Agnus Castus and the Pre-menstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) is thought to affect about 90 p.c. of women at some point in their lives, with a significant proportion of these suffering regularly from severe and debilitating symptoms. While conventional treatment for PMS is based on the Pill and antidepressants, there is evidence that increasing numbers of women are seeking a more natural approach to this problem. One of the most established natural treatments for PMS is an extract of an exotic fruit known as Agnus castus. Just this month, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published a study which proved the effectiveness of this natural remedy in the treatment of PMS. Over half the women in this study had significant improvement in their symptoms, and the treatment was found to be safe and generally free of side-effects. A favourite folk remedy for hundreds of years, Agnus castus appears to be making it’s way into mainstream medicine. Now would seem to be an ideal time to examine the effects of this herb on the body, and explore its potential in the treatment of PMS and other hormone-related problems.

Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) is a term used to describe a combination of various physical and mental symptoms that usually occur in the week or two prior to menstruation. Typical features of PMS include irritability, depression, tearfulness, fatigue, food cravings, abdominal bloating, breast fullness and tenderness, fluid retention and weight gain. The condition is highly individual, with the exact blend of symptoms and their duration varying considerably between women.

PMS is related to hormonal fluctuations in the second half of the menstrual cycle. One common feature of women with PMS is higher-than-normal levels of a hormone known as prolactin which is secreted by the pituitary gland at the base of the brain. Excess prolactin in the system can itself upset the balance of other hormones, and in particular is thought to result in a deficit of the hormone progesterone. Progesterone balances the effects of another hormone – oestrogen – in the body. A lack of progesterone can therefore give rise to a condition known as oestrogen dominance, which itself often seems to be an underlying factor in PMS.

Research from Germany shows that Agnus castus (also known as Chasteberry, Monk’s pepper and Vitex) can reduce prolactin levels and increase the production of progesterone. These effects help to correct the hormonal imbalances common in PMS, thereby helping to ease its symptoms. The recent BMJ study is not the only evidence which supports the use of Agnus castus in PMS. Last year, the Journal of Women’s Health and Gender Based Medicine published a study which examined the effect of Agnus castus in more than 1600 women. The study lasted three months, after which time 93 p.c. of the women reported an improvement in or elimination of their PMS symptoms. Four out of five women rated themselves as ‘much better’ or ‘very much better’. In keeping with these very positive findings, 85 p.c. of the doctors assessing the women rated the effectiveness of Agnus castus as ‘good’ or ‘very good’. The results of this study are even more encouraging than those of this month’s BMJ article. Interestingly, the original research used twice the dose of Agnus castus employed in the more recent study (20 mg of herb twice a day compared to only once a day).

While PMS is common, it is not the only consequence of hormonal imbalance in the female body. Many women find that the condition of their skin noticeably worsens before a period. One study dating from 1967 showed that Agnus castus may be effective in the treatment of the ‘acne flare’ common in the pre-menstrual phase. Agnus castus may also help in some cases of infertility. While female infertility may have many different causes, hormone imbalance, including high levels of prolactin and low levels of progesterone, can be a factor. Women with such imbalances may benefit from treatment with Agnus castus, though it may take a year or more for benefit to become apparent. Once pregnancy is confirmed, Agnus castus should be stopped as it may interfere with important hormone changes at this time.

Agnus castus appears to be an extremely safe and well-tolerated herb. In studies, side effect rates are low (typically between 1 ” 5 p.c.), and tend to be mild in nature. The normal recommended dose of Agnus castus is 40 mg of dried herb or 40 drops of concentrated liquid extract once a day, or 20 mg of dried herb, twice a day. Agnus castus preparations are readily available in health food stores.

20 Responses to Agnus Castus and the Pre-menstrual Syndrome (PMS)

  1. Jennifer Forman 18 August 2008 at 6:56 pm #

    I took agnus castus for 3 months a couple of months ago, it was great and helped with my cronic pmt..

    I keep reading take it for 3 months, can u tell me is it safe to take for longer than 3 months as my pmt is back i am taking B6 but this is not having much affect.

    Thank yoy


  2. anna 16 September 2008 at 3:29 pm #

    My GP suggested Agnus Castus. I’ve just had my first cycle on it and I cannot believe the fantastic difference it has made to my awful PMS symptoms. I will keep taking it under my doctors advice.

  3. Theresa 1 October 2008 at 3:56 pm #

    I have the most severe PMS. I would happily get over the bloating and the breast soreness but my mood swings and extreme black moods were actually beginning to rule my life. I started taking agnus castus about six months ago and it has been a life saver. I ran out of it last month and my god have I paid for it during this cycle. Never again will I forget to take it. I would strongly advise any woman with pms to take this religiously.

  4. J Driver 9 November 2008 at 5:07 pm #

    Do you have to take it every day or just in the second half of a cycle?

