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Agnus Who?


Vitex agnus castus is this majestic herb’s full name. It is sometimes found under the name Agnus castus or simply Vitex. It is a beautiful flowering tree that attracts so many butterflies in summer; a total goddess plant in my opinion! It is the berries, known as chaste berries or monks’ pepper, which are used in herbal medicine.

It is often referred to as ‘the women’s herb’ as it is hugely beneficial for a variety of female hormonal issues. It’s very helpful in treating painful periods and PMS. By balancing hormones related to menstruation, this herbal remedy can help symptoms like cramps, bloating, breast pain and tenderness, headaches, irritability, mood swings, premenstrual acne and constipation.1 Wow.


Agnus castus works on the pituitary gland, a small gland in the centre of our brain which secretes hormones. Agnus castus helps to regulate the secretion of three hormones that affect our monthly cycle:

Follicle-stimulating hormone
Luteinising hormone

This in turn leads to an increase in progesterone in the second half of our cycle, helping to balance the high oestrogen levels which are often at the root of painful periods.2

As with many herbs, Agnus castus is not providing your body with an external source of a depleted or deficient element, but supporting the body in correcting the imbalance itself. For many women, this means they can continue happily without it, with a few sensible lifestyle choices on board.

Agnus castus can also help to lengthen a short menstrual cycle and lighten a heavy flow – symptoms associated with oestrogen dominance. So, if your painful periods are made worse by being super heavy, and if they have the cheek to come less than 28 days apart, then Agnus castus may help lighten the bleed and lengthen out those cycles, while also reducing the associated PMS symptoms.3

That’s why I love herbal medicine so much, the herbs have so many wonderful side benefits!

Take Agnus castus for 1 – 3 cycles to see results.
This herb needs to be taken daily throughout your cycle, not just in the week before your period when you start experiencing PMS symptoms.
It is suitable to take long term if needed.
Don’t take it if you are using hormonal contraceptives.

Usually, once the symptoms start to ease, the body’s hormones are more balanced and the symptoms of PMS and painful periods are a thing of the past. You can then stop taking the remedy. If symptoms return at another stage, you can start taking Agnus castus again.


Ladies, it’s time to let go of the idea that painful periods are to be expected. Many cultures honour the time of menstruation as a time when we women are more intuitive and creative, and potentially more psychic too!4 Think about it: the bleed we experience when we menstruate is the lining of our womb, which was intended to house and nurture a new human life! All that creative energy is there for us to harness during our period.

If cramps and pain and PMS are stopping you from tapping into this creative introspective time, why not give Agnus castus a try. The scientific research investigating its actions is so positive!5

If you are dealing with a more serious issue like endometriosis or PCOS, seek out a herbalist or naturopath who can work with you one-to-one, and liaise with your doctor.

1 Zamani M et al. Acta Med Iran 2012; 50 (2):101-6
2 Foster, S. and Johnson R., Desk Reference to Nature’s Medicine. National Geographic Society, Washington DC, USA, 2006.
4 Northrup, C., Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. Bantam Books, New York, 2020

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Agnus Who?