Vitex agnus-castus is the fruit of the chaste tree. The fruit and seed are used to make medicine.
Vitex agnus-castus is sometimes called “the women’s herb.” It is used for menstrual cycle irregularities, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), a more severe form of PMS called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and symptoms of menopause. It is also used for treating “lumpy” (fibrocystic) breasts, female infertility, preventing miscarriage in women with low levels of a hormone called progesterone, controlling bleeding and helping the body force out the placenta after childbirth, and increasing breast milk.
Some men use vitex agnus-castus for increasing the flow of urine, for treating benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), and for reducing sexual desire. Historians say that monks chewed chaste tree parts to make it easier to maintain their celibacy.
Vitex agnus-castus is also used for acne, nervousness, dementia, joint conditions, colds, upset stomach, spleen disorders, headaches, migraine, eye pain, body inflammation, and swelling.
Some people apply vitex agnus-castus to the skin to flush out parasites and to prevent insect bites and stings.
How does it work?
Vitex agnus-castus seems to affect many hormones that regulate women’s reproductive cycles.
Possibly Effective for:
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Taking vitex agnus-castus by mouth seems to decrease some symptoms of PMS, especially breast pain or tenderness (mastalgia), constipation, irritability, depressed mood or mood alterations, anger, and headache in some women. Vitex agnus-castus might not be effective for symptoms of bloating.
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a more severe form of PMS. Vitex agnus-castus is about as effective as the prescription drug fluoxetine (Prozac) for relieving symptoms of PMDD. However, vitex agnus-castus seems to be somewhat more effective for physical symptoms such as breast tenderness, swelling, cramps, and food cravings. Fluoxetine seems to be somewhat more effective for psychological symptoms such as depression, irritability, insomnia, nervous tension, and feeling out of control.
- Difficulty in becoming pregnant (infertility). There is some evidence that taking vitex agnus-castus by mouth can help some women get pregnant. These women are infertile because they do not have enough of the hormone called progesterone. However, vitex agnus-castus does not seem to work quickly. It can take from 3-7 months of treatment to achieve pregnancy.
- Repelling insects. Early research suggests that an extract made from vitex agnus-castus seed seems to repel ticks and fleas for 6 hours, mosquitoes for 3 to 8 hours, and biting flies for 3 hours, when applied to the skin.
- Recurrent breast pain. Early research suggests that vitex agnus-castus alone or in a solution containing vitex agnus-castus plus 5 other herbs (Mastodynon, Bionorica AG) might relieve recurrent breast pain.
- Menopausal symptoms.
- Prevention of miscarriage.
- Enlarged prostate.
- Increasing lactation.
- Other conditions.
Side Effects & Safety
Vitex agnus-castus fruit is LIKELY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth appropriately. Uncommon side effects include upset stomach, nausea, itching, rash, headaches, acne, trouble sleeping, and weight gain. Some women notice a change in menstrual flow when they start taking vitex agnus-castus. Vitex-agnus-castus seed extract is POSSIBLY SAFE when applied to the skin appropriately.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Using vitex agnus-castus during pregnancy or breast-feeding is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. The concern is that vitex agnus-castus can interfere with hormones. Don’t use vitex agnus-castus if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
Hormone-sensitive condition such as endometriosis; uterine fibroids; or cancer of the breast, uterus, or ovaries: Vitex agnus-castus can affect hormones and might affect estrogen levels. Don’t use vitex agnus-castus if you have a hormone-sensitive condition.
In vitro fertilization: Vitex agnus-castus can interfere with the effectiveness of in vitro fertilization. Don’t use vitex agnus-castus if you are undergoing this procedure.
Parkinson’s disease. Vitex agnus-castus contains chemicals that affect the brain. These chemicals affect the brain similarly to some medications used for Parkinson's disease. Therefore, vitex agnus-castus might affect therapy for Parkinson's disease.
Schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders. Vitex agnus-castus seems to affect a chemical in the brain called dopamine. Some medications for mental disorders help to decrease dopamine. Therefore, taking vitex agnus-castus might affect therapy for certain mental disorders.
Moderate Interaction Be cautious with this combination
- Birth control pills (Contraceptive drugs) interacts with VITEX AGNUS-CASTUS
Vitex agnus-castus seems to change hormone levels in the body. Birth control pills contain hormones. Taking vitex agnus-castus along with birth control pills might decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills. If you take birth control pills along with vitex agnus-castus, use an additional form of birth control such as a condom.
Some birth control pills include ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel (Triphasil), ethinyl estradiol and norethindrone (Ortho-Novum 1/35, Ortho-Novum 7/7/7), and others.
- Estrogens interacts with VITEX AGNUS-CASTUS
Vitex agnus-castus seems to change hormone levels in the body. Taking vitex agnus-castus along with estrogen pills might decrease the effects of estrogen pills.
Some estrogen pills include conjugated equine estrogens (Premarin), ethinyl estradiol, estradiol, and others.
- Medications for mental conditions (Antipsychotic drugs) interacts with VITEX AGNUS-CASTUS
Vitex agnus-castus seems to affect a chemical in the brain called dopamine. Some medications for mental disorders help to decrease dopamine. Taking vitex agnus-castus along with medications for mental conditions might decrease the effectiveness of some medications for mental conditions.
Some medications for mental conditions include chlorpromazine (Thorazine), clozapine (Clozaril), fluphenazine (Prolixin), haloperidol (Haldol), olanzapine (Zyprexa), perphenazine (Trilafon), prochlorperazine (Compazine), quetiapine (Seroquel), risperidone (Risperdal), thioridazine (Mellaril), thiothixene (Navane), and others.
- Medications used for Parkinson's disease (Dopamine agonists) interacts with VITEX AGNUS-CASTUS
Vitex agnus-castus contains chemicals that affect the brain. These chemicals affect the brain similarly to some medications used for Parkinson's disease. Taking vitex agnus-castus with these medications might increase the effects and side effects of some medications used for Parkinson's disease.
Some medications used for Parkinson's disease include bromocriptine (Parlodel), levodopa (Dopar, component of Sinemet), pramipexole (Mirapex), ropinirole (Requip), and others.
- Metoclopramide (Reglan) interacts with VITEX AGNUS-CASTUS
Vitex agnus-castus seems to affect a certain brain chemical. This chemical is called dopamine. Metoclopramide (Reglan) also affects dopamine. Taking vitex agnus-castus along with metoclopramide might decrease the effectiveness of metoclopramide (Reglan).
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and other conditions, doses vary a lot. The dosing depends on the formulation of vitex agnus-castus used. The following specific extracts of vitex agnus-castus have been used in studies at the doses shown:
- A type of specific vitex agnus-castus extract Ze 440 (Prefemin, Zeller AG) 20 mg daily.
- A specific vitex agnus-castus extract BNO 1095 (Agnucaston/Cyclodynon, Bionorica AG) 20 mg daily.
- One capsule (Femicur) containing 1.6-3.0 mg of dried fruit extract (6.7-12.5:1) twice daily.
- For premenstrual dysphoric disorder: 20-40 mg/day.