Favorite Female Herbs - Vitex Agnus Castus
Vitex Agnus-Castus/Chaste berry
Best for: Irregular periods and PMS
Vitex Agnus-Castus, also known as Chaste Berry, has been used traditionally for hundreds of years for a host of female problems ranging from regulating hormones to helping women who have recently given birth to pass the placenta.
Historically both preparations from the fruit as well as plant itself were used. In Germany Vitex is one of the most commonly prescribed and widely used herbs for treating menstrual difficulties and is considered one of the most important herbs for women suffering from fibroids or endometriosis. Vitex contains active constituents that work on the pituitary gland (a part of the brain that releases various hormones). Studies have shown that extracts of Chaste Berry can stimulate the release of Leutinizing hormone (LH) while simultaneously inhibiting the release of Follicle Stimulating hormone (FSH). This helps to regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle, and balance the ratio between estrogen and progesterone in the body. There is also evidence that Vitex may help lower prolactin levels, which may benefit fertility. Vitex lowers prolactin because it mimics dopamine, which is an important neurotransmitter involved in mood and libido. Studies have shown that Vitex can re-establish regular periods within three months. With continued use, Vitex promotes cycles that have a stronger ovulation and an increased production of progesterone. Increasing LH also helps stimulate testosterone production in men.
There has been quite a bit of clinical research conducted on Vitex and its ability to alleviate symtoms of PMS. In a 2010 double blind placebo controlled study of 64 women, the symptoms of PMS were all reduced except lower abdominal cramping in the treatment group while taking a standardized Vitex extract vs placebo.
Another double blind study conducted in London showed a 60% group reduction or elimination of PMS symptoms such as anxiety, nervous tension, insomnia, or mood changes, in subjects who were taking dried Vitex capsules.
It is important to understand that since Vitex may alter the bodies production of hormones, care should be taken if you are already on hormonal birth control or hormone replacement therapy. Please speak to your doctor or herbalist before taking any herbs while pregnant or breastfeeding.
· Zamani M, Neghab, N et al., Therapeutic effect of Vitex in patients with premenstrual syndrome. Acta Med Iran. 2012;50(2):101-6.
· Schellenberg R. Treatment for the premenstrual syndrome with agnus castus fruit extract: prospective, randomized, placebo controlled study. BMJ. 2001 jan 20;322(7279):134-7.
· He Z, Chem R, Zhou Y., et al. Treatment for premenstrual syndrome with Vitex: A prospective, randomized, multi-center placebo controlled study in China. Maturitas. 2009 May 20;63(1):99-103. Epub 2009 Mar 9.
· Ma L, Lin S, Chen R., et al. Evaluating therapeutic effect of moderate to severe PMS with Vitex agnus castus (BNO 1095) in Chinese women. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. 2010 50(2):189-93