***Author’s Note: Attempting to “balance your hormones” is a delicate business, & one that should be supervised by a well-informed doctor. This article, “How Chasteberry Increases Progesterone,” is meant for women who have already had their hormone levels checked, & discovered they have low progesterone. Chasteberry, or chaste tree berry (as it’s also known), is a substance that may be tried as an alternative to synthetic or bio-identical progesterone treatments ~ in order to raise progesterone levels.
All of which should be done under a doctor’s supervision!
How Chasteberry Increases Progesterone
Hormones are a topic I’m utterly fascinated by lately. In order to enhance my education in this area, I routinely listen to health podcasts by experts like Andrew Huberman, David Sinclair, & former volleyball phenom Gabby Reece: who interviews some of the top specialists in the world regarding health & performance. I heard about chasteberry three times before I really started to key in on it; several hormone experts she interviewed recommended it. After discovering my own progesterone levels were low, I ended up taking a bio-identical progesterone recommended by my doctor.
BUT, I wasn’t entirely happy with it, & after hearing about chasteberry: I switched over to it instead. And the truth is, I feel much better on chasteberry than I did on the bio-identical.
” In 10 of the studies that used a placebo control, chaste tree was found to be superior in 9 of them. Chaste tree was superior for relieving PMS symptoms in all the studies comparing it to any of the other natural agents. Chaste tree was [also]comparable to oral contraceptives in the studies where this was compared.”
– Dr. Tori Hudson, Founder of Vitanica Supplements for Women
So What is Chasteberry?
Chasteberry, also known as chaste tree berry, is derived from a small shrub commonly found in the Mediterranean region; this shrub is called Vitex Agnus-Castus. It has small red berries, & it is in these berries that specific compounds are found, such as agnuside: which can in turn affect hormone levels.
” While chasteberry contains no hormones, it can influence hormonal activity. It turns out that [components in chasteberry] can increase blood levels of progesterone.”
– Joe Schwarcz, Ph.D
But How Does Chasteberry Affect Hormones?
Okay, so the chasteberry itself does not contain any hormones. How then does it manage to affect our hormones?
” This happens in kind of a round about way. Chasteberry stimulates the pituitary to produce luteinizing hormone, which in turn signals the ovaries to produce more progesterone.”
– Joe Schwarcz, Ph.D
So basically, compounds found in chasteberry essentially communicate with our bodies via the pituitary gland (also known as one of the body’s “master glands”): which then gives a signal to the ovaries to produce more of their own progesterone, as opposed to relying on a synthetic version of it (if someone is using HRT, for example).
**Author’s Note: This is what I personally find fascinating about using herbs vs. synthetic hormones ~ whereas synthetics take over your body’s own production of particular hormones (which I find worrying for the long-run, in that your body may stop producing those hormones altogether), herbs instead send signals within your own body to produce more of a particular hormone.
In many ways, this seems to me a much safer & more effective way to go in the long-run.
Can Progesterone Reduce PMS Symptoms?
In a word: YES.
Says Joe Schwarcz, PhD: “PMS symptoms have been linked with a low level of progesterone relative to estrogen, so it’s easy to see how chasteberry may help.” Further, he says: “The irritability, depression & feeling of being bloated which often characterize the two weeks prior to menstruation can respond to treatment with chasteberry.”
Dr. Tori Hudson, who runs A Woman’s Time OB-GYN clinic in Portland, & founder of Vitanica supplements says, “There are numerous published studies on natural agents for PMS including vitamin B6, calcium, St. John’s Wort, evening primrose oil, vitamin E, tryptophan, & chaste tree. Chaste tree, aka Vitex agnus-castus, is well-published in terms of cyclic menstrual-related symptoms.”
“Chaste tree was superior for relieving PMS symptoms in all the studies comparing it to any other natural agents. Fewer side effects occurred in the women on chaste tree vs. fluoxetine or oral contraceptives.”
– Dr. Tori Hudson, Founder of Vitanica Supplements
What About Getting Off Birth Control?
