From the Blog!

Should we be taking Vitex/Chasteberry for Endometriosis?

I have been heading over to some forums lately to help spread the word about my site and discovered quite a bit of information and encouragement from women suggesting we take Vitex/Chasteberry to heal or help with Endo. Naturally, I had to look into Vitex a little more.

Vitex has been widely known as a women’s herb with claims to be able to overcome PMS, irregular periods, PCOS and of course infertility. It can be used as a powder, tincture or tea. It is a small pepper-like fruit of a Mediterranean shrub.

How does it work?

It stimulates the luteinizing hormone production which inhibits the follicle stimulating hormone. This increases our progesterone and inherently reduces oestrogen in the process. For those of you who are new to this site, many Endometriosis sufferers have Oestrogen dominance which is the cause of all our problems. Reducing this high level would indicate a good tactic….. to some of us. Perhaps….

Thing is, I continued with my research and discovered websites which indicated that Vitex does contain some Oestrogenic properties.

Now, I can see the benefits illustrated by many of these cases as it would offer some relief within a short-term trial. Initially we would stimulate overproduction of progesterone which would lover the oestrogen and all good, we would have less symptoms, pain, PMS etc. However, the problem comes in when we a)stop the course or b) continue for too long on the course.

Oestrogen dominance is ultimately still just an indicator of an imbalance within our body. I don’t agree with playing with our hormones. Yes, some would disagree and that Vitex is a completely natural product with no side-effects, however we are still “playing God” with our body. We are allowing ourselves to determine which tap to turn on which tap to turn off. We are stimulating a production of a particular hormones, to reduce another hormone. This goes for progesterone creams, phytoestrogens and various other recommendations for Endometriosis. They are ultimately simply reducing a problem by its symptom. Not by its cause.

Does anyone ever wonder why the Oestrogen dominance has occurred in the first place? It seems logical to me to find the real root of the problem and heal that, than simply trying to reduce yet another symptom with a herb, drug or other treatment. By stimulating and healing the liver, we can ultimately allow the body to determine what it really needs and not try and control the side-effects.

So, no I don’t feel we should be taking Vitex/Chasteberry for Endometriosis. I think we are not delving deep enough into the real root of our problem and I don’t believe it would ultimately heal/cure endometriosis, which is after all our goal!  :)

I LOVE hearing your comments and feedback. 

Please share your thoughts or post a question below.....

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About Melissa:

Melissa is a Writer, Speaker and Natural Medicine Consultant for Women with Endometriosis. After having suffered with Endometriosis for over 15years, she now lives a completely pain & symptom free life. 

She believes that all women with Endometriosis should be given the same opportunity and has shared her knowledge to truly Empower Women with Endometriosis.

19 Responses to Should we be taking Vitex/Chasteberry for Endometriosis?

  1. Hi there great blog. I have endo and high
    Bilirubin. Ive had cin iii cysts breat and ovariea. My naturopath has startes me on dim and liver support. I have acne on one side of my face. She has also put me on femmeplex containing dong quai. Buti iffy. I trust you judgement cos i dontwant to play god eithe. Should i stick with donq quai or just dim and liver support. Thank you very kindly.

  2. Hi
    To tell u the truth all the above discussion has put cold water on my hopes as i just started using vitex after recomendation from a friend.
    its my first cycle and havnt had periods yet so cant add to its effect on pms/dysmennhorea but i have been struggling against infertility for quite sometime and was hoping ths might prove to be the wonder drug.
    Anywaysi think interval treatment might be the answer just like lupron regimes…take it for few mnths, give a break then start again.
    Btw any liver detoxifying agents you can recomend?
    In our country tamarind/plum water is considered good for the purpose.

