Being a woman is no walk in the park. In our earlier years, there’s PMS symptoms like cramping, bloating, and mood swings, and in our later years, we hit menopause and have to deal with more mood swings, hot flashes, and insomnia. Luckily, nature is chock full of solutions for our most frustrating hormonal issues, and chasteberry is one that should be on your radar.
Chasteberry, also known as Vitex, is a fruit that comes from the chaste tree which grows natively in China. The fruit, as well as other parts of the plant, have been used for medicinal purposes in Chinese traditional medicine for centuries.
One of the most impressive benefits of consuming chasteberry is its balancing effect on women’s hormones. In fact, chasteberry has been used traditionally to treat hormonal conditions like painful PMS and menopause symptoms, and modern science backs this up. Experts suggest that this may be because chasteberry decreases levels of the hormone prolactin, a reproductive hormone, which then helps to balance levels of estrogen and progesterone.
In the case of PMS symptoms, chasteberry may help to alleviate mood issues and other painful side effects. In one study, women who reported struggling with painful PMS symptoms took a chasteberry supplement for three full cycles. By the end of the study, 93 percent of participants taking vitex reported an improvement in symptoms like depression, anxiety, and food cravings.
Two smaller studies also showed that taking chasteberry resulted in a reduction of symptoms. In both studies, twice as many women experienced less irritability, mood swings, headaches, and breast fullness, compared to the placebo group. Pretty impressive!
Chasteberry may also help with a type of breast pain associated with PMS, cyclic mastalgia. One study found that supplementing with chasteberry was just as effective as another drug used to treat breast pain, with far fewer side effects!
If you’re in your later years and you struggle with tough menopause symptoms, chasteberry may also be able to help. One small study found that subjects (all menopausal women) taking chasteberry oil experienced improved sleep and better moods. Interestingly, some regained a monthly period! A follow-up study showed that women using a chasteberry-infused cream relieved symptoms including night sweats and hot flashes.
If you’re ready to start using chasteberry for more hormonal wellbeing, there are a few ways to do it. You can take a chasteberry supplement like this one from Gaia Herbs ($15.99, Amazon). As always, get your doctors OK before trying any new supplement, and make note that chasteberry may interact with antipsychotic drugs, hormonal birth control pills, and hormone replacement therapy. Another option is to use chasteberry essential oil. You can rub five drops of chasteberry oil onto the soles of your feet, on the lower abdomen, and on the temples to relieve symptoms. Try this one from Edens Garden ($21.95, Amazon).
Here’s to making life as a woman a little bit easier!
This article originally appeared on our sister site, First for Women.