I was giving a talk last week to a group that was exclusively female (well, apart from the ‘sound man’). In addition to talking about some general nutritional principles designed to enhance health and energy, I thought I’d talk about some things that tend affect women more than men. Naturally, it occurred to me to talk about pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). Typical symptoms include fluid retention, breast tenderness and swelling and mood change including irritability and/or low mood. I don’t mean to be glib, but while PMS is often said to affect women only I’m not so sure: many men will have had bad experiences of the quite severe mood issues that can affect some women.
Fortunately, I find in practice that the symptoms of PMS can be considerably improved or even eliminated within 2-3 menstrual cycles through supplementation with the herb Agnus castus. This herb has a long history of use in natural medicine, and has (for what it’s worth) a fair bit of science behind it. For example, a study published in April found that, compared to placebo, Agnus castus improved 16 of 17 PMS symptoms .
In practice, I find this herb hugely effective. Very rarely, in my experience, does it fail to bring significant relief. Of course some (or even all) of the benefits may be down to the placebo response. But as I’ve stated before about such things, I don’t care (and neither, generally speaking, do my patients).
My mention of Agnus castus in the presentation last week prompted a lot of scribbling, which made me thing there were many women in the audience who felt they could perhaps do with some. Out of curiosity, I asked women who were using or had used Agnus castus to raise their hands. There were no takers. Some may have been shy about declaring this in public. So, I asked who in the room had even heard of this herb. Again, no takers.
OK, so the women I was talking to were in the banking industry and I suppose should not be expected to be aware of herbal medicines. However, there were about 120 women in the room, and they came from all over Europe, so for no-one to have heard of this herb came as a bit of shock. PMS is a common problem, and for some women can be very debilitating for a few days up to a week or more before their period. Agnus castus offers a cheap, safe and usually effective solution to this issue. Generally, I think more women should know which is why I’m writing about it now.
The last time I wrote about Agnus castus was three years ago. Here’s a link to that piece, which also includes and even older article about the herb and how to use it.
1. Ma L, et al. Evaluating therapeutic effect in symptoms of moderate-to-severe premenstrual syndrome with Vitex agnus castus (BNO 1095) in Chinese women. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. 2010;50(2):189-93.