Chasteberry & PMS
Answered by: Susan Eagles
Question from: Name not given
Posted on: September 23, 1998

Chasteberry has been recommended for moodiness and severe cramps during PMS. Is it safe and are there any side effects I should know about?

Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus) balances hormones via the pituitary gland, where they are produced. It is effective in treating PMS symptoms, which are usually caused by a hormone imbalance. It is most effective when taken first thing in the morning. There are no known contraindications or side effects.

Premenstrual symptoms are caused by a change in hormones as the body prepares to menstruate. It is a time when women need some time and care for themselves, a need that is seldom realized. Treatment includes taking some time to create a healthy and peaceful atmosphere for yourself, attention to diet, liver herbs to process excess estrogen (a common cause of PMS symptoms. The liver is responsible for breaking down these hormones. If the liver is not working efficiently, an excess of estrogen remains in the body, causing congestion), herbs to balance hormones, to ease tension and to assist elimination of the processed hormones by supporting digestion and urination. Regular exercise including stretching, Yoga, Tai Chi increase muscle tone to help with painful periods.

Other herbs that can help are: Dandelion root is a good herb for improving liver function and digestion. Dandelion leaf is a good diuretic. Vervain (Verbena officinalis) improves liver function, digestion and lifts the spirits. Cramp bark (Viburnum opulus) or Black haw bark (Viburnum prunifolium) relieves painful cramping. Siberian ginseng (Eleuthrococcus senticosus) supports the adrenal glands to deal with stress and increase energy. These herbs can be combined in equal parts, and taken in tincture form, 1 teaspoon of the mixed tinctures in a glass of water 3 times a day. A tea can be made by simmering a teaspoon per cup of the mixed dried herbs for 15 minutes in a covered pot. The daily dosage is 3 cups. These herbs should be taken daily for 2 to 3 months.

Diet considerations to relieve cramping are to restrict animal protein, (meat, milk & eggs) 2 weeks prior to menstruation, as it is difficult to digest, adding to pelvic congestion, and because they increase prostaglandin levels which cause pain. Increasing fresh fruit, vegetables and fish will increase your vitamin and mineral intake, contributing to the reduction of menstrual pain.

Other health considerations that should be checked by your health care provider are Fibroids, which can cause heavy menstrual flow, severe pelvic pain, anemia, constipation, bladder infections and spotting between periods and Endometriosis which can cause pain a week before menstruation, lower back pain, nausea, depression and fatigue.

For more information on alleviating PMS symptoms, see the book "Herbal Healing for Women" by Rosemary Gladstar. (available at Richters) or "Herbal Remedies for Women" by Amanda McQuade Crawford (Prima Publishing, P.O Box 1260BK, Rocklin, CA 95677, U.S.A.).

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