- The two forms of agnus castus – capsules and tablets (NEW)
There’s solid research behind agnus castus, and it’s a godsend for many women with PMS. Agnus castus is an age-old herbal remedy, which seems to work by:
- Raising progesterone
- Reducing prolactin
- Counteracting excessive oestrogen
Agnus castus can also be helpful during perimenopause. Although hormone levels overall are declining during this time, fewer menstrual cycles where ovulation occurs (called anovulatory cycles) mean less progesterone is released in the second half of your cycle. This in turn can lead to oestrogen dominance, often accompanied by symptoms like hot flushes (or ‘flashes’, if you’re American), forgetfulness and putting on weight. Which is where topping up with progesterone, either by a ‘natural’ progesterone cream, or agnus castus, comes in.
A small number of women – usually those with with the most extreme form of PMS, called PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) – have an intolerance to progesterone. But for most PMS sufferers and women in perminenopause, agnus castus is a safe and effective herbal remedy with minimal side effects.
Well, the good news seems to have just got better: there’s now a one-a-day formulation of agnus castus available in tablet form.
The New Agnus Castus Kid on the Block
I’ve been used to taking agnus castus three times a day in the form of powdered herb in a capsule. My choice of brand is usually Viridian, which is an ethical UK-based company which donates part of its profits to charity. Obviously, I pay for my usual supply myself (not freebies!).
I was intrigued to find that this agnus product looked completely different – and that the recommended dose was only one tablet a day.
Hang on a minute… just ONE? Was this some sort of homoeopathic remedy, I wondered, with only the teensiest, tiniest molecule of actually active ingredient which would prove worse than useless?
I checked the packaging and was even more bemused. The dose in each individual tablet is advertised as being 4mg. That’s 4mg compared to a single capsule of my regular brand containing:
- 200mg agnus castus extract
- PLUS 150mg of agnus castus powder (i.e. the whole berry) in each capsule
- with a recommended dose of 1-3 capsules per day
- totalling a whole lot more than 4mg of agnus castus!
Extracting Only the Active Ingredients From Agnus Castus
I emailed Bionorica, who make Cyclopret, and queried the difference in appearance, strength and recommended dose. This is what I gleaned:
- Bionorica is a long-established German company that specialises in herbs. (Interestingly, one of their other products is St John’s Wort, an anti-depressant herb which seems to have a beneficial effect on serotonin, and which I will do a post about soon). The Germans pioneered the use of agnus castus and have a long history of using it in PMS treatment and research its effects, so this felt like a good sign.
- Rather than using the whole agnus castus plant or berries in a dried form, Bionorica extract the active compounds using water and alcohol. This process is called phytoneering – I guess from ‘phyto’ = plants + ‘engineering’ – and more technical information is available from the English language pages on their German website (there’s also a separate website specifically for the UK).