by Ward W. Bond, PhD
In 4BC, Greek physician Hippocrates notes Chaste Tree’s use for menstrual conditions. It wasn’t until the 1950’s that German researchers developed a patent medicine containing chaste tree extract.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) involves a number of physical, psychological, and emotional symptoms occurring 5 to 10 days before a woman’s menstrual period. It is estimated that up to 90% of women experience occasional PMS. The dried fruits of chaste tree have repeatedly been shown to dramatically improve the symptoms of PMS. Germany’s health authorities recommend the herb for the treatment of PMS, menstrual irregularity, and mastalgia, or breast tenderness.
A three-month study published in the British Medical Journal evaluated the effectiveness of chaste tree in 178 women with PMS. Chaste tree users showed a significant improvement in PMS symptoms such as irritability, moodiness, anger, headaches, and breast fullness. Overall, the reduction in PMS symptoms was 52% for women taking chaste tree versus 24% for those taking a placebo.
Another randomized placebo-controlled study of chaste tree was conducted in Beijing, China, involving 208 women with PMS. Women taking a 40mg chaste tree extract had a significant reduction in PMS symptoms compared with those taking placebo.
When the psychological symptoms of PMS are more severe (premenstrual dysphoric disorder), the condition is typically treated with antidepressant medication. A randomized controlled trial found that chaste tree was roughly equivalent to fluoxetine (Prozac) for improving psychological and physical symptoms.
Chaste tree is sometimes recommended for women having difficulty conceiving. Chaste tree extracts used daily for at least 3 months, have been show to restore progesterone levels, which may improve female fertility.