Michelle Blum is a Fertility Naturopath and Acupuncturist based in Brisbane.
In this week's blog she discusses the benefits of the herb Chaste Tree and its role in supporting and improving fertility.
What is Chaste Tree ?
Vitex agnus-castus, also known as vitex or chaste tree, is a small deciduous tree native to the Mediterranean region of Europe. Vitex has a very long history of use as a medicinal herb, dating back some 2,500 years, when it was used by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. The fruit is the part used medicinally, and contains essential oils, phenolic compounds, and flavonoids. Studies of the herb’s constituents have found it to have hormone-regulating, antimicrobial, antioxidant, immune-modulating, and neuroprotective actions. Although vitex was traditionally used for a wide range of conditions include stomach-ache, acne and even eye conditions, modern use of vitex focuses on its affinity for female reproductive conditions via its regulatory effect on hormones.
How is it Used to Help Fertility and IVF?
Vitex is an important herb for helping to improve fertility in women, because of its beneficial effects on hormonal balance. The herb can help to regulate the function of the hypothalamus and the pituitary glands, which are involved in maintaining normal hormonal balance. A recent study published in 2017 demonstrated the benefits of vitex in women struggling to conceive due to poor ovarian function. The study investigated the use of vitex on women with premature ovarian ageing (reduced ovarian function and poor egg quality) in combination with letrozole, a drug commonly used to help improve ovulation in women trying to conceive. In a normal menstrual cycle, oestrogen levels increase steadily until they peak a few days before ovulation, and then decrease significantly by ovulation day, when luteinising hormone (LH) surges. The study found that 4 months of treatment with vitex led to lower levels of oestrogen on ovulation compared to the control group, indicating a better hormonal profile for fertility. In addition to improving hormonal balance to better support fertility, the study found vitex also helped to improve endometrial thickness ready for implantation. Women in the treatment group also had significantly higher pregnancy rates compared to the control group.
Other Uses for Vitex
In addition to being a powerhouse for improving fertility in women, vitex is commonly used for a wide range of female hormonal conditions. One of the most common conditions vitex is used for is PMS, where a number of studies have demonstrated its ability to reduce mild to moderate pre-menstrual symptoms, partly by its hormone-regulating activity, but also by its ability to bind to certain opiate receptors to reduce pain. In the treatment of PCOS, vitex can help to improve ovulation and restore normal menstrual cycles. Vitex is also used to treat other conditions such as endometriosis and even breast pain associated with the menstrual cycle.
About Michelle Blum
Michelle Blum is a fertility, pregnancy and women’s health naturopath and acupuncturist located in Brisbane. Whether you are struggling to conceive, just beginning your fertility journey or need support with a women's health complain please contact Michelle Blum Natural Health to see whether or not Acupuncture or Naturopathy or a combination of both may a be a possible solution for you. Alternatively, you can book an appointment here.