What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

What is Chasteberry?

Chasteberry is frequently called by its Latin names: vitexor, alternatively, agnus-castus.A shrub in the verbena family, chasteberry is commonly found on riverbanks and nearby foothills in central Asia and around the Mediterranean Sea. After its violet flowers have bloomed, a dark brown, peppercorn-size fruit with a pleasant odor reminiscent of peppermint develops. This fruit is used medicinally.

As the name implies, for centuries chasteberry was thought to counter sexual desire. A drink prepared from the plant's seeds was used by the Romans to diminish libido, and in ancient Greece, young women celebrating the festival of Demeter wore chasteberry blossoms to show that they were remaining chaste in honor of the goddess. Monks in the Middle Ages used the fruit for similar purposes,...

The modern use of chasteberry dates back to the 1950s, when the German pharmaceutical firm Madaus Company first produced a standardized extract. This herb has become a standard European treatment for cyclic breast tenderness, a condition related to PMS that is sometimes called cyclic mastitis, cyclic mastalgia , mastodynia, or fibrocystic breast disease. Chasteberry also appears to be useful for general PMS symptoms.

Chasteberry is believed to work by suppressing the release of prolactin from the pituitary gland. 1 2 3 Prolactin is a hormone that naturally rises during pregnancy to stimulate milk production. Inappropriately increased production of prolactin may be a factor in cyclic breast tenderness, as well as other symptoms of PMS.

Elevated prolactin levels can also cause a...

Safety Issues

There haven't been any detailed studies of the safety of chasteberry. However, its widespread use in Germany has not led to any reports of significant adverse effects, 4 other than a single case of excessive ovarian stimulation possibly caused by chasteberry. 5 Because it lowers prolactin levels, chasteberry is not an appropriate treatment for pregnant or nursing women. Safety in young children or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.

There are no known drug interactions associated with chasteberry. However, it is quite conceivable that the herb could interfere with hormones or medications that affect the pituitary gland.

Interactions You Should Know About

If you are taking hormones or drugs that affect...