Principal Proposed Uses
Chasteberry is frequently called by its Latin names: vitex or, alternatively, agnus-castus. A shrub in the verbena family, chasteberry is commonly found on riverbanks and nearby foothills in central Asia and around the Mediterranean Sea. After its violet flowers have bloomed, a dark brown, peppercorn-size fruit with a pleasant odor reminiscent of peppermint develops. This fruit is used medicinally.
As the name implies, for centuries chasteberry was thought to counter sexual desire. A drink prepared from the plant's seeds was used by the Romans to diminish libido, and in ancient Greece, young women celebrating the festival of Demeter wore chasteberry blossoms to show that they were remaining chaste in honor of the goddess. Monks in the Middle Ages used the fruit for similar purposes, yielding the common name "monk's pepper."
What Is Chasteberry Used for Today?
The modern use of chasteberry dates back to the 1950s, when the German pharmaceutical firm Madaus Company first produced a standardized extract. This herb has become a standard European treatment for cyclic breast tenderness, a condition related to PMS that is sometimes called cyclic mastitis, cyclic mastalgia , mastodynia, or fibrocystic breast disease. Chasteberry also appears to be useful for general PMS symptoms.
Elevated prolactin levels can also cause a woman's period to become irregular and even stop. For this reason, chasteberry is sometimes tried when menstruation is irregular, or stops altogether (amenorrhea). Note: We recommend that you do not attempt to self-treat significant menstrual irregularities without a full medical evaluation. There could be a serious medical condition causing the problem that you wouldn't want to miss.
What Is the Scientific Evidence for Chasteberry?
There is a growing body of scientific research supporting the use of chasteberry.
However, something interesting happened in the third cycle. The benefits of chasteberry treatment reached a plateau, while the placebo group continued to improve. At the end of the third cycle, those receiving chasteberry were still doing better, but the difference was no longer statistically significant.
luteal phase defect
The typical dose of dry chasteberry extract is 20 mg taken 1 to 3 times daily. Chasteberry is also sold as a liquid extract to be taken at a dosage of 40 drops each morning. However, extracts that require lower or higher dosing are also available. We recommend following the label instructions.
Because it lowers prolactin levels, chasteberry is not an appropriate treatment for pregnant or nursing women. Safety in young children or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
There are no known drug interactions associated with chasteberry. However, it is quite conceivable that the herb could interfere with hormones or medications that affect the pituitary gland.
Interactions You Should Know About
If you are taking hormones or drugs that affect the pituitary, such as bromocriptine , it is possible that chasteberry might interfere with their action.
- Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
- Review Date: 08/2013 -
- Update Date: 00/71/2014 -