The consumption of chasteberry dates back to ancient India and Rome 2500 years ago, and Hippocrates, the father of medicine, mentioned its use in treatment.
Traditional medicine is mainly used for diseases related to the female reproductive system, such as: premenstrual syndrome, periodic breast pain, irregular periods, hyperprolactinemia, infertility, flatulence, menopausal symptoms etc. At that time, it was also believed that it had the effect of reducing sexual desire after consumption (but there is no relevant literature to confirm it).
Today, chasteberry is prevalent in natural medicine and approved by Commission E (the equivalent of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in Germany for the treatment of menstrual discomfort, and is commonly prescribed by local doctors. Note 4
What are the benefits of chasteberry in empirical medicine? Are there any side effects of chasteberry? See discussed in the text for details
What is Chasteberry?
Chasteberry is a small deciduous tree of Vitex agnus-castus (also known as Chaste Tree, Chasteberry tree), a species of Vitex in the Verbenaceae family.
Phytochemical studies have shown that different parts (fruits, leaves, and flower stems) of Vitex contain a large number of secondary metabolites such as cyclic ether terpenes, flavonoids, terpenes, essential oils, ketosteroids, and vanillic acid.
These bioactive ingredients are naturally found in most plants and have antioxidant, anticancer, antiviral, antibacterial, antidiabetic and anti-inflammatory etc. and other biological characteristics.
What are the recommended proven benefits of chasteberries?
Chasteberry is beneficial for premenstrual syndrome
Premenstrual syndrome (Premenstrual syndrome) is a complex combination of psychological symptoms and physical changes that occur 1 to 2 weeks before menstruation, begin to decrease within a few days of the beginning of the follicular phase (menstrual period), and disappear 1 week after the menstrual period. Nearly 50% of women of childbearing age have experienced PMS.
For most of the last week of the luteal phase, at least 5 or more of the following symptoms must be present, and with at least 1 of the first 4 symptoms:
1. Depressed mood ;
2. Nervousness or anxiety ;
3. Emotional instability ;
4. Irritability or anger;
5. Decreased interest in daily activities;
7. Fatigue or lethargy;
8. Changes in appetite ;
9. Drowsiness or insomnia ;
10. Feeling overwhelmed;
11. Physical symptoms (breast tenderness, headache, bloating, muscle pain)
A systematic literature review and meta-analysis (3 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials involving 520 women with PMS) noted that chasteberry preparations were 2.57 times more likely to have symptom relief (as measured by total symptom score or PMS diary score) compared with placebo. Note 1
*Conclusion: For PMS, oral chasteberry preparations may provide positive help, but limited by small sample sizes, more high-quality studies are needed to further validate
Chasteberry is beneficial for menopausal symptoms in women
Menopause is one of the most critical physiological stages of a woman’s life, during which the activity of estrogen and progesterone secreted by the ovaries decreases sharply, causing physiological and psychological changes that affect the quality of life, a phenomenon that usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 60.
Some common postmenopausal symptoms include hot flashes, sleep disturbances, night sweats, mood swings, cognitive problems, sexual dysfunction, mucus atrophy, vaginal dryness, and weight gain.
These symptoms occur in more than 85% of menopausal women, usually lasting 5 to 7 years, but can also last 15 years or more.
One randomized, double-blind controlled trial (8 weeks, 61 menopausal women) found that chasteberry extract helped reduce mean scores for anxiety, vasomotor and total dysfunction, but there were no statistically significant differences in depression, physical complications, and sexual dysfunction. Note 2
*Conclusion: For women’s menopausal symptoms, chasteberry extract may bring positive help, but limited by small sample sizes, more studies are needed to further validate
Chasteberry is beneficial for female sexual dysfunction
Human sexuality is a complex process coordinated by the nervous system, vascular system, and endocrine system and is an important component of health, quality of life, and general well-being.
Sexuality is influenced not only by family, social and religious beliefs, but also by ageing, health status and personal experiences, and socioeconomic status.
In women, sexual dysfunction is generally divided into four categories: female orgasmic disorder, female sexual interest/arousal disorder, genital-pelvic pain/penetration disorder, and substance/drug-induced sexual dysfunction.
A randomized, double-blind controlled trial (4 months, 112 women of childbearing age) showed that oral chasteberry extract improved overall sexual function (as measured by the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) questionnaire) on metrics such as: libido, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and pain… and other scores have increased over time. Note 3
*Conclusion: Chasteberry may have a positive effect on women’s overall sexual function, but limited by the small sample size, more studies are needed to confirm the effectiveness and safety of use
What are the side effects of chasteberries?
Chasteberry supplements are safe and well tolerated in appropriate doses for most people, and reported side effects or adverse reactions include: gastrointestinal discomfort, itching, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, headache, allergic dermatitis, dizziness, dry mouth, diarrhea, palpitations, increased acne etc.. Note 4
1. Do not combine with estrogen or birth control pills, which may affect the efficacy of the drug
2. Do not use in combination with drugs that affect dopamine levels (dopamine agonist), which may affect the efficacy of the drug, common related drug names are: Bromocriptine (bromocriptine), Cabergoline (cabergoline), Apomorphine (apomorphine), Pramipesole (pramipexole), Ropinirole (ropinirole), Rotigotine, drugs commonly used to treat Parkinson’s disease, restless leg syndrome, neuroleptic malignant syndrome, hyperprolactinemia, type 2 diabetes, and hypertensive emergencies
3. Do not use for hormonal sensitivity related symptoms, such as: endometriosis, uterine fibroids, breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer… etc., because chasteberry can affect estrogen levels
4. Do not use by pregnant women, lactating women, and young children (because chasteberry may affect hormones, the relevant safety is unknown)
5. Do not use if the liver and kidney function is poor