Chasteberry, from the Vitex agnus-castus tree, got its namesake (chaste) because it was once thought to tame sexual longing. Once upon a time, monks used it to suppress sexual desire (ironically, chasteberry flowers actually stimulate libido). These days, herbalists use the berry to treat hormone imbalances and subsequent menstrual and reproductive problems.
Pump Up Progesterone
Progesterone is a hormone that helps the body prep for pregnancy. Low progesterone levels can result in:
- Irregular menstrual cycles
When progesterone declines, prolactin levels rise. Prolactin is a hormone that stimulates mother’s milk after pregnancy, but too much prolactin can also lead to erratic menstrual cycles, sometimes completely stopping your monthly period. Progesterone helps regulate the release of prolactin from the pituitary gland so that levels remain steady.
A healthy pregnancy is also dependent on sufficient progesterone levels. Progesterone helps thicken the lining of the uterus and prevent luteal phase defects. The luteal phase occurs between ovulation and menstruation, and if it isn’t allowed to fully express, problems such as infertility or miscarriage may occur.
Naturopathic doctors believe the chasteberry helps balance the progesterone:estrogen ratio, thereby helping to alleviate symptoms such as bloating, cramps, acne, tender breasts, and mood swings. Chasteberry is also good to take during the earliest stage of menopause (perimenopause), because it helps counteract symptoms like hot flashes and headaches, especially when taken with black cohash and dong quai.
Men can benefit from chasteberry as well. It helps lower testosterone and may even inhibit the development of prostate cancer.
Chasteberry is also prized for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and has been shown to help cure digestive issues and lower overall cholesterol.
Experts say that when taken in moderation chasteberry is safe; however, it shouldn’t be taken for more than 6 to 8 months at a time. If taken too much for too long, chasteberry can cause headaches, dizziness, stomach rash, itchiness, and nausea.
A word of caution: If you are currently being treated for a hormone-related condition, or are taking birth control pills, dopamine medications, certain anti-psychotic prescriptions, or medications for Parkinson’s disease, you should not take chasteberry.
You can purchase chasteberry in liquid extract, tincture, capsule, or powdered form.