  3. Hi!! I was taking thyroid energy, estrosense and evening primrose oil and a multivitamin supplement and ground flaxseed and progesterone cream. While on this regime I felt I was getting better. My cycles had lenghthened from 26 days to 30 days and my periods were lighter. But then I added vitex to my regime and this over rated drug made my cycles erratic and pain worse than before. with vitex my cycles were 24 days long and I woould get pms a week earlier. It was like half the ,month I was down with pain. I took vitex for 3 months coz i thought it will take me time to adapt to the effests of vitex but to no avail. All it caused me was harm I was much better off without vitex. And ppl say it decreases libido but in my case it increased it. Its good for ppl with pcos and who have trouble ovulating coz when i was on vitex it would make me ovulate much earlier (10th day) than my usual time(14th day) and hence shorten my cycles. The last thing we want with endo is shorter cycles and frequent bleeding. This website has reinforced my observations and opinions about Vitex.

    • Hi there,
      Flaxseed is also considered Oestrogenic, so perhaps cut that out of your diet too :)
      Interesting to hear how much Vitex affected you. To counteract it, I would get your liver working stronger with a liver flush or a liver focused diet.
      I hope it fixes itself soon :)

  4. Thanks to Sam and for your reply (2010). I have been and still am on Vitex (4 years as well). I was on Provera beforehand for several years. I’m taking with Vitex, Dim and the bromelains as well as pills to help the liver etc which have been working so far. Surprised I’m not rattling! ha ha! You mentioned problems can occur after being on it for a long time. Can you further clarify this? What’s going to happen?

  5. This is an old blog entry now but in searching for endometriosis and chasteberry I came across this entry. I’ll add my bit. Other than a 3-month stint on birth control pills, and one laparoscopy to confirm diagnosis, I have avoided modern medicine’s treatments for endometriosis. What I have tried:
    – cramp bark extract prepared by a naturopath, to no effect
    – EstroSense, to no effect
    – milk thistle and combination liver-detoxifying supplements, to no effect.
    I was a vegetarian (and had been for nearly a decade) when I was diagnosed, so I don’t think meat/dairy were the problem. In fact, the biggest success I have had in dealing with endo PAIN has been eating more of a paleo-style diet, with lots of fat, but I completely cut out nuts/seeds/plant oils. This all but completely eliminated the pain. It was miraculous.
    I say “was” because two weeks ago I started a new supplement, EstroSmart Plus, which contains chasteberry. The pain is back this cycle. This is after 6 months of nearly pain-free cycles. Is it a coincidence? Could be. But I’ve also come across websites stating chasteberry could mimic estrogen in the body (though I have yet to find a reference!!). So, anyway, be cautious with hormone regulating/enhancing herbs and supplements. I think as far as endo goes, we want to do what we can to minimize hormones without actually manipulating them directly, if that makes sense. Liver detoxifying seems logical, but the supplements I’ve tried had no effect. And avoid milk thistle – as that has recently been shown to be estrogenic as well. There are very few options it seems.
    Thank you for writing this blog! We need endometriosis awareness out there, and awareness of alternative treatment methods.

    • Hi Amanda and thanks for sharing. Very interesting about cutting out oils – it may have something to do with the Omega 6 excess causing more prostaglandins from being released? I did write this article a while ago and have since discovered heaps more info on Phytoestrogens (plants that mimick oestrogen) and totally agree with you on not using it to heal endo. Liver detoxing or detoxing in general does work but perhaps we need to look outside of standard chemists and health stores for answers. I am exploring a few things at the moment and will post them for you shortly. Check out this article I wrote about Phyteoestrogens which gives a heap more evidence on why they aren’t great for endo.
      http://www.endoempowered.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-taking-red-clover-for-endometriosis/

  6. No hurry. Figure the more info that’s out there, the more it will help all of us.
    & I’ve said this before but will say it again- Thank you for all you do for us here!!
    Wend

