You Asked: Does chasteberry curb the sex drive?

VitexHad a question about whether chasteberry can reduce the sexual appetite. I’m not sure why anyone would want to do that, but in one word, the answer is no. Here are the details.

Vitex agnus-castus is a small shrub that bears red berries and is found in the Mediterranean region. But it is the common name of this plant which is intriguing. Chasteberry. Folklore has it that consuming the berries suppresses the libido in both men and women. Indeed, monks at one time supposedly chewed the berries to help them deal with temptation. Today, chasteberry is used for a different purpose. Various compounds in the berries, most notably one known as agnuside, can affect hormone levels. While chasteberry contains no hormones, it can influence hormonal activity. It turns out that chasteberry components can increase blood levels of progesterone. This happens in kind of a round about way. Chasteberry stimulates the pituitary to produce luteinizing hormone which in turn signals the ovaries to produce more progesterone.

And what is the good of that? May be just the thing needed for women who suffer from PMS. The irritability, depression and feeling of being bloated which often characterize the two weeks prior to menstruation can respond to treatment with chasteberry. PMS symptoms have been linked with a low level of progesterone relative to estrogen, so it is easy to see how chasteberry may help. Some studies have even shown benefits for women who suffer from menopausal symptoms or from fibrocystic breasts. According to the best evidence, about 400 mg of a powdered extract standardized to 0.5% agnuside, is the appropriate daily dose.

Chasteberry should not be taken in combination with hormone replacement therapy or with the birth control pill because combination effects are unknown. It can, however, be tried by women who have difficulty achieving pregnancy due to irregular ovulation. This can be due to too much prolactin and too little progesterone, both of which can be regulated with chasteberry. The therapy must be discontinued as soon as there is a pregnancy because the effects of chasteberry compound on the developing fetus are unknown. But will you have the motivation to attempt to get pregnant while on chasteberry? Sure. Modern science has shown that the monks were wrong. Chasteberry does not interere with the sex drive.

Joe Schwarcz

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