Most women at one time or another have suffered from Premenstrual Syndrome, or PMS. Mild to incapacitating PMS symptoms, which generally begin 7 to 14 days prior to menstruation, include mood swings; forgetfulness or confusion; and physical changes such as bloating, headaches, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping. Doctors often prescribe antidepressants to treat PMS, but numerous clinical research studies show that vitex is a good natural remedy.
Vitex agnus castus, also know as chasteberry or Monk’s Pepper, is an herb which has been used since the time of ancient Greece for hormonal imbalances in women. Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.) suggested that women should steep the leaves of vitex in dark wine and drink it to relieve menstrual problems. Dr. Gerhard Madaus conducted some of the first scientific research on the plant in the 1930s. Madaus developed a patent medicine from an extract of Vitex named “Agnolyt.” In modern times vitex has been approved by Germany’s Commission E for treatment of PMS and menstrual irregularities. Researchers believe vitex stimulates the pituitary gland where hormones which control the menstrual cycle are produced.
It also appears that the benefits of vitex are not limited to alleviating PMS symptoms. Vitex is believed to help reduce some of the undesirable symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, and clinical studies indicate that vitex can optimize a woman’s fertility by regulating ovulation to boost the chances of conceiving a baby. The herb is associated with decreased fertility in men. Vitex can also help the body regain a natural balance of hormones after using birth control pills. According to a report in the March 2005 issue of Parasitological Research, a vitex-based spray is effective for warding off ticks, mosquitoes, and fleas as well. Several studies also indicate vitex can help control acne in the teenage years.
Vitex is available in liquid drops, capsules, and tablets. The usual recommended tincture dosage is 40 drops to one teaspoon once a day for at least six months. Vitex is a slow acting herb. If you use the dry form, take one 400 mg capsule or tablet each day or as recommended by your health care professional. Vitex is also available in a blend fortified with vitamins and other nutrients. You can also buy chasteberry tea, or make it yourself from the fruit of the vitex if you have the bush in your garden. It usually takes three to four weeks for the effects of vitex to begin showing.
Vitex has not been associated with any serious side effects, but mild reactions such as a rash, itching, nausea, and headache have been reported. It is not advisable to take vitex with birth control pills or other medications which contain sex hormones such as estrogen or progesterone. Do not use vitex if you are pregnant or lactating.
Please note that it is very important that you do not to try to diagnosis yourself if you are experiencing symptoms of PMS or other menstrual difficulties. Many diseases share common symptoms with other conditions, so it is a good idea to consult your physician before you begin any home remedy. Otherwise you may delay treatment of a serious illness.
Vitex is native to the Mediterranean region and western Asia. The aromatic shrub now grows in much of the southeastern United States. Vitex leaves bear a striking resemblance to those of the cannabis plant (marijuana.) The pale lilac, blue, rose or white flowers of vitex grow in spikes and produce the small reddish-black berries which are used medicinally. A vitex bush can grow up to 20 feet tall.
I have been using vitex for one year to reduce the severe depressive symptoms I experience during the week prior to menstration (PMS) It keeps me from feeling so down that I can\’t function. It also reduces breast tenderness. It\’s definitely worth a try for anyone who experiences PMS the way I do.