Chasteberry

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What other names is Vitex Agnus-castus known by?

Agneau du Moine, Agneau-chaste, Agni Casti, Agnocasto, Agnolyt, Agnus-Castus, Arbre au Poivre, Chaste Berry, Chaste Tree, Chaste Tree Berry, Chasteberry, Chastetree, Chinese Vitex, Gattilier, Hemp Tree, Herbe au Poivre, Mang Jing Zi, Monk's Pepper, Petit Poivre, Pimiento del Monje, Poivre de Moine, Poivre Sauvage, Vitex, Vitex Agnus Castus, Vitex rotundifolia, Vitex trifolia, Viticis Fructus.

What is Vitex Agnus-castus?

Vitex agnus-castus tree is a shrub that is native to the Mediterranean and Central Asia. The shrub has long, finger-shaped leaves, blue-violet flowers, and dark purple berries. The fruit and seed are used to make medicine.

Vitex agnus-castus is taken by mouth for menstrual cycle irregularities, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), a more severe form of PMS called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and symptoms of menopause. It is also used for treating "lumpy" (fibrocystic) breasts, female infertility, preventing miscarriage in women with low levels of a hormone called progesterone, controlling bleeding and helping the body force out the placenta after childbirth, and increasing breast milk.

Vitex agnus-castus is also taken by mouth to increase the flow of urine in men, for treating benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), and for reducing sexual desire. Historians say that monks chewed chaste tree parts to make it easier to maintain their celibacy.

Some people also take vitex agnus-castus by mouth for acne, nervousness, dementia, joint conditions, colds, upset stomach, spleen disorders, headaches, migraine, eye pain, body inflammation, fractures and swelling.

Some people apply vitex agnus-castus to the skin to flush out parasites and to prevent insect bites and stings.

Is Vitex Agnus-castus effective?

There is some scientific evidence that chasteberry can reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), especially breast pain, bloating, depression, headache, and constipation. It may take up to three months of treatment before there is a noticeable improvement. Chasteberry may not be as effective for women who have the type of PMS that has food cravings, dizziness, sweating, and rapid heartbeat as its main symptoms.

There is also evidence that chasteberry might help improve acne after about six months of use.

Studies are beginning to show that chasteberry may help women who have trouble getting pregnant because they don't have enough of the hormone progesterone. But chasteberry doesn't work quickly. Women may need to be treated for up to 7 months.

There isn't enough information to know if chasteberry is effective for the other conditions people use it for, including: menopausal symptoms, prevention of miscarriage, enlarged prostate, and many others.

Possibly Effective for...

  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a more severe form of PMS. Vitex agnus-castus is about as effective as the prescription drug fluoxetine (Prozac) for relieving symptoms of PMDD. However, vitex agnus-castus seems to be somewhat more effective for physical symptoms such as breast tenderness, swelling, cramps, and food cravings. Fluoxetine seems to be somewhat more effective for psychological symptoms such as depression, irritability, insomnia, nervous tension, and feeling out of control.
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Taking vitex agnus-castus by mouth seems to decrease some symptoms of PMS, especially breast pain or tenderness (mastalgia), constipation, irritability, depressed mood or mood alterations, anger, and headache in some women. Vitex agnus-castus might not be effective for symptoms of bloating. Some research has used a specific dried extract of vitex agnus-castus fruit (Agnolyt, Madaus AG, Cologne, Germany). Other studies have used specific extracts known as Ze 440 (Prefemin, Zeller AG) or BNO 1095 (Agnucaston/Cyclodynon, Bionorica AG).

Possibly Ineffective for...

  • Fractures. Research suggests that taking a specific vitex agnus-castus extract (Agnugol, Goldaru Pharmacy Company, Isfanhan, Iran) alone or together with magnesium oxide (Nature Made Company, USA) daily for 8 weeks does not improve bone fracture healing in women.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Bleeding. Research suggests that taking vitex agnus-castus three times daily from the first daily of menstruation until day 8 of the cycle for four cycles reduces bleeding caused by an intrauterine device.
  • Difficulty in becoming pregnant (infertility). There is some early evidence that taking homeopathic vitex agnus-castus (Phyto Hypophyson L, Steierl-Pharma GmbH, Herrsching, Germany) by mouth three times daily for 3 months does not increase the chance of getting pregnant in women who are infertile due to conditions called oligomenorrhea or amenorrhea. But in women who are infertile because they do not have enough of the hormone called progesterone, there is some evidence that taking a vitex agnus-castus product (Mastodynon, Bionorica GmbH, Neumarkt/Opf., Deutschland) twice daily for at least 3 months can help increase the chances of getting pregnant.
  • Repelling insects. Early research suggests that an extract made from vitex agnus-castus seed seems to repel ticks and fleas for 6 hours, mosquitoes for 3 to 8 hours, and biting flies for 3 hours, when applied to the skin.
  • Recurrent breast pain. Early research suggests that vitex agnus-castus alone or in a solution containing vitex agnus-castus plus 5 other herbs (Mastodynon, Bionorica AG) might relieve recurrent breast pain. Other early research suggests that taking vitex agnus-castus daily for 3 months is as effective for reducing breast pain as the medication flurbiprofen.
  • Acne.
  • Dementia.
  • Enlarged prostate.
  • Eye pain.
  • Increasing lactation.
  • Insomnia.
  • Menopausal symptoms.
  • Nervousness.
  • Prevention of miscarriage.
  • Swelling.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of vitex agnus-castus for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

Quick GuideWomen's Health: Nutrition and Health Care Reform

Women's Health: Nutrition and Health Care Reform

How does Vitex Agnus-castus work?

