What does agnus castus do?
The use of agnus castus is mostly confined to hormonal and gynaecological conditions, the likely cause is due to its dopaminergic activity that results in an increase of prolactin inhibition1 ’.2 It can treat lack of periods, infertility, and heavy, painful periods as well.
Management of premenstrual syndrome
The reason agnus castus is so effective for conditions like premenstrual syndrome are due to its dopaminergic compounds. This leads to a reduction in serum prolactin levels, which is naturally higher in women who experience PMS.3
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) affects women in the weeks leading up to their period and is used to describe a number of symptoms that can arise, most likely due to the hormonal changes.4
A study published in the British Medical Journal found that a 20mg tablet of agnus castus extract was an effective treatment for women with premenstrual syndrome. The treatment was given over a course of three cycles and improved symptoms such as irritability, anger, headaches, breast fullness.5
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is an endocrine condition that can lead to a number of symptoms including irregular menstrual cycles, acne and infertility. It affects up to 1 in 10 women in the UK 6 and while there is no cure, the symptoms can be controlled. A review that looked at the use of herbal medicines for the management of these symptoms found evidence to suggest agnus castus is successful for the regulation of ovulation, improved metabolic hormone profile and improved fertility outcomes.7
Potential for menopause symptoms
A more recent use for agnus castus is to help manage menopause-related symptoms. While there is less research available, the current evidence suggests a positive link between the two⁸. One study looked at the use of agnus castus essential oil and found that both the berry and leaves of the plant produced effective oils for managing symptoms, but the leaf essential oil provided greater benefits. Not only was there a broader range of improvement, it was also effective in managing the psychological symptoms not just physical.9
Getting agnus castus in your diet
Agnus castus can be taken in tablet, essential oil, tincture and powder form. You can also use the berries to create a tea for those who don’t mind the peppery taste.
A 2005 review looked at the potential adverse reactions from taking agnus castus and found that any potential side effects are mostly mild.10 These might include nausea, headaches and gastrointestinal disturbances. Remember to always follow the recommendations from the manufacturer.
Agnus castus is not advised for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, except under medical supervision. As there are many variations of agnus castus supplements available it’s good to ensure that any herbal medicine products you’re using have been granted traditional herbal registration (THR) by the Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. This ensures they are regulated for their safety and efficacy.
The standard dose for agnus castus is roughly 20-40mg a day, which equates to 4mg of extract. In order to make an impact on menstrual symptoms, agnus castus must be taken for a minimum of three cycles, although other benefits may be seen sooner.
Always follow the recommendations from the manufacturer because dosage may vary depending on how the extract has been prepared and what the desired benefits are.