles, but not enough progesterone is produced to cause the eggs to be released. Vitex affects the hypothalamus and pituitary glands by increasing the production of luteinizing hormone (LH) and by helping to inhibit the release of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). This causes progesterone levels to rise, changing the ratio of estrogen to progesterone.
High levels of prolactin suggest a luteal phase defect and this can be treated with Vitex. Stress, for instance, may cause too much progesterone to be released by the pituitary gland, and Vitex can be used to inhibit progesterone production.
Most women using Vitex find that its effects kick in after 3 or 4 cycles, though for some women, it may take as long as 6 cycles. One benefit of treatment with Vitex is that it's not a hormone and won't cause the withdrawal bleeding that is seen with progesterone treatment.
The herb is considered very safe and can be taken every day for up to 18 months, unless you become pregnant. Most women take it once a day, in the morning. It's best to seek advice from a doctor familiar with herbal treatment, such as a naturopath, but the standard guideline for dosage is 60 drops of Vitex tincture, with 6% Agusides, or 175 mg. or more of the extract.