Herb Help: Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Mention periods and most women will own up to suffering from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) in some form or another.

Editor Jane Garton looks at a natural remedy that could help to put a stop to the monthly misery.

As many as 90% of women are said to suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) every month and almost half of these say it’s severe enough to interfere with their daily life. Also known as premenstrual tension (PMT) typical symptoms include headaches, feeling bloated, mood swings, as well as anxiety and restlessness.


It’s thought that symptoms of PMS are linked to the changing levels of hormones during a woman’s menstrual cycle. And sadly there is no definitive cure, but there are treatments as well as lifestyle changes that can help lessen the severity of symptoms. There is also a herb that can really help called agnus castus.


Studies show that agnus castus has powerful hormone-regulating powers and can help improve symptoms such as headaches, sore breasts, mood swings, anxiety and restlessness.


Agnus castus is thought to work by prompting the pituitary gland into sending a signal to the ovaries to balance the body’s natural oestrogen-progesterone ratio. This in turn helps to relieve some of the familiar symptoms of PMS such as irritability, depression, breast pain and bloating, which are thought to be triggered by an imbalance of these hormones.[1]

Agnus castus can also be used in the years leading up to menopause (known as the perimenopause), helping to regulate the menstrual cycle, banish hot flushes and night sweats, and balance mood swings.


You need to take agnus castus for at least three months for optimum benefits but symptoms may start to improve after as little as 10 days. You should avoid it if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or on the Pill.


Men don’t like agnus castus because it’s reputed to dampen down their sexual urges, which may explain why in the middle ages it was given to monks and is sometimes called chaste berry. Agnus castus was traditionally used to suppress libido, and its other common name ‘monk’s pepper’ derives from its use as a spicy condiment in medieval monasteries to help monks stick to their celibacy vows!


[1]: van Die MD, Burger HG, Teede HJ, Bone KM. Vitex agnus-castus (Chaste-Tree/Berry) in the treatment of menopause-related complaints. J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Aug;15(8):853-62