Headaches, bloating, cramps— the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can start one to two weeks before your period. Many of the treatments for relief have side effects, but does the natural health world offer solutions?

We got this e-mail from a viewer:

Dear Dr. Manny,
I’ve heard the herb vitex can help ease PMS symptoms and even help with fertility issues. Is that true?
Thanks,
Amanda

Vitex is the fruit from a chaste tree and is used for relieving multiple menstrual issues like PMS, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), menopause, infertility and anything related to regulating a woman’s menstrual cycle.

A 2012 study by Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran found that using vitex drops proved to be an effective treatment to relieve mild and moderate PMS, as compared to a placebo. Researchers tested 134 patients over six months.

There are no strong studies supporting vitex and fertility.

For more on how the herb actually works, we talked to Chris Kilham, the Medicine Hunter. Kilham investigated vitex while in Morocco and said that there is a lot known about this herbal remedy, which has some human studies to back up its effects on relieving breast pain.

“I would say for that for the most part, the traditional use— which is quite broad and extensive [and] I regard very highly— currently exceeds the human clinical studies,” he said. “There have been human studies showing that vitex or chaste berry works, and it seems to work well. There are no serious negative effects that we know of.”

Kilham added that the beneficial agents in vitex are flavonoids, which are also good for other parts of the body, including the circulatory system.

“Overall, I would give vitex or chaste berry a thumbs up,” he said.

Vitex changes a woman’s hormones, so it’s important to include your doctor in any decision to add herbal remedies to your medicine cabinet.

Do you have a health question? Tweet me at @DrMannyonFox!

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