Website Transition In Progress - Please Excuse the Construction
Vitex Agnus Castus: Chastetree Berry, a Natural Herbal Remedy for PMS & PMDD
by Dr. Daniel J. Heller
Vitex agnus castus, also known as Chastetree berry or chasteberry, is the most effective, safe, and popular herbal remedy for women’s premenstrual concerns, including PMS and PMDD. It is also the best-researched natural PMS remedy of any kind. Vitex has been used by generations of herbalists—from doctors (especially in Europe)—to holistic healers and women—as a natural herbal alternative for premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. In Germany, where medical doctors routinely prescribe herbal medicines for medical problems, Vitex is the number one prescription medicine for PMS. It is used more often than birth control or antidepressants.
Chastetree berry is recommended for many women’s health conditions, including supporting fertility, and for uterine fibroids, perimenopause and menopause, PCOS, and endometriosis. However, this article specifically addresses the use of Chasteberry for premenstrual problems: PMS, PMDD, and premenstrual breast tenderness.
If you are still asking: "What is Vitex?" or haven’t heard of Vitex agnus castus before, it may surprise you to learn that this herb has been scientifically proven to reduce or cure PMS; that it helps both the emotional and physical symptoms of PMS; and that it is a traditional herbal PMS remedy with a long history of safe use.
No herb has been better studied for herbal PMS symptom relief, and no herb is anywhere near as successful as a natural PMS remedy. Studies in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East, and even in China have found that Vitex Chasteberry for PMS is both safe and effective. Our scientific reference section alone contains 25 journal articles from the last 15 years showing Chastetree berry relieves PMS symptoms and cyclical mastalgia—and that total doesn’t even include several research papers that haven’t been translated to English.
Vitex is one of the gentlest herbal medicines available, and has few-to-no side effects. An exhaustive 2005 study reviewed the scientific literature on the safety and side effects of Chastetree berry and concluded that Vitex is safe, poses no risks to health and produces only mild, short-lived side effects in a handful of cases, similar to what might be expected from the safest medications like aspirin or vitamins.
Interaction Between Vitex and Hormonal Birth Control
Because of its effect on a woman’s hormones—usually a beneficial one—there is a theoretical possibility that Vitex could interfere with hormonal birth control such as the pill or Nuvaring®. Although this isn’t proven, it’s certainly not worth the risk of having the two interact or getting pregnant because your birth control didn’t work. Also, if you’re taking the pill or another hormonal treatment, chasteberry cannot naturally balance your hormones: the hormone medication interferes with the action of chastetree berry extract. So, we recommend you choose one path or the other for addressing PMS symptoms.
Although some women have tried to use Vitex agnus castus to help with fertility and conception—and there is some scientific support for this usage, and chastetree’s hormone-balancing action could certainly help with fertility—Vitex should not be used during pregnancy or lactation. This is not because it’s ever been proven to cause harm, but because it hasn’t been studied for use during pregnancy. If you are taking Vitex and find out that you’re pregnant, simply stop taking the herb. Remember, there is no proof that Vitex in pregnancy is a problem, but it’s better to err on the side of safety and caution. An herb like raspberry leaf is more traditional for use, and is consider safe, during pregnancy.
Most recent studies that have compared chastetree berry to placebo have used a 10:1 alcohol-based Vitex extract, which is what we use in our herbal formulation. While some herbalists use the raw (unconcentrated) herb or a liquid tincture, we prefer the form that has been used in cutting-edge scientific research to prove the benefit of this traditional herb.
Our herbal formula is meant to be taken once to twice per day. Of course, we combine Vitex with other important women’s herbs such as dong quai and black cohosh, as well as the all-important vitamin B6, in order to achieve a synergistic balancing effect on PMS symptoms and on hormone imbalance.
Vitex is useful for more than just PMS and PMDD, though these are certainly the main uses for this valuable herbal remedy. But professional herbalists often think of Vitex as one of the chief women’s herbs, meaning they might consider including it in any formulation for women’s reproductive conditions.
After PMS and PMDD, the condition for which chastetree berry is best known, and most studied, is cyclical mastalgia or premenstrual breast tenderness or breast pain. This condition can be debilitatingly painful, making it impossible to wear a bra or even moderately tight clothing, and making something as simple as giving and getting hugs impossible. Vitex extract has been proven to relieve these symptoms when taken regularly. Since breast tenderness is also part of the spectrum of PMS symptoms, we believe chastetree is especially helpful for this physical PMS symptom.
Vitex is an important herb for perimenopause, the pre-menopausal phase when the menstrual cycle still occurs, but often not as regularly and reliably as before. In perimenopause new PMS-like symptoms such as moodiness, irritability, and even hot flashes may occur. Other symptoms that occur in both PMS and perimenopause are forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, and sadness.
Serious reproductive conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, and uterine fibroids, which are usually treated with prescription medications and surgery, have sometimes been thought to respond to Vitex. These are all serious conditions, and under no circumstances should you try to treat them without a doctor’s help.
Vitex is nature’s answer to so many women’s health problems, particularly those of a reproductive nature, and especially PMS and PMDD. It’s the hallmark herb in our flagship herbal PMS remedy for good reason.