The agnocasto plant is used in phytotherapy for the treatment of some symptoms or pathologies, thanks to some of its particular beneficial properties that we will subsequently analyze in detail. Of this plant, the useful part used as an effective medicine is only the fruit. It is in fact in the fruit of Vitex Agnus Castus that one can recognize the presence of some of the main active components, such as essential oils, iridoids, alkaloids and finally flavonoids.
Due to the presence of some constituent elements, the agnocasto is often used in the treatment of typical woman's symptoms suitable to regulate the female hormonal balance: for example, it is good to use it for the regulation of the ovulation system when there are problems of dysmenorrhea or amenorrhea. The fruits of Vitex Agnus Castus are incredibly effective even in the treatment of a condition typically and exclusively belonging to the fair sex, or menopause.
In fact, it is not by chance at this time that medical and scientific research recognizes in the agnocasto the only plant capable of performing a progestogenic action. In fact, it is the only plant known today that has effects similar to those induced by hormones, although the underlying reasons are still not well known, that is to say to which element to attribute this property and to which implicit mechanisms it refers. It has recently been hypothesized that the mechanism by which the plant acts in this way is attributable to a particular phytocomplex or to a particular active principle contained in the agnocasto fruits. But, although research continues, nothing yet certainly appears on the horizon.
Introduction and description of the agnocasto
The agnocasto is a plant known since ancient times and has always been given a large number of healing virtues. This does not mean that it can also be used as an excellent garden shrub, thanks to its long flowering season and the beautiful colors of the inflorescences.
The vitex agnus castus is a shrub belonging to the Verbenaceae family, endemic to the Mediterranean regions, in particular to wet places and not far from the sea, where it often coexists with tamarisks. Today, however, it is widespread in many coastal areas throughout the world.
In cultivation it rarely exceeds 2 meters in height and width, but in an ideal habitat it can become really impressive, even exceeding 8 meters in every sense. It is a widespread and not very compact shrub with opposite leaves, composed of 5 segments arranged in a green-gray ray. The flowers, perfumed, are collected in apical inflorescences in the shape of racemes, erect and thin, sometimes branched, up to 15 cm long, on the vegetation produced in the year. The typical species has purple, but there are also cultivars in white and pink. The entire plant exudes an aromatic and pungent scent. The propagation is very simple since the germination of the seeds is safe and fast, but, wanting to have an adult specimen in a short time, it is also possible to resort to the cutting that rarely fails.
For herbal uses, specimens grown in Sicily, in northern Africa and on the Côte d'Azur have always been highly regarded. The growth in a warm and sunny environment, in fact, favors an extreme concentration of aromas and active ingredients.
Its name, according to some, derives from the Latin and means "chaste lamb", according to others, on the contrary, would refer to the shape of the flower. In ancient Latin, in fact, agnus perhaps meant "spike".
Already originally it was recognized as a plant capable of quelling the ardors. In Greece it was used to adorn the beds of women who had to keep caste, waiting for the return of husbands from war. With the advent of the Middle Ages it became instead a precious ally of the monks, who beat the seeds using them as a spice to flavor foods and, at the same time, make use of its sedative qualities, useful to avoid temptations.
Most disorders related to the progress of menopause, such as tension, palpitation, hot flashes, night sweats and so on, are treated by administering agnocasto for a few months. In fact, the agnocasto is considered a slow-acting plant: its beneficial and useful effects are found only after a few months, generally at least five or six.
In some cases, it can happen that premenstrual syndrome disorders are caused by the massive presence of estrogen. The agnocasto, thanks to its peculiar hormone-regulating characteristics, is often administered for the treatment of premenstrual syndrome in case of high estrogen. On the contrary, this type of administration is definitely not recommended for those suffering from premenstrual syndrome characterized by opposite values, namely high progesterone and low estrogen.
Although not all experts agree in prescribing agnocast based treatments for the treatment of acute symptoms caused by the female menstrual period, apparently this plant has the characteristic beneficial function of regulating the cycle in all cases, whether they are long duration or short duration cycles.
The most common treatments include the regulation of the ovulatory cycle and the treatment of menstruation headache. In these cases it is good to associate the assumption of agnocasto, also the leaving and the burdock. It can also be used in case of amenorrhea, metrorrhagia, dysmenorrhea and menorrhagia.
Naturally, precisely in virtue of the effects that this plant has on the hormonal system of the female organism, it is good not to associate its assumption to that of other drugs that intervene in the same way or in a similar way, as for example hormone-stimulants, drugs with progestin action, small contraceptives etc.
Standard intake during lactation and pregnancy is also strongly discouraged. In these cases, always under the doctor's prescription, it is possible to take them in a reduced quantity.
Forms of employment
Generally, the agnocasto plant is taken in drops to treat the main symptoms related to the female hormonal system or to counteract the negative effects of the symptoms associated with menopause.
The prescription is usually formulated in the assumption of agnocasto in the form of mother tincture to be taken in the canonical dose of about forty drops every day (of course, this prescription is by way of example and may vary from case to case depending on the severity of the symptoms, their persistence, the state of health of the patient and her particular medical history), for a period that can last a long time and in any case not less than three to four months. In fact, as mentioned, the agnocasto is a plant that acts slowly on our body, leaving its beneficial effects to wait for a long time.
