Our hormones are always fluctuating. And small imbalances can cause some significant symptoms, like PMS, infertility, and decreased libido. I believe in finding natural ways to balance our hormones to improve energy, and natural supplements can help our bodies. Two that I am taking are Vitex and maca.
Vitex, or chasteberry, is an herb used traditionally for things like menstrual disorders, infertility, acne, and menopause. The most common use is to increase progesterone during the luteal phase, which helps balance the estrogen-progesterone ratio.
Vitex is commonly used in Europe and is relatively cheap to buy. If you are showing signs of having low progesterone, it may help. However, it takes about 3 to 4 months before you’ll begin to notice any changes. Keep that in mind before trying the herb and then giving up if it doesn’t help.
How does vitex work to balance hormones? It affects the hypothalamus-pituitary axis and affects hormones responsible for ovulation. Luteinizing hormone (LH) increases, and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) decreases. LH is what ovulation tests are measuring, as it will surge right before ovulation. But it also helps release progesterone after ovulation. The healthy increase in progesterone after ovulation comes from the corpus luteum that forms on our ovary during ovulation. LH helps release it.
FSH, on the other hand, signals to the body to increase estrogen. The lower levels of FSH are mild using vitex, but the result is lower estrogen and higher progesterone. In a typical woman with estrogen dominance, this can improve symptoms. And since imbalanced estrogen and progesterone ratios are the leading cause of PMS, balancing them out will reduce PMS symptoms.
Maca is a root grown in the Andes mountains in Peru. It is an adaptogen, which means it’s magical! I recently learned about adaptogens, and I’ve been trying to increase them in my diet. Adaptogens can sense what your body needs and produce what you need to create an overall feeling of health. Have you heard of the healing powers of mushrooms? They are also adaptogens.
A lot of the research around maca is for women in perimenopause or menopause. It helps metabolize estrogen and balances out progesterone and testosterone. It’s also shown to help with fertility thanks to balancing out sex hormones. It’s also likely to make you feel energetic and healthy. Because of the adaptogenic properties, you can get a boost in energy, mood, and libido. There is also evidence that it will reduce anxiety.
How does maca work to improve hormones? Similar to vitex, maca balances out hormones produced by the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. It also helps lower cortisol levels. Since cortisol has the same precursor as progesterone, decreasing cortisol allows the body to produce more progesterone.
My Story With Vitex and Maca
After trying for my first baby for a year, I started searching the internet to figure out how to improve my fertility. I couldn’t find much detailed information about vitex and maca, but the fertility boards I read had many success stories. Since both are plants and seem safe, I just dove in and tried them. After only one month, I was pregnant with my son! I have no idea if these supplements are what helped, but I think I was dealing with low progesterone. After the more thorough research I’ve done now, I believe these supplements may have helped my body balance my hormones and get pregnant.
I’m not suggesting that everyone go out and start taking Vitex and Maca, but it’s worth speaking with a practitioner about whether they could help you balance your hormones.