The chasteberry, also known as vitex agnus castus, appears to relieve many of the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) according to a study just published in the British Medical Journal. In a trial comparing the effects of vitex supplements with an inactive placebo, investigators found that the supplement significantly reduced PMS symptoms such as irritability, headache, mood swings and breast tenderness. Vitex agnus castus is a flowering shrub, the fruit of which is used for supplements.
Researchers at the Institute for Health Care and Science in Huttenberg, Germany studied 170 women with PMS. Over three menstrual cycles, half of the women took agnus castus supplements, while the rest received a placebo. More than half of the women on vitex agnus castus reported a 50% or greater reduction in their symptoms, compared with 24% of those on placebo.
Research suggests the herb regulates levels of prolactin, a hormone that rises during pregnancy to stimulate milk production. In non-pregnant women, elevated levels of prolactin may contribute to breast pain and other PMS symptoms. There appear to be no significant side effects with the 20-milligram per day dose used in the study. Four women on the supplement reported mild side effects, while three women on placebo did.
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