What is Chasteberry?

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Question: What is Chasteberry?

Answer: Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-catus) is the fruit of the chaste tree and is an herb used for the treatment of menstrual problems.

Chasteberry is thought to contain hormone precursors and these substances can act on certain hormone receptors in your body especially those hormones involved in ovulation and menstruation.

Women have used chasteberry for thousands of years to help reduce the symptoms of menstrual problems and to increase the production of breast milk in lactating women.

It is thought that the name of this fruit comes from the middle ages when monks reportedly used chasteberry to decrease sexual desire and preserve their chastity.

Other names for chasteberry include chaste-tree berry, vitex, and monk’s pepper.

Today, chasteberry is used to reduce the symptoms of PMS and menopause, to ease breast pain, for some types of infertility, and acne.

While chasteberry is not associated with any serious side effects, it can cause dizziness, abdominal cramping, nausea and skin reactions. It is possible to see some changes in your period when you start taking chasteberry.

Certain women with hormone-related conditions such as breast cancer should not use chasteberry.  Pregnant women, and people taking dopamine medications such as selegiline, amantadine, and levodopa should not use this herb.

It is also very important to understand that chasteberry may decrease the effectiveness of the oral contraceptive pill.

In other words, taking chasteberry while you are using the oral contraceptive pill for birth control increases the chance that you could get pregnant.

Although chasteberry has shown an improvement of the symptoms of PMS in a few small studies, more research is necessary to determine the safety and effectiveness of this herb.

Most studies looking at the use of chasteberry in the treatment of PMS have used doses of 20-40 mg/day.

Always tell your doctor about any herbs, OTC medications, and vitamin or mineral supplements you take.

Updated by Andrea Chisholm MD

Chasteberry NCCAM Herbs at a Glance; NCCAM; http://nccam.nih.gov/health/chasteberry/; accessed 11/19/2015

Diana van Die M. et al, Vitex agnus-castus Extracts for Female Reproductive Disorders: A Systematic Review of Clinical Trials; Planta Med 2013; 79 (07): 562-575

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