Vitex agnus-castus seems to affect many hormones that regulate women's reproductive cycles.

Are there safety concerns?

Vitex agnus-castus fruit is LIKELY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth appropriately. Uncommon side effects include upset stomach, nausea, itching, rash, headaches, acne, trouble sleeping, and weight gain. Some women notice a change in menstrual flow when they start taking vitex agnus-castus. Vitex-agnus-castus seed extract is POSSIBLY SAFE when applied to the skin appropriately.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Using vitex agnus-castus during pregnancy or breast-feeding is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. The concern is that vitex agnus-castus can interfere with hormones. Don't use vitex agnus-castus if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Hormone-sensitive condition such as endometriosis; uterine fibroids; or cancer of the breast, uterus, or ovaries: Vitex agnus-castus can affect hormones and might affect estrogen levels. Don't use vitex agnus-castus if you have a hormone-sensitive condition.

In vitro fertilization: Vitex agnus-castus can interfere with the effectiveness of in vitro fertilization. Don't use vitex agnus-castus if you are undergoing this procedure.

Parkinson's disease. Vitex agnus-castus contains chemicals that affect the brain. These chemicals affect the brain similarly to some medications used for Parkinson's disease. Therefore, vitex agnus-castus might affect therapy for Parkinson's disease.

Schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders. Vitex agnus-castus seems to affect a chemical in the brain called dopamine. Some medications for mental disorders help to decrease dopamine. Therefore, taking vitex agnus-castus might affect therapy for certain mental disorders.

Are there any interactions with medications?



Birth control pills (Contraceptive drugs)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Vitex agnus-castus seems to change hormone levels in the body. Birth control pills contain hormones. Taking vitex agnus-castus along with birth control pills might decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills. If you take birth control pills along with vitex agnus-castus, use an additional form of birth control such as a condom.

Some birth control pills include ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel (Triphasil), ethinyl estradiol and norethindrone (Ortho-Novum 1/35, Ortho-Novum 7/7/7), and others.



Estrogens
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Vitex agnus-castus seems to change hormone levels in the body. Taking vitex agnus-castus along with estrogen pills might decrease the effects of estrogen pills.

Some estrogen pills include conjugated equine estrogens (Premarin), ethinyl estradiol, estradiol, and others.



Medications for mental conditions (Antipsychotic drugs)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Vitex agnus-castus seems to affect a chemical in the brain called dopamine. Some medications for mental disorders help to decrease dopamine. Taking vitex agnus-castus along with medications for mental conditions might decrease the effectiveness of some medications for mental conditions.

Some medications for mental conditions include chlorpromazine (Thorazine), clozapine (Clozaril), fluphenazine (Prolixin), haloperidol (Haldol), olanzapine (Zyprexa), perphenazine (Trilafon), prochlorperazine (Compazine), quetiapine (Seroquel), risperidone (Risperdal), thioridazine (Mellaril), thiothixene (Navane), and others.



Medications used for Parkinson's disease (Dopamine agonists)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Vitex agnus-castus contains chemicals that affect the brain. These chemicals affect the brain similarly to some medications used for Parkinson's disease. Taking vitex agnus-castus with these medications might increase the effects and side effects of some medications used for Parkinson's disease.

Some medications used for Parkinson's disease include bromocriptine (Parlodel), levodopa (Dopar, component of Sinemet), pramipexole (Mirapex), ropinirole (Requip), and others.



Metoclopramide (Reglan)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

Vitex agnus-castus seems to affect a certain brain chemical called dopamine. Metoclopramide (Reglan) also affects dopamine. Taking vitex agnus-castus along with metoclopramide might decrease the effectiveness of metoclopramide (Reglan).

Dosing considerations for Vitex Agnus-castus.

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

BY MOUTH:
  • For premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD): 20-40 mg of vitex agnus-castus extract taken daily for 8 weeks has been used.
  • For premenstrual syndrome (PMS): A specific extract known as BNO 1095 (Agnucaston/Cyclodynon, Bionorica AG), which contains 4 mg of vitex agnus-castus extract has been taken daily for three menstrual cycles. Another specific extract known as Ze 440 (Prefemin, Max Zeller Sohne AG, Romanshorn, Switzerland) which contains 20 mg of vitex agnus-castus extract has been taken daily for three menstrual cycles. Another specific product (Femicur, Schaper & Brummer GmbH & Co. KG, Salzgitter, Germany) containing 6.4-12 mg of vitex agnus-castus extract has been taken daily in two divided doses for three menstrual cycles. Specific capsules (Agnolyt, Madaus AG, Cologne, Germany) containing 3.5-4.2 mg of vitex agnus-castus extract has been taken daily on days 16-35 over three menstrual cycles. Forty drops of vitex agnus-castus extract, added to one glass of fruit juice once daily before breakfast starting 6 days prior to menstruation and lasting until menstruation occurs, has been used for six consecutive cycles.
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Reviewed on 3/29/2011 12:35:40 PM

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