Vitex agnus castus
Chasteberry, also commonly known as Vitex (Vitex agnus castus) or Chaste Tree Berry and belongs to the verbena family. Chaste Tree Berry is a deciduous tree with dark green hand sized and palm-shaped leaves that are silver underneath. It has small purple flowers on long panicles.
Historically the Chaste Berry Tree has been a symbol for chastity as the name implies, although origins of this symbolism are unknown. Ancient texts used chaste tree as a “woman’s herb” to promote menstruation. Dioscorides described it as warming and astringent, and “to expel menstrual flow.”
Chasteberry has a long history in use for a variety of menstrual problems and menstrual complaints resulting from hormonal imbalances. Currently, the active component(s) of Chasteberry is not established in the scientific literature. One theory is that it appears to display dopamine receptor binding activity which inhibits the secretion of prolactin which results in an increase of progesterone in the body. As a result, this process could normalize the levels of progesterone and help to balance hormones.
Modern uses of Chasteberry include:
- relieving PMS symptoms
- menstrual cycle disorders
- mastalgia -breast pain and is generally classified as either cyclical (associated with menstrual periods) or noncyclic.
Research using Chasteberry:
In 2001, a double-blind RCT compared Vitex with placebo for (178) women with PMS over three menstrual cycles.
PMS Symptoms Accessed:
- mood swings
- breast fullness
This study provided women 20 mg of dry Vitex extract or a placebo for three months. Participants assessed their PMS symptoms. The active group experienced a 50.5% reduction in PMS symptoms compared to the placebo group as a result of chasteberry.
Dose and Duration:
The German Commission E has approved chasteberry for use in PMS and menstrual cycle irregularities as well as cyclical breast pain. The recommended dose by the German Commission E is 30- 40 mg of dried fruit extract daily. Early studies show long-term supplementation requirements for therapeutic effects. Therefore to improve PMS symptoms an individual may begin with a 30-40 mg supplement for three cycles, then assess symptoms. Some cases may need longer supplementation and evaluate their PMS symptoms for improvements.
Use caution with a dopamine agonist and hormone replacement therapy. No known drug interactions reported in humans. Do not use if pregnant or nursing.
Mild and infrequent interactions have occurred due to vitex. These include gastrointestinal upsets, urticaria (hives), fatigue, headache, dry mouth, tachycardia, nausea, and agitation in less than 2% of people.
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