Among the vast and varied staples that line an herbalist’s arsenal, chasteberry takes center stage when it comes to hormonal well-being. Peppery in taste and historically compelling, it’s a trusted ally in times of menstrual-related need. Indeed, this ingredient is the superhero of your monthly cycle’s dreams.
Read on to learn why this plant has earned its rightful place on the top shelf of our apothecary!
What Is Chasteberry?
Chasteberry, or Vitex agnus-castus, is native to Central Asia and the Mediterranean. Belonging to the Verbenaceae family, the deciduous chaste tree (though it’s really more of a shrub) produces gorgeous violet flowers and medicinal berries that look much like peppercorns.
The medicinal use dates back to ancient Greece. It flirts with celebrity, making an appearance in the Iliad, as well as writings from Pliny the Elder. Perhaps the most intriguing lore is that monks used it in monasteries to subdue sexual desires (spoiler alert: this isn’t a thing), hence its other name, “monk’s pepper.” While this claim has since been debunked, it’s now touted as one of the most effective herbs in relieving symptoms of PMS.
Benefits of Chasteberry for PMS
Chasteberry contains numerous medicinal constituents that give the plant its unique and powerful healing ability. Among them are essential oils, iridoids, diterpenoids, and flavonoids.
While this herb boasts a multitude of benefits, it’s perhaps best known for its power against PMS. Chasteberry can help improve a range of symptoms from moodiness to bloating. There’s also evidence that it can aid in the relief of menstrual-related headache, anxiety, fatigue, and sleep issues. It has a particularly good track record when it comes to treating cyclical mastalgia, or menstrual-related breast pain.
Why It Works
While there’s still some mystery to the mechanism by which it works, scientists suspect that by decreasing levels of prolactin (a stress hormone influenced by the menstrual cycle) via dopaminergic activity (say that 10 times fast), the plant helps in the management of cyclic mastalgia. In other words, chasteberry influences dopamine production, which seems to have a positive effect on relieving breast tenderness.
Another theory on why chasteberry improves symptoms of PMS is that it ups the production of luteinizing hormone while simultaneously reducing production of follicle stimulating hormone in the pituitary gland. This helps to balance sex hormones by lowering estrogen levels and increasing progesterone levels. In layman’s terms, it helps regulate hormones in people who menstruate, therefore decreasing the negative effects of PMS and other hormone-related issues.
While the verdict is still officially out, there have been a few studies that suggest its hormone-balancing properties may help clear acne. (Once proven, chasteberry should probably just start its own cult).
chasteberry for Candida
Chasteberry is also a powerful antimicrobial as well as a valuable weapon against conditions that have become resistant to chemical solutions. Studies show that this plant is particularly successful in treating drug-resistant Candida albicans, which is the most common culprit of vaginal yeast infections. Chasteberry really deserves a parade and a key to the city.
who should take it
As effective as it is, there are a number of people who should not take chasteberry for PMS.
First, super, super important: Chasteberry may render oral contraceptives less effective. That means if you’re on the pill, sadly, chasteberry may not be for you. Or at the very least, if you’re mixing the two and getting it on, be sure to back it up with a second form of contraception.
Then, it’s not recommended for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. In addition to this, it hasn’t been confirmed as safe for children. Finally, for patients on hormone replacement therapy, a doctor’s supervision is also mandatory, as it may make hormone therapies less effective.
How To Take
You can take chasteberry for PMS in capsule or tincture form. Note that it’s best to take capsules with food. Another option is to take dried chasteberry to ingest the fruit in all of its glory.
Generally, side effects of chasteberry are mild (if present at all). That said, some reports have documented upset stomach, rash, dizziness, hair loss, and fatigue. Also, be aware that if you take it while on your period, it has the potential to affect your flow.
While we could sing the praises of chasteberry for PMS all day long, this is one plant that speaks for itself. The next time PMS rears its ugly head, take a deep breath and reach for your new best friend.
Looking for more period support? Check out these vitamin recommendations for hormonal imbalance and five natural ways to relieve period cramps.