Do you get PMS symptoms every month, including tender breasts or mood swings? Meet your go-to herbal remedy that could help.
Agnus castus – also called Vitex agnus castus – is a shrub native to the Mediterranean and Central Asia. A traditional herbal medicinal product, the berries and seeds are used in supplements, usually taken in tincture form.
The plant is also known as chaste berry, because it was once believed to be an anti-aphrodisiac. But agnus castus actually has a renowned reputation for helping with a range of hormonal hassles, especially PMS.
Ease symptoms of PMS
When the balance of progesterone and oestrogen changes during your menstrual cycle, you may experience the classic symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) such as irritability and low moods.
Evidence collated by the University of Michigan Health System found that taking vitex once in the morning over several months can help stabilise your hormones and relieve the symptoms of PMS.1
Soothe tender breasts
Bothered by sore breasts before your period? Doctors say this happens due to hormone changes before your period starts.2 It may be partly down to high levels of the hormone prolactin.
In 2003, a review of studies by the University of Göttingen, Germany, reported that stress in the premenstrual phase of the month can trigger a rise in prolactin.3 But the review also found agnus castus can help normalise prolactin levels and ease breast tenderness.
More recently, a 2012 study from Hamedan University of Medical Science in Iran looked at 128 women with symptoms of PMS, including breast tenderness and fullness, and gave them 40 drops of either agnus castus or a placebo for six days before their period. The women taking agnus castus reported significant improvements in breast tenderness and other symptoms.4
It boosts fertility
Agnus castus is often used by herbalists to treat fertility problems. Again, it’s the herb’s hormone-balancing effects that are thought to help. As agnus castus can normalise progesterone levels, it can be helpful for women whose luteal phase – the second half of the menstrual cycle, after ovulation – is too short to maintain a pregnancy.
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A study carried out by Medizinische Hochschule, Hamburg, Germany, looked at 52 women with luteal phase defects and gave half of them 20mg of agnus castus for three months, while the other half took a placebo. After this time, the luteal phase normalised in the agnus castus group.5
As it can take a few months to work, be patient – and stop taking it once you get pregnant.
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Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional before trying any remedies.
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1. University of Michigan Health Library: vitex/uses. Available from: http://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hn-2181002
2. John Hopkins Medicine Health Library: breast pain (mastalgia). Available from: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/breast_health/mastalgia_breast_pain_85,P00154
3. Wuttke W, et al. Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) pharmacology and clinical indications. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12809367
4. Zamani M, Neghab N, Torabian S. Therapeutic effect of Vitex agnus castus in patients with premenstrual syndrome. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22359078
5. Milewicz A, et al. Vitex agnus castus extract in the treatment of luteal phase defects due to latent hyperprolactinemia. Results of a randomized placebo-controlled double-blind study. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8369008