Friday, 15 February 2019

Vitex for PMS/PMT

Article and Photo © Ann Walker
The berry of Vitex agnus-castus - or agnus-castus, as it is commonly known - is a key herb used in western herbal medicine, largely for women’s health. Its main applications are to support hormonal balance and normalise aberrations of the menstrual cycle, including alleviating symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome/tension (PMS/PMT).

A team from the Netherlands combined (or ‘pooled’) results from 14 randomised clinical trials looking at the effects of Vitex for PMS (PMID: 28237870). They found a very large positive effect of the herb on PMS symptoms compared with placebo. However, they were very cautious in the interpretation of these findings, as the studies which were pooled together varied in design, dosage, quality of the preparations used and the methods of measuring PMS. The researchers concluded that while the pooled results showed a strong positive therapeutic effect of Vitex for treating PMS, there was still need for high-quality trials on Vitex for PMS patients using standardized extracts of the herb versus placebo or versus modern drugs like anti-depressants or oral contraceptives.

From being involved in studies of PMS myself (PMID: 9861593), I know that even taking a placebo, can result in up to 30% reduction in symptoms. So, trying to find an effect of an intervention like Vitex is not easy as it has to be more than the placebo effect. The large response to Vitex reported against placebo here is, therefore, impressive. Although not providing the ultimate proof of efficacy, these results, nevertheless, are still supporting data for the traditional view of Vitex as a useful herb to achieve hormonal balance in women and the herb is remains freely available for purchase in retail outlets.

PMID = PubMed identifier

Ann Walker PhD, FCPP, MNIMH, RNutr
Course Director DHM
Herbal Practitioner