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About two years ago I had some blood work done which revealed an imbalance in my hormones. Specifically, I was producing too much prolactin. After some research I discovered that prolactin is produced by the pituitary gland. A little more digging uncovered that the pituitary gland is most nourished by red meat. I hadn't eaten red meat since I was about 17 years old. It became clear that I had malnourished this important gland, and was now paying for it.
I am a firm believer that food is medicine. But I knew that I couldn't eat therapeutic amounts of red meat to make up for the damage already done (both for financial and taste preference reasons). I began a supplement with my B vitamins and one month later became pregnant. We had been trying for so long to get pregnant- we were thrilled! If you've been reading here for a while, you know that we were heart broken when that pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. A few months after that, my doctor suggested the blood work panel.
When the labs showed my high prolactin levels, I knew that I'd try chasteberry (vitex). Vitex is a powerful herb! So powerful in fact, that it can rebalance hormones in a very short period of time. Finding reliable information on vitex was difficult. I couldn't find solid dosage recommendations or even for how long to take the herb. I decided to go with what seemed right to me, based on my experience over the years with other herbs. Before taking the vitex, I was experiencing:
- short luteal phases
- minor hot flashes
- severe moodiness
After a three month cycle on a therapeutic dose of vitex, these symptoms disappeared! For the first time in years, I felt like myself! As you can imagine, I continued the vitex hopeful that it could keep me feeling balanced and normal.
Many of the places I read mentioned that vitex needed to be taken for six months before any significant changes would occur. When I hit the six month mark of taking it daily, except during my period, and still felt great- I decided to take a break from it. Just to see. That was a mistake! And a rough month. The next month, I got back on, and felt good again.
I had read some information that said the vitex should be discontinued after one full year on it, but I could tell that my body wasn't ready yet. So I stayed on. I actually ended up staying on for about 18 months! At the 14 month marker, I started feeling 'off' again. I considered the vitex, but decided that it was probably just the stress of our life at that time that was making me feel bad. For the next four months, my symptoms worsened. I was back to feeling anxious, but this time the anxiety was acute. It took major prayer and scripture recitation to get me feeling okay again. I was also extremely sensitive to the heat we were experiencing. That heat would be a trigger for my anxiety. It was horrible! I was having dry mouth. I couldn't figure out why I was having to drink countless cups of water a day to stay hydrated.
A light bulb went off one day while we were at a friend's house. They had the TV on and one of those pharmaceutical commercials came on. I wasn't really listening, but I picked up on one of the side effects of the drug- dry mouth. I started thinking about the vitex, and about the quiet voice that had been telling me that I was done with it. I kept ignoring my body because I was afraid to stop taking it. I was afraid of going back to the anxiety and the moodiness. Yet as I looked at my present state, I realized that I was back there again already. On the herb!
This month has been my first month off of vitex in 18 months. I debated about weaning off of it, but I decided to just go cold turkey. And I have felt great! The best I have felt all summer! I go to the doctor next week to get my blood work done again. Just to see if things look ok.
The experience of taking the vitex has been a powerful lesson learned for me. One of trusting, one of knowing when to hold 'em and knowing when to fold 'em. One of listening to how my body is working, taking the time to check in with myself. And the great reminder that nothing is to be done out of fear.
At this point I would still recommend vitex to a friend. But I would recommend that it be treated with great respect and caution.
ps: the information shared here is intended to relay my personal experience with this herb. I am not a doctor. If you feel that you need medical attention, please go see your doctor!