  5. Gogs 25 July 2009 at 12:15 am #

    I’ve just recently started taking it, but can’t see a difference yet, it’s too early. I was wondering if anybody had an opinion on it’s anti-aphrodisiac properties? It has been taken to suppress libido for thousands of years, hence it’s alternative names of Chasteberry and Monk’s Pepper. Reduction of libido is not a side-effect I want!

  6. nikki 19 October 2009 at 11:36 pm #

    i,ve just started taking agnus castus mainly for hormonal skin and breast tenderness. Can i take it for a long time or is it best to have a break from it? Also does it really lower a womans libido? How long does it usually take to see results or does it depend on the individual?

  7. nikki 20 October 2009 at 12:08 am #

    sorry i also forgot to ask if its ok to take with thyroxine…i’m on 50mg a day

  8. fromHolland 29 October 2009 at 10:45 am #

    The libido question works like this: Those with high libido may be supressed, those with low libido will be heightened. So it’s taken to an area somewhere in between.

  9. Kim 16 August 2010 at 8:23 am #

    Is it necessary to take Agnus Castus under Doctor’s supervision or is it all right to take without? Also is it a permanent solution to my PMS or does one have to stop after a few months?

  10. Aideen 20 May 2011 at 11:06 am #

    is it safe to take while on tyroxine 50mg a day

  11. Kathryn Ross 18 June 2011 at 8:29 pm #

    I`m experiencing a severe estrogen dominance at the moment. I have just briefly read about Agnus Cactus when I happen to buy some PMS Relief tablet. What I find a bit amazing and amusing. Why do they put lactose and sugars into this tablet – once sugar + fat are responsible for high estrogen?? Now, I have to find a way to get hold of just pure Agnus Cactus.

  12. sara 25 July 2011 at 8:18 pm #

    I have just started taking Agnus Cactus and have been having the most bizzare dreams. Has anybody else had this?

  13. Laura 19 August 2011 at 1:53 pm #

    I have been taking agnus castus in tablet form 400mg twice a day, my boyfriend wants to write to the manufacturers to thank them ;-).. thats how much its improved my vile PMS symptoms.

    I can honestly say after a months course my libido has not altered at all, its increased if anything or that could be from feeling happier in myself generally ?! 🙂

    I thoroughly recommend this supplement.

  14. Majella 2 September 2011 at 11:33 pm #

    I have taken agnus cactus on two occasions and found that it helped with depressive symptoms – but after about 1 month my breasts swelled up to an extremely large size but were not very painful. This also happened to my sister when she took it. She took 500mg per day. I took 1000mg per day the first time and then used 40 drops of the tincture once per day. I used the tincture that was used in the german trial. Were we taking too much ? Has anyone else experienced this?

  15. Anne 7 January 2012 at 8:51 pm #

    I have been taking Agnus Castus for about a month and a half after bleeding almost every day after trying progesterone cream. I believe that I suffer from oestrogen dominance and my libido had decreased dramatically due to hormone changes. Some months I bled after 2 weeks into my cycle and my mood swings were awful! I remembered trying this herb before and it worked for PMT and have used both the tincture and dry capsules of the herb. I got to say both work extremely well and in a very short time I feel back to normal. My libido has improved dramatically since my hormones are more ballanced. I have noticed some swelling of my breasts that only makes me feel more sexy to be honest. Again I the perimenopause that I seem to be experiencing has affected the tone of my breasts and the AC herb has only put back what was once there. This time I am going to keep taking this herb since it is working. I hope this helps.

  16. becca220679 23 September 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    I have been taking Agnus Castus for just under a month in the form of drops twice a day. I have to say, after years of having the odd day once a month feeling so dark and low i wanted to sleep and never wake up during these days, I have felt great, not unusualy happy, just my normal cherpy self. Cant praise this stuff enough if that is infact what has helped me! Does anyone know how long the break should be after 3 months?

  17. Juliet O'Callaghan 6 March 2013 at 8:04 pm #

    But sadly getting hold of 20mg tablets in the UK is becoming increasingly possible, as herbal suppliers have not applied for medicinal license, rather a traditional herbal registration, which means dosage is restricted to no more than 4mg per tablet.

    Agnus Castus literally changed my life. I have been taking it for 6 years and and PMT free. Even if I have to take 5 tablets a day, at a big cost, I will because life before it was intolerable at times.

    • May 27 July 2014 at 8:47 am #

      I purchased angus cactus from holland & Barrett , the dosage is of AC fruit extract 3.9mg and states to have one tablet a day.

      Is this dosage too low?
      How many mg do u take?


  1. Agnus Castus for treatment of PMS - 8 January 2009

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  2. KiwisHouse » Blog Archive » Agnus Castus – What is it? How does it work? - 12 June 2010

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