  7. You talked of not caring for hormone based treatments i.e. progesterone, vitex, etc. Does this mean you don’t care for dong quai either? That is one that’s used for menopause. I guess it’d be similar to not taking soy ‘cos they are phytoestrogen too. But then, why is all the research out there for helping endo using these? i.e. one of the top things prescribed is progesterone. Any naturopath I talked to, any site I visited promotes progesterone.
    But as you pointed out, these fix a symptom. But then too (thinking a lot here LOL) I wonder if we may need many different things in order to help our bodies heal? For some people, taking vitex helps them heal as well as cutting out, say, dairy & sugar. For others, they get help from doing acupuncture & taking DIM. I think maybe it’s just all indivialized. What works for one, won’t for another. This is where we say, it’s why you need a naturopath to help you determine what’s best for YOU!
    I’ll tell my own ‘vitex’ story. Between my last 2 surgeries (Dec ’08 then Nov ’09 w/ the latter being a hyst, kept ovaries), I was on Endovan. It contains Nattokinase (enzyme), EGCG (i.e. green tea), Lycopene (i.e. in tomatoes), & Vitex. I changed my diet even more, took the max dose & guess what? I had to have that SECOND surgery ‘cos I was getting worse. I’m not saying Endovan (Vitex, et al) made me worse but it didn’t help heal me. So I can relate to the poster, Sam, who had this problem as well. I was only on it for less than a year. I feel for you, Sam, if you are reading updates here of how you were disheartened ‘cos you put faith in these natural remedies & diet change only to have another surgery. I felt that same way. After the surgery Dec ’08 I went gung-ho in natural. Telling my doc who was prescribing Lupron (never did those, never will) that I will heal myself w/ natural.
    But again, Vitex has to be helping women out there. They wouldn’t be able to continue to sell it. There’s no magic bullet & we literally have to do much trial & error.
    Melissa, if you can touch more on liver detox, I’d appreciate it. For some reason, I am just not ‘getting it’ LOL. It’s still confusing for me w/ what to do, what to take on healing my liver. I read dandelion tea (here & on other sites) is good for the liver. But how much? How often? I’m the type who needs things explained step by step. While I know we are all different, I need a guideline to follow then I go from there.
    What do you think of Nattokinase? It’s an enzyme; fermented soy. You talked of i.e. DIM & Bromelain enzymes before but I searched & didn’t see Natto in here. (Again, it was in the Endovan & hence why I’m including it in this entry) It ‘dissolves scar tissue’. Do all enzymes do that then? Or are they different? & couldn’t we just eat pineapple! I wonder how much pineapple we would have to eat tho.
    Thank you for helping us think & most importantly, heal. We need this!
    Wend

    • Hi Wend. I think I need to write a few blog topics for you on these questions – if you can wait till I get back to New Zealand – as they are not very simple answers. I have been meaning to write more detailed explanations on Vitex and other phytoestrognes. From my understanding, the reason they temporary help women with endo is because they get to a point where they match the balance point in the hormones in our body. When women then continue to take it, the problems then become worse as they are giving hte body too much. I personally have read too many things that indicate they are not advisable for endo – I will write a detailed blog on that research soon :) I think it works great for girls with large cysts or ovarian cysts but Endo is slightly different and so needs a different approach. As for the Nattokinase… I know women who have had great success with this product. I am a little hesitant on the source of the product and will need to research this further. The DIM works on reducing Xenoestrogens in the body. Bromelain helps with your digestion and therefore elimination of the excess Oestrogens in the body. We can just eat Pineapple or Broccoli but no we wouldn’t really get enough of the volume we would need – hence needing to take it in a supplement form. :)
      As for helping the liver. The first thing is to cut out the things the liver doesn’t like – that includes dairy, meat and sugar. Then we detox the liver with Dandelion tablets – I take 1 capsule 3 times a day. If you buy the supplements they will generally tell you how many to take. Your body will then detox what it can. Essentially, the livers job is to clean stuff out. The more you can reduce its load and help with detoxing, drink loads of water, exercise and ensuring your digestion is working, the easier it will find things. It’s responsibility is also to regulate and flush out excess Oestrogen. We therefore want it to be able to do that as best it can. If you type into the search box: liver, you should find a few articles I have written on this – maybe go back a little :)
      I agree with your statement on what works for some might not work for others. These are my personal experiences and my personal gut feelings about things. I personally don’t really know exactly why I don’t like Phytoestrogens for endo. It is just a gut feel and when I see them, a voice inside says: NO. I have yet to back that statement up with evidence. The key is to find methods that work for you and do them well. There are so many different ways to heal. Go with what feels right to you :)

