Chaste tree berry (Vitex agnus-castus) has been used to support reproductive health for millions of years. Ground chaste tree berries were added to pepper grinders in monasteries, called monk’s pepper, because they believed it helped monks resist sexual temptation. In reality, there is little if any evidence that chaste tree berry will suppress sexual desire in either men or women. (2)
Chaste tree is most well-known to support female reproductive health, in particular symptoms of PMS or pre-menstrual syndrome. In Europe, it is an approved treatment for menstrual cycle irregularities, breast tenderness and the numerous other symptoms associated with PMS. (1,2)
Studies Backing Chaste Tree for PMS Symptom Relief
Studies show chaste tree provides support for the following PMS-related concerns when taken one week before the start of menses: (3)
- Mild headache
- Breast swelling
In a well-done, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study, the effects of chaste tree were evaluated in 128 women with PMS concerns.
The women were divided into two groups: One group was given 40 drops of a chaste tree extract for six days prior to the onset of menses for a total of six cycles. The other group of women were given a placebo for six days prior to the onset of menses for a total of six cycles.
At the end of each woman’s cycle, they were given a questionnaire which evaluated the symptoms listed above. The chaste tree group reported significant improvements in PMS-related symptoms compared to the placebo group. (3)
Another study on 170 women with PMS concerns saw a 50% reduction in PMS symptoms using chaste tree compared to a placebo. (4)
In addition to the findings above, other studies have found Chaste Tree to support PMS-related acute constipation and water retention. (10)
In a meta-analysis emulating 12 studies on chaste tree for PMS-related concerns, the results were remarkable…
For PMS-related symptoms, seven out of the eight studies showed chaste tree superior to the placebo.
In two studies in the review, chaste tree was found to support healthy prolactin levels and progesterone levels – both of which are linked to PMS symptoms. (5)
Chaste Tree: The Hormonal Harmonizer
Chaste Tree has a balancing effect on many of the normal hormonal changes associated with PMS, which are: (6,7)
- Elevated estrogen
- Decreased progesterone
- Elevated prolactin
- Stress-related dopamine imbalance
It is thought that stress may play an important role in hormonal balance. At night and prior to menstruation, when under stress, the body may produce excess amounts of prolactin. Excess prolactin may be responsible for many of the PMS symptoms such as swollen breasts, water retention, bloat and others.
Note: Elevated prolactin levels may also congest the lymphatic system leading to an aggravation of PMS symptoms. >>> Learn more about how the lymphatic system and PMS are connected here
Chaste tree has been shown to boost natural production of dopamine levels which, in turn, regulates both thyroid and prolactin production.
As chaste tree has been shown to impact dopamine levels, it is thought to have a harmonizing effect on hormones released from the pituitary gland – suggesting the herb may provide higher brain center support. (2,9)
Stress may also be a factor in lowering progesterone levels. Progesterone is a natural precursor to cortisol, which is the body’s primary stress hormone. If the body is under chronic or excessive stress, the adrenals can use any excess available progesterone to manufacture more stress-fighting cortisol. This can leave the body with depleted progesterone levels while disturbing the normal relationship with estrogen. To make PMS matters worse, stress may trigger the production of more estrogen, which can lead to further hormonal imbalances, blood sugar concerns, weight gain and more. (8)
Chaste tree plays a normalizing role on the hormonal footprint in relation to PMS. The herb has also been shown to support a healthy transition into menopause and, for younger women, it has been used to support healthy fertility levels. (9)
How To Use Chaste Tree Berry (Vitex)
Most studies suggest 30-40 drops of an extract 3 times per day for 2-3 months. (2) Chaste tree can be used effectively alone or in combination with manjistha to support lymphatic health, shatavari to support fertility and healthy menstruation, and with our Menopause Support formula to support a healthy transition into menopause.
Note: Hormonal imbalances are complex and it is best to have hormones tested before supplementation. While Chaste Tree Berry is a hormone harmonizer, it should not be taken when progesterone levels are high. Learn about at-home testing here.