Vitex Agnus Castus
Herbalists have always recognised the importance of using their knowledge to help women maintain a balance and harmony during their menstrual cycle and menopause.
One herb that has been used traditionally for its female hormone balancing properties is Vitex Agnus Castus. Recent scientific research confirms that the Vitex berry contains aromatic oils which provide a definite balancing effect upon female hormones through its therapeutic action on the pituitary gland - the gland that produces the regulatory hormones influencing progesterone and oestrogen production. Vitex influences the pituitary to increase the secretion of luteinizing hormone (LH), the hormone responsible for increasing progesterone secretion. This results in a normal balance between estrogen and progesterone.
Many women with menstrual cycle irregularities are not producing enough progesterone during the 2nd half of their cycle. This means that estrogen continues to be the dominant hormone. This can lead to a shortening of the luteal phase, by as much as 50%. When this occurs, women can suffer from premenstrual syndrome, a lack of periods, infertility and also too frequent or heavy periods.
Vitex, which does not contain hormones, acts to correct the deficiency of progesterone by working on the pituitary gland - the gland that produces the regulatory hormones influencing progesterone and oestrogen production. Vitex influences the pituitary to increase the secretion of luteinizing hormone (LH), the hormone responsible for increasing progesterone secretion during the luteal phase. This results in a normal balance between estrogen and progesterone.
Another problem affecting many women with "luteal phase defect" is the over production of another pituitary hormone known as prolactin. High levels of prolactin during the late stages of the luteal phase can contribute to breast tenderness and pain, as well as infertility. Vitex has been shown to actually reduce prolactin secretion in women overproducing it during their menstrual cycle. Used for an average of 3 months, vitex has led to a normalisation of midluteal phase progesterone levels and lengthening of the luteal phase.
Using Vitex as a hormonal balancer makes sense, as this herb ensures that the pituitary gland is sending the correct message to the other glands in your body, as to the sequence of hormones to release at what phase in your cycle. This leads to a regulation and balancing effect.
Taken during menopause, Vitex has been found to reduce the incidence of hot flushes, to limit fluid retention, prevent excessive weight gain and to alleviate the nervousness, anxiety or depression that can be associated with the ending of the female fertility cycle.
Vitex agnus castus is excellent to use to help alleviate problems relating to PMT. Not only does vitex help relieve the physical symptoms of PMT, but it also reduces the emotional instability, feelings of tension and hormonal headaches suffered at such times. Studies have shown vitex to be effective for menstrual disorders like painful menstruation, irregular periods, infrequent menstruation and excessive bleeding.
Vitex has been used for the following in PMT: Cramping, fluid retention, mood swings, depression/aggression, tender swollen breasts, weight gain, bloatedness, hormonal headaches, infertility, feeling "run down", excessive bleeding, loss of libido, lower back pain during menstruation. In Menopause, it has been used for Hot flushes, night sweats, excessive bleeding, depression, thinning of the vaginal mucosa, loss of libido, spotting, alternative to HRT.
As well as this it has been used for hormonal acne and it stimulates the flow of breast milk.