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Complementary medicine update

Vitex agnus-castus and premenstrual syndrome

John Eden

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Abstract

Premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder are common disabling problems. Many women ask for a herbal therapy. Vitex agnus-castus extract has been shown in clinical trials to be superior to placebo for symptoms such as mood swings and cyclical breast pain.

Article Extract

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) are common in women aged in their 30s and 40s. These conditions are often associated with a history of postnatal depression and intolerance to synthetic progestins (such as medroxyprogesterone acetate and norethisterone), which frequently cause symptoms similar to those of PMS in these women.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are an effective treatment for PMS, but many women ask for a ‘natural’ therapy for their symptoms. Extracts from the fruit of the shrub Vitex agnus-castus (VAC; also known as chaste tree or chaste berry) have been used to treat PMS for many years, especially in Europe. This short review examines the evidence for the effectiveness of VAC in PMS and PMDD.

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