No support for chastetree during pregnancy and lactation

Chastetree (Vitex agnus castus) is a deciduous shrub used to treat a variety of gynecologic conditions, including menstrual irregularities.

Researchers from the University of Toronto and McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada reviewed the evidence as it pertains to its use by pregnant women.

Here are the essentials.

  • During pregnancy, poor evidence that chastetree has estrogenic and progesterone activity, uterine stimulant activity, emmenagogue activity (menstrual discharge), or the ability to prevent miscarriage.
  • It’s unclear whether chastetree increases or decreases lactation.
  • No reports that the components of chastetree cross into breast milk.
  • Safety during pregnancy is unclear.

The bottom line?
When taken by women who are not pregnant, there is strong evidence that chastetree may be beneficial for the treatment of premenstrual syndrome, cyclical mastalgia (breast pain during menstruation) and hyperprolactinemia (a cause of infertility). There is good scientific evidence of its value in the treatment of infertility.

As an ingredient of a homeopathic preparation, chastetree was not effective in treating infertility, although it was associated with increased progesterone secretion.

During pregnancy, there is little to no support for using chastetree. The authors concluded, “Complementary and alternative medicine, midwifery, and medical practitioners should be aware of this fact when prescribing chastetree to women of childbearing age, particularly when the patient is planning a family.”

1/25/08 19:12 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.