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Phytomedicine. 2003 May;10(4):348-57.

Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus)--pharmacology and clinical indications.

Author information

1
Department of Clinical and Experimental Endocrinology, University of Göttingen, Germany. ufkendo@med.uni-goettingen.de

Abstract

Extracts of the fruits of chaste tree (Vitex agnus castus = AC) are widely used to treat premenstrual symptoms. Double-blind placebo-controlled studies indicate that one of the most common premenstrual symptoms, i.e. premenstrual mastodynia (mastalgia) is beneficially influenced by an AC extract. In addition, numerous less rigidly controlled studies indicate that AC extracts have also beneficial effects on other psychic and somatic symptoms of the PMS. Premenstrual mastodynia is most likely due to a latent hyperprolactinemia, i.e. patients release more than physiologic amounts of prolactin in response to stressful situations and during deep sleep phases which appear to stimulate the mammary gland. Premenstrually this unphysiological prolactin release is so high that the serum prolactin levels often approach heights which are misinterpreted as prolactinomas. Since AC extracts were shown to have beneficial effects on premenstrual mastodynia serum prolactin levels in such patients were also studied in one double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study. Serum prolactin levels were indeed reduced in the patients treated with the extract. The search for the prolactin-suppressive principle(s) yielded a number of compounds with dopaminergic properties: they bound to recombinant DA2-receptor protein and suppressed prolactin release from cultivated lactotrophs as well as in animal experiments. The search for the chemical identity of the dopaminergic compounds resulted in isolation of a number of diterpenes of which some clerodadienols were most important for the prolactin-suppressive effects. They were almost identical in their prolactin-suppressive properties than dopamine itself. Hence, it is concluded that dopaminergic compounds present in Vitex agnus castus are clinically the important compounds which improve premenstrual mastodynia and possibly also other symptoms of the premenstrual syndrome.

PMID:
12809367
DOI:
10.1078/094471103322004866
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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