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Agnus Castus - Growing Characteristics And Uses For PMT (PMS) And Menopause

Oct 4, 2007
The growing characteristics of agnus castus favour Mediterranean areas where is can be seen growing wild and is also cultivated. It can also be found growing in the UK, though it is not found often. Its uses are well recognised for PMT (PMS) and menopause and its availability in the UK is growing making it as popular in this country as in its native southern Mediterranean region.

The common name of agnus castus is "Chaste Tree" which relates to the Crusaders' belief that it would keep their wives' libido at a minimum while they were away crusading. How successful this was is not recorded!

Until the last 25 years there was little known, or written in UK herb books, about the characteristics of agnus castus, whereas its value in the rest of southern Europe has been widely appreciated for centuries.

The use of agnus castus to help the menstrual cycle can be traced back for over 2500 years. Vitex agnus castus (the full Latin name) has been a top herb for gynaecological issues in many cultures. Hippocrates, known as the the "father of our medicine", wrote of agnus castus (chaste tree);

"If blood flows from the womb, let the woman drink dark wine in which the leaves of the chaste tree have been steeped."

Agnus Castus - Growing Characteristics

As indicated, agnus castus is a native of the Mediterranean area. However it can be seen growing in southern Britain, where it is happiest growing against a south facing wall. It is hardy to about minus 10 degrees Centigrade (+14 degrees Fahrenheit). It is mentioned by herbalist Gerard in the seventeenth century, though it is thought to have been introduced in the UK by the 1500s. Agnus castus prefers soil with light or loamy and well-drained characteristics. It is happy growing in poor quality soil, and prefers it to have alkaline or neutral characteristics. It is not happy growing in the shade. As it flowers late in the cooler UK, the flowers are unlikely to produce seed with any chance of growing. Agnus castus is in leaf from June to October and in flower during September and October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female characteristics) and are pollinated by insects.

The Actions Of Vitex Agnus Castus

Agnus castus' mode of operation is almost certainly via the pituitary gland. It acts on the pituitary to balance hormonal fluctuations, so is helpful for a wide range of characteristic female disorders. These include PMT, painful periods, and menopausal symptoms including hot flushes, polycystic ovaries and low libido. Vitex agnus castus also appears to increase milk production where this is weak.

For PMT (pre-menstrual tension) Agnus Castus has been found to improve;

* Headache
* Breast tenderness
* Fatigue
* Bloating
* Anxiety and other similar psychological symptoms
* Irregular cycle
* Short or long cycle

For menopause agnus castus has been reported to benefit most symptoms which occur with menopause in a large proportion of women. It does not help everyone, but it certainly helps enough to make it worthwhile trying agnus castus.

Agnus Castus Trials

A trial published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) in 2001 showed that agnus castus helped characteristic PMT symptoms including irritability, abdominal bloating and breast fullness. The herb was easily tolerated by the trial cohort and had a low level of side effects.

Another trial of 1634 women in 2000 showed that 42% no longer suffered from PMT (PMS). 93% of the cohort reported that PMT symptoms either disappeared or decreased.

Furthermore, 23 of the women on the trial became pregnant whilst taking Agnus castus, and 19 of them had previously had problems due to fertility issues in them and/or their partners.

Agnus castus is also used for teenage acne and seems to help both boys and girls.

How Long Before Agnus Castus Produces Results?

Agnus castus should be taken all month and not just around the time of menstruation. It will often help PMT (PMS) within two to three cycles. It can usefully be continued for 4-6 months, or longer if desired.

The use of agnus castus has been growing quickly in the UK over the past 20 years, and justifiably so. Its valuable characteristics are now well recognized for women and its use is growing in the UK and America and becoming as widespread as in its native Mediterranean areas.
About the Author
Max Hill, a practitioner for 20 years, loves sharing what he knows. On www.herbal-menopause.com he gives valuable information about menopause symptoms. Get the benefit of Max's experience and knowledge.
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