Vitex agnus-castus, otherwise known as chaste tree, has a long history in Western herbal medicine.
Hippocrates reported Its effect on female reproduction and fertility.
In the Middle Ages, monks used chaste tree to decrease their sexual desire (hence the common names). In recent years, research has shown that the shrubs small fruit is an effective treatment for premenstrual syndrome and infertility.
The German Commission E approved chaste tree for menstrual cycle irregularity, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and mastodynia (breast pain). (The German Commission E Is a committee set up by the German government in 1978, consisting of scientists, toxicologists, pharmacists, and doctors, to review safety and efficacy of herbs sold in that country.)
Human and animal research shows that constituents in the herb bind to dopamine, receptors in the anterior pituitary and decrease both basal- and thyrotropin-releasJng-hormone-stimulated secretion of prolactin. This decrease in prolactin leads to increased progesterone production in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, which reduces symptoms of PMS.
German researchers have performed several studies on Vitex and PMS.
In a randomized, doubie-blind, placebocontrolled study, 170 women with PMS (mean age 36 years) were followed over three menstrual cycles.
Eighty-six ofthe women received one 20 mg dry chaste tree extract tablet each day, and the other 84 took a matching placebo.
In the extract group, 52% ofthe women had at least 507o reduction of PMS symptoms at the end of three cycles. Four in this group reported mild adverse events (details unreported).
In comparison, 24% of the placebo group reported a 507o or more reduction of PMS symptoms with three mild adverse reactions.