Vitex herb for fertility

BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT

Monday, April 30, 2018

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MORE and more women who suffer from infertility — which is the inability to conceive within a year of trying — have been resorting to natural herbs that can improve their chances of bearing children. Locally, a number of herbs come to mind that individuals say possess the ability to make a woman conceive in the blink of an eye; one such being the vitex agnus-castus, also known as chasteberry.

The herb is said to date back to ancient Greece and was used to improve a number of medical conditions including fertility, pre-menstrual syndrome, hormonal imbalance, and skin conditions. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services' National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health, vitex is used as a dietary supplement for menstrual problems, menopause symptoms, infertility, and other conditions. It is available as a liquid extract, capsules, tablets, and an essential oil.

Medical doctor Orlando Thomas said while the results from vitex are varied and research surrounding the herb is limited, it may increase progesterone levels.

Progesterone is a female sex hormone produced mainly in the ovaries following ovulation each month. It's a crucial part of the menstrual cycle and maintenance of pregnancy. Progesterone helps to regulate a woman's cycle, but its main job is to get the uterus ready for pregnancy. After she ovulates each month, progesterone helps thicken the lining of the woman's uterus in preparation for a fertilised egg.

Nutritionist Donovan Grant said he has seen a few clinical studies which indicate that the vitex herb helps to stimulate the reproductive hormones involved in ovulation, cycle balance and menstrual regularity, and that for the women involved, an increase in fertility was observed.

He said he is not averse to women trying the herb, but those who desire to do so must get clearance from their doctors.

“There are not many side effects, but you want to be sure you're not already on any treatment for infertility or you have any other condition that may impact how the drug works,” he said.

For her part, obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr Anna-Kay Taylor Christmas warned that based on different meta-analysis of various studies, it's not clear how effective vitex actually is in relation to infertility.

“Most of the studies look at PMS, but the side effects are minimal, so it probably won't hurt to take it at a low dosage. But it is just not clear if it is actually helpful for infertility as there is no proof of that,” she said.

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