Agnus Castus is the herbal remedy that you’ve probably never heard of, but which could just change your life.
If that sounds like a big claim, this is a very ambitious plant.
It’s been labelled everything from a ‘miracle cure’ to a ‘marriage saver’ thanks to its seemingly magical ability to calm the raging tempers and black clouds of depression that haunt so many women in their menstrual cycle.
It’s also recently been given a new licence by the MHRA, the body which regulates medicines in the UK, confirming its suitability for the specific treatment of PMS in women.
But before you dash to your local health store, the experts point out Agnus Castus only works if you suffer PMS symptoms which suggest high levels of oestrogen and low levels of the hormone progesterone.
What, so the miracle doesn’t work for everyone?
Afraid not. “Agnus castus, has often been seen as a catch-all remedy for women and PMS – which may have led to it being used by the wrong women for the wrong symptoms,” explains Alison Cullen, nutritional therapist at natural medicine retailer A.Vogel.
“What Agnus castus does brilliantly is rebalance hormone levels in women with reduced progesterone. It is the high oestrogen in ratio to progesterone levels that result in the heavy periods, anger and mood swings so many of us associate with our monthly period,” she says.
“These women are also more likely to have a cycle of four weeks or less, with heavy, painful periods, get irritable or angry before their period and suffer with sore breasts and bloating.
“If you tend to have a longer cycle, lighter periods and get weepy around the time of the month then chances are you are suffering with low oestrogen and Agnus castus won’t be the best option for you.”
So what do you do if you’re one of the latter group?
“Women with lower oestrogen levels and would do better with fermented soya isoflavones,” Cullen advises.
And what if you’re not just suffering PMS – what if you’re suffering menopause? Agnus castus can still work, but… “Again, this depends on the woman in question,” stresses Cullen.
“For those suffering with very heavy or close-together bleeds in the run up to the menopause, Agnus castus can be a good option. When oestrogen levels go down and women begin to experience hot flushes and night sweats, sage is a better option.”
Right. And is there anyone else who should avoid it?
“Agnus castus should never be taken by anyone using hormonal contraception, including the pill, implants or coil,” explains Cullen.
“This is because the remedy works to raise levels of progesterone, which can work against the action of the contraceptive and result in unwanted pregnancy.
“Additionally, Agnus castus is not recommended for use in those under the age of 18, as it’s important to give your cycle a chance to stabilise and balance itself before trying to tackle PMS symptoms.”
Are all Agnus castus remedies the same?
“There are a number of different options available but it’s always best to go for a licensed remedy as this means it has been approved by the MHRA, the body in the UK that regulates medicines,” Cullen explains.
Is it easy to take?
The answer is yes, but you do have to be dedicated. “You need to take Agnus castus for every day of your cycle for it to work, not just the week leading up to your period,” says Cullen.
“It usually takes around three months for a woman to really see the effects. Women may choose to come off it after their hormones rebalance and have it in reserve for if they need it in the future.”
To find out more about PMS and see if Agnus Castus is a suitable option for you visit the A.Vogel PMS Health Hub.