Do you struggle with pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) every month? You’re not alone. With aches, pains, and mood swings, dealing with PMS can be very unpleasant for many women. While over-the-counter painkillers and medications could help reduce some of the symptoms, you could steer off the path and give natural remedies like vitex, also known as chasteberry, a try.
What Is Vitex?
Vitex agnus-castus L., or chasteberry, is a large shrub that is native to parts of Europe and Central Asia. It is now a common fixture in Southern parts of the United States, where avid gardeners recognize it for its beautiful, fragrant flowers that are similar in appearance to lilac. Vitex produces edible berries that have a distinct peppery flavor. It is said that these berries carry medicinal properties that can benefit women’s health.
Like with most herbal remedies, vitex comes with its share of old wives’ tales. For example, these berries may be able to suppress libido. It is said that a Greek physician called Dioscorides asked the wives of soldiers to consume these berries in order to maintain their chastity while their husbands were away fighting battles.
The berries are also called Monk’s pepper because it is said that monks in the Middle Ages consumed these berries to upkeep their vows of celibacy.
What Is Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)?
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) includes both physical and psychological symptoms that affect women a few days before their menstrual cycle begins. PMS is characterized by headaches, mood swings, tenderness and pain in breasts, and cravings for certain types of foods.
Health Benefits of Vitex
Among many herbs known to support women’s health, vitex seems to be a popular name. Studies have shown that chasteberry extract may help with reducing pain in the breasts, which is a common PMS symptom. This pain has been linked to the production of breast milk and scientists believe that vitex may be able to suppress the release of prolactin, a hormone involved in the production of breast milk.
During a study of vitex capsules involving 178 women, it was learned that all the candidates experienced at least 50% improvement or reduction in their PMS symptoms. Vitex is also said to promote the production of Luteinizing hormone, which is important for a healthy reproductive system.
Some studies also support that vitex may help regularize the menstrual cycles by balancing the hormones. This herb may also reduce the production of Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and estrogen, which are known to cause PMS. The knowledge revolving around vitex shows that it may regulate and support the functioning of the pituitary gland and thus may help balance hormones even in menopausal women.
Apart from relieving PMS symptoms, studies conducted in Switzerland found that vitex may have anti-cancer properties and could be effective in fighting tumor cells linked to breast, ovarian, and colon cancers. The study showed that chasteberry not only stopped cancer cells from multiplying but it also caused complete destruction of cells.
How to Consume Vitex?
Vitex or chasteberry is available in capsules or tincture forms, and since it has a slightly bitter taste to it, it is often combined with other herbs for additional benefits. You can also grow the plant in your own herb garden if you live in the right temperate zones and make your own tinctures or herbal teas.
Side Effects of Vitex
Some of the side effects reported from Vitex consumption include nausea, upset stomach, and skin irritation. Since it affects hormones, women taking contraceptives should watch out for an interaction
Vitex could interfere with antipsychotic drugs and estrogen supplements. It can also cause changes in the menstrual cycle but will stabilize over a few months of usage.
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