Tree (Vitex agnus-castus)
is Chaste Tree?
tree is a small shrub that produces berries that have
a peppery taste. Since the days of ancient Greece, people
have dried and used these berries as medicine to treat
health problems related to menstruation. According to
folklore, chaste tree (also known as chasteberry) got
its common name centuries ago because it helped keep people
"chaste"—that is, not wanting to have sex.
Today, there's no evidence that chaste tree actually has
that effect, but there is some evidence that it may help
with menstrual problems, especially PMS.
is it used for?
Europe, chaste tree is the herb most often recommended
for treating premenstrual syndrome, or PMS. One
German study of more than 1,500 women with PMS found that
after taking chaste tree for three months, 90 percent
said they had fewer symptoms (such as depression, anxiety,
food cravings, and bloating) or even complete relief from
their symptoms. Research also suggests that chaste tree
may help relieve the breast tenderness that happens just
before you get your period. In the United States, chaste
tree is not as well known as it is in Europe, although
more people here are starting to learn about this herb.
does it work?
Scientists are not exactly sure how chaste tree works.
They believe that chaste tree helps control the hormones
that affect your menstrual cycle. Studies on animals suggest
that the herb acts on the pituitary gland and that it
causes the gland to reduce the body's levels of prolactin.
Prolactin is a hormone that may be related to PMS
and breast pain.
is it used?
Chaste tree products are sold in health-food stores. Chaste
tree is often taken as a liquid tincture, although
it also comes in tablet or capsule form. A common dose
for chaste tree is 30 mg to 40 mg of standardized extract
a day. But chaste tree products vary in strength, and
you should always check the label to find out what dose
a manufacturer recommends. If you use any form other than
a standardized extract (such as a tincture), make sure
you talk to a health professional or herbal expert first.
People who take chaste tree to treat PMS generally
take it every day, not just when they have symptoms. Many
women find that it takes more than three months of using
chaste tree regularly before they see any change in their
there any side effects?
In studies, the number of people who develop side effects
while taking chaste tree is pretty small. The most common
known side effect is an itchy rash: if you develop one
after taking chaste tree, you should stop taking it. Other
reported side effects include nausea, stomach upset, and
heavier blood flow during your period.
I try chaste tree for my PMS?
If you're thinking of trying chaste tree to treat PMS
symptoms, it's important that you talk to your health
professional first. Although chaste tree has a good safety
record so far, it's an herb that appears to affect the
hormone levels in your body. Be sure to tell your health
professional that you are taking it so that he or she
can keep an eye on its effects on you. In addition, chaste
tree may interfere with birth control pills and other
drugs. It should definitely not be taken during
pregnancy or breast-feeding.
If you are having problems with your menstrual cycle,
including PMS and breast soreness or swelling,
you should talk to your health professional. These may
be signs of a more serious problem. Be sure to get a medical
diagnosis for your symptoms. Don't rely on self-treatment
with chaste tree alone.
Do not take chaste tree at all if you are taking birth-control
pills. Chaste tree may alter the effects of these drugs.
Chaste tree may also interfere with other medicines, including
the digestive stimulant Reglan and certain major tranquilizers,
including Haldol, Prolixin, and Thorazine.
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