  8. I see what you’re saying, but there are a few “howevers” that come to mind. We have toxins in our bodies that we never put there, but are just from our environment. Also, we have genetic issues passed down to us from prior generations. Returning to a totally natural state would not eliminate these issues, which can influence oestrogen dominance. And it is not even really “natural” to have the number of menstrual cycles that modern women have – I’ve seen research claiming that we were “designed” to have far fewer due to nursing babies for long periods of time, bearing many children, and dying young. You’re right, of course, that a healthy liver helps one to cope with these issues.

    Thanks for the interesting blog!

    • I know what you mean and I totally agree with you. I guess I want to avoid things getting worse and ultimately of course get rid of endo. My mom followed the path of hormones as a sole treatment and her condition has gotten worse and worse. She suffers almost daily with digestive issues, hormonal issues and endo pain. I also struggle when I see other women who don’t have endo and yet are able to combat the toxins and oestrogens in our diets with no problems. I guess I think it is just a weak liver function within our systems which doesn’t allow us to fight these toxins and higher oestrogens in our body. Know what I mean? I guess I see using Vitex as fixing a symptom rather than fixing the root cause of poor liver function.
      No problem and thanks for commenting :)

      • Hi Melissa, thank you very much for posting this article. I have been taking Vitex for about 4 years, since I came off the Pill. I was on Microgynon for approx 10 years to control my endo but I got fed up of taking it every day and started looking into holistic remedies . I researched Vitex and was so excited to read that it could help my endo without any side effects. I ordered it immediately and started taking it together with milk thistle, evening primrose oil, magnesium, B complex and probiotic supplements. As a result, I experienced only mild period pain and I was overjoyed. Sometimes I would forget to take the other supplements but I would religiously take Vitex every day as it appeared to be working.
        After 2 years the pain returned so I started taking a stronger dose of Vitex. Over the past 9 months my periods became so painful, but I did not stop taking Vitex as I thought the pain would be far worse without it. I started a course of Chinese herbal remedies and acupuncture and I also changed my diet and cut out dairy products, red meat, chicken, coffee etc but the pain did not lessen. Instead it got progressively worse. I also tried a herbal remedy called Endo-Ex which contains Vitex – Agnus Castus, Milk thistle, Chinese Yam, Dong Quai and Viburnum Opulus (30c). Again to no avail.
        The pain became so debilitating so I went to see a Specialist and 3 weeks ago I was diagnosed with severe ‘active’ pelvic endo. I was so disheartened because I put a lot of faith into natural remedies and yet none of the remedies and dietary changes I tried had worked. I’m now wondering if the Oestrogenic properties of Vitex actually made my endo worse, as I have been taking it for a long time.
        I’m due to have laparoscopic surgery next week as I have lots of adhesions and scarring
        all over my pelvic cavity, but I am very keen to explore and address the root cause of my problem, which is likely to be a weak immune system and weak liver function.
        I have just subscribed to your 8 week video course and I am keen to work through it over the next few weeks while I’m recuperating!

        • Dear Sam,
          Thank-you so much for sharing! It is a great insight into Vitex and a possible effect from it! Unreal! I am so glad you told us what happened to you as I have always questioned Vitex and similar natural treatments that are often suggested for Endo.
          I am sorry you had to be our “guinea pig” but hopefully it will help other women think about Vitex a little more! I hope your operation is not too painful and that your recovery goes well. Please feel free to ask me any questions about the course or anything else! I am here for you – even if I am on the other side of the world! :) All the best and happy health!

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