This very question was asked of Hormone Health Educator Candace Burch, who has over 25 years experience in the field of hormones, on The Skinny Confidential Podcast. Here’s what she says specifically about using chasteberry to help alleviate symptoms that arise when getting off of birth control:
“Hormone levels after birth control use are often very low given that contraceptives work by shutting down ovulation, & thus our body’s supply of naturally-occurring hormones.
Chasteberry/Vitex is a centuries-old herb known to safely restore normal cycles after years of birth control. Replenishing with progesterone cream or Vitex can go a long way towards balancing estrogen & progesterone levels to bring back normal cycles.
Another key point is that progesterone is the precursor (raw source) of adrenal production of cortisol, so if & when it is low, we don’t have the energy to rise out of our anxiety or depression.”
– Candace Burch, M.A.
Dr. Trevor Cates on Progesterone
“For women, for progesterone support, we’re looking at something like chaste tree berry. A lot of women, even in their 30’s: their progesterone will start dropping. That means they’re pre-menopausal. A lot of women start to go through peri-menopause in their 30s. That’s what was happening to me too.
We can help support our bodies naturally by supporting our progesterone.”
– Dr. Trevor Cates, also known as the “Spa Doctor”
What to Expect When Taking Chasteberry?
If you’re experiencing low progesterone, you may experience symptoms such as:
- Irregular periods;
- Short cycles;
- Mood changes;
- Sleep disturbances and/or difficulty staying asleep all night;
- Anxiety & depression;
- Progesterone can also affect fluid retention in the body.
So conversely, the benefits of taking progesterone if you are low in it would be a reversal of most of these symptoms. Balancing out menstrual cycles & bringing them into better regularity is one thing to expect, as is a more balanced & even mood (one of the doctors quoted earlier in this article, says that her family notices when she is NOT taking progesterone ~ they says she’s more irritable)! Easing of PMS symptoms is certainly another effect of raising progesterone levels, as discussed earlier.
And the SLEEP!! Oh my….this is what I personally noticed, & what my doctor said to expect: some of the most delicious, AMAZING sleep of my life. And sleeping all the way through the night, which is game-changing. I often found myself waking up to use the restroom around 3AM, & then not being able to go back to sleep until around 5AM…which was very disruptive. Upon raising my progesterone levels, this issue has been largely resolved, & with better sleep = better mood, better exercise, better LIFE.
High quality sleep ought never to be underestimated, & it’s one of the massive benefits of regulating progesterone levels.
Progesterone is sometimes thought of as the miracle hormone. It has a calming effect on both the mind and the body.
– Dr. Leigh Ann Scott, M.D.
Benefits of Regulated Progesterone
- Helps with symptoms of PMS;
- Has a long history of use in regulating mentstrual cycles;
- Eases anxiety & promotes calm (which is why many take it before bedtime);
- Increases the ability to handle stress;
- Promotes better memory;
- Helps prevent endometriosis & ovarian cysts;
- Assists the metabolism by promoting the use of fat for energy;
- Improves insomnia & libido;
- Can reduce migraines & hot flashes;
- Due to all of the above: it can help slow down the aging process.
Who Should Not Take Chasteberry?
Chasteberry should not be taken with hormone replacement therapy (HRT), unless specifically advised by your doctor. It should also not be taken when on the birth control pill, as combination effects are unknown (& they would seem to have competing agendas). It should also not be taken if you’re pregnant ~ but if you have been trying to get pregnant without success, speak with your doctor about using it, as raising progesterone levels has assisted many women to get pregnant.
How Chasteberry Increases Progesterone
If you’re a women who has been diagnosed with low progesterone, I hope this article has been of assistance ~ & I hope it opens up an avenue towards more nuanced discussions with your health care provider(s) about balancing hormones in the safest ways possible.
***Once again, PLEASE CHECK with your doctor before taking any new supplements, particularly when they affect your hormone levels. And check with your doctor about how much to take, & at what time during your cycle.
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