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The herb vitex has been used for hundreds of years for two diametrically opposite but completely compatible purposes, to keep men chaste and to help women conceive. Men seeking to become fathers should not use or even handle vitex, but women who have PCOS may find vitex to be exactly what they need. Vitex is the herb also known as chasteberry and by its scientific name Vitex agnus castus. It's easy to find. It's inexpensive.

Side effects when it is taken by women are mild and rare. You can find vitex in its most useful form, as a tincture, and also in capsules and as whole berries. Phytochemicals found in vitex act on the hypothalamus and the pituitary in the brain to change levels of two important hormones, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). FSH levels go down, and LH levels go up. Taking vitex also slightly increases progesterone levels, and it affects the balance of FSH and LH with a fourth hormone, prolactin. FSH is a signal to the uterus that ovulation is "going to happen." If FSH levels stay too high, the uterus is constantly "told" that ovulation is going to happen but hasn't happened yet. LH levels peak about the same time as the actual release of the egg. Progesterone is essential to signalling the uterus to create changes in its lining so the fertilized egg can "nest." When progesterone levels are too low, even if the egg is released from the fallopian tubes and subsequently fertilized it may not be implanted. Relatively high prolactin levels delay menstruation, especially when women diet or when they are under prolonged stress.

Vitex can help regulate other hormones so that prolactin does not interfere with menstruation and ovulation. In some cases, taking vitex has restored menstruation and ovulation in women who had not had a period in two to as long as fifteen years. It softens the symptoms of PMS, and it lowers testosterone levels to restore fertility in PCOS. The effects of vitex in PCOS, however, don't take place overnight. It's simply not possible for the herb to have an effect in less than one menstrual cycle. Usually menstrual changes are not noticed for one to three months, and fertility changes, if vitex is what is needed, do not occur until about the fourth month. If you take vitex in the form of a tincture, mix it with some water and just a little lemon juice.

The lemon juice helps your body absorb the active ingredients of the herb. If you make a vitex tea, and you find the taste too peppery, mix with mint or spearmint. Never boil vitex. Just steep in hot water if you are making a vitex tea. Vitex is seldom the only treatment needed for PCOS, but sometimes it is exactly the additional treatment needed for success. Never rely on vitex or any other treatment as your sole intervention for fertility for longer than six months before seeking professional advice.

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