There are no particular reports indicating a massive presence of side effects related to the intake of the agnocasto plant in different forms. Indeed it is generally considered a rather safe natural remedy. However, it is good to note the possibility of occurrence of some allergic reactions that exanthemi and pruritus, migraine or, in some cases, a significant increase in menstrual flow.
However, each of these allergic reactions - in the rare cases in which it has been found - is reversible and ceases to exist with the immediate suspension of the preparation.
As we said the agnocasto has been used for a long time for its sedative and calming properties, active both towards men and women. In ancient times it was also considered precious to alleviate typically female pains, particularly in the area of the ovaries and uterus. It was also recommended if the production of breast milk was poor.
At the beginning of the 19th century chemists began to try to isolate its active ingredients. With the passing of the years and the improvement of the researches a substance with a bitter taste (the castina), of the flavonoids, of the viticina (also present in the hawthorn), the cineol (an essential oil) were recognized as responsible. Despite all these discoveries it has not yet been possible to fully explain this plant's particular and powerful action. In particular, it was not possible to isolate those responsible for its action on the hormonal system. Unlike, for example, of the soya, in the agnocasto there would be no phytohormones, but, in all probability, its effectiveness derives from a set of different tonic-effect elements that act in particular on the female hormonal system.
Scientifically proven effects
Accurate studies have shown that agnocasto extracts can effectively contribute to the regularization of the menstrual cycle, intervening both when it occurs too often and when it is more rare than normal. As with all herbal remedies, the effect is not immediate and to have the first results it is important that the administration lasts for at least 1 month. On average a cure should last about 3 months.
The extracts from this shrub have also proved effective in combating the sensation of swollen and tense breasts, which occurs frequently as a component of premenstrual syndrome. A clinical study of 170 patients showed that taking regularly a dry agnocast extract there was a noticeable attenuation of the phenomenon, in addition to the reduction of other undesirable effects present in that period. All this by virtue of its ability to intervene in the regularization of progesterone and estrogen production. Consequently it can be considered a good opportunity not only to solve problems related to the female cycle, but could intervene positively in some cases of infertility, especially if linked to the premature onset of menopause.
When is intake recommended?
The agnocasto is recommended mainly to women, in the following cases:
- In the presence of pains, tensions and swellings of the breast, particularly in conjunction with or before the menstrual cycle
- Irregular menstrual cycle, too much or little frequent, and / or scarce
- Boils and acne in adolescents
- Problems related to menopause such as hot flushes or nervousness.
- Female infertility, especially if linked to hormonal imbalances
- To reduce the risk of abortions
At the beginning of a pregnancy, therefore, it may be appropriate to take it, but always asking for the advice of a doctor. Later, from the third month onwards, its use is usually not recommended as the active ingredients contained could have a stimulating effect on the uterus, causing unwanted contractions.
Where to find the preparations and how to take them?
The preparations based on agnocasto can be easily found in pharmacies or in herbalist's shops, where we can also ask for further information on the specific product, on the intake and on the proper dosage. They are common but also in the areas dedicated to the well-being of supermarkets or dietetic shops.
Generally the formulations are:
- In the form of tablets, capsules or tablets. This formulation is particularly suitable for women in menopause or for those seeking a first mild remedy against infertility
We can, however, get it for ourselves:
- If we have the plant in our garden we can draw directly. The ideal is to use the seeds in dishes after having crushed them in a mortar. We opt for this choice, however, only if we have never used agropharmaceuticals on the plant.
- It is also possible to make an herbal tea. Boil a bowl of water. When it reaches a boil, add a tablespoon of dried berries and let it steep for about five minutes. This drink can be taken once or twice a day, possibly sweetened with hyssop honey or further flavored with sage.
To assist the effects of agnocasto tablets or agnocasto it is possible to use other hormonal stimulators or phytomodulators. Excellent allies are sage, soya, oenothera oil and borage oil. In this (and in any case in any case) it is always good to ask the advice of your doctor beforehand. In fact, besides the positive effects (such as the reduction, for example, of hot flashes), mild side effects could occur, such as the onset of annoying migraines.
Other possible rare side effects are the appearance of rashes and digestive problems, especially if the dosages recommended by the producers are not respected.
As we have already emphasized, the recruitment of agnocasto preparations is not recommended for pregnant women after the third month and for those who have recently given birth to breastfeeding.
Furthermore, its use is not recommended if you take drugs to counteract the effect of Parkinson's disease, such as bromocriptine and metoclopramide.
If we have the plant in our garden we can easily access its benefits. The leaves can be harvested all year round and used for making herbal teas, also in combination with other herbs, both fresh and dried. If we want to keep them we can leave them to dry in the shade, in a cool and airy area. Otherwise we can put them in the microwave at low power for a few minutes with a glass of water. Once completely dehydrated they can be pulverized using a mixer.
The most valuable part, however, is made up of seeds, commonly called "berries". They are collected starting from November. We can cut the entire end of the branch or take one grain off at a time. However, we will not damage the plant as it requires vigorous pruning and always flowers on new branches, produced in the vintage.
The seeds can be used fresh or dried. Also in this case it will be good to put them in the shade so that they lose all the humidity, but with a certain slowness. Proceeding gently, we will not compromise the quality and quantity of the active ingredients contained. We can then preserve them whole or grind them, possibly in a hermetically sealed jar.