Monk’s Pepper – An Ancient Remedy for Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Monk’s Pepper – An Ancient Remedy for Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Monk’s Pepper – An ancient remedy for PMS

As we know today, nature has many a herb in store that can be used effectively for the treatment of various ailments. This also applies to monk’s pepper. Already used by the doctors of classical antiquity, today it serves as a basis for numerous medicinal preparations. But what does monk’s pepper do in the organism?? In what form can the active ingredient be purchased?? And do the ingredients of monk’s pepper really help against PMS?

What is monk’s pepper?

Monk’s pepper (Vitex agnus-castus) is a three to four meter high shrub, which is characterized by its palmate leaves, which gives it a great resemblance to hemp. In addition, there are dense inflorescences, which are colored purple, white, blue or pink.
The medicinal plant is native to the entire Mediterranean region, the Crimea and Southwest Asia as far as Pakistan.

It is little wonder, then, that reports of its first medicinal use date back to ancient Greece, where the fruit of the monk’s pepper was used for centuries to treat menstrual cramps.

In addition, the mock berries have long been used as an anti-aphrodisiac for men. According to tradition, monks also used the plant to keep their sex drive under control. And since the dried fruits have a similar appearance to peppercorns, the plant has been called monk’s pepper since the Middle Ages.

For those who would like to learn more about monk’s pepper or medicinal plants in general, we recommend this page.

How monk’s pepper works in the organism

Although the mechanism of action of monk’s pepper is not yet fully known, thanks to modern science we already know a lot about this fascinating medicinal plant. In fact, the fruits contain numerous interesting ingredients such as essential oils, agnuside, aucubin, triglycerides as well as bicyclic diterpenes.

This cocktail of active ingredients intervenes in the hormonal balance, which explains the positive effect on hormonal complaints such as menstrual disorders and other gynecological symptoms.

In detail, one of the main mechanisms of action is based on the influence of prolactin secretion, especially since too high prolactin levels can lower the estrogen level and cause the ailments already described. According to this, special triglycerides of monk’s pepper stimulate the dopamine receptors in the pituitary gland (hypophysis) and thus inhibit the release of prolactin.

With the power of monk’s pepper against PMS

Today, products based on monk’s pepper are successfully used to treat premenstrual syndrome (PMS), from which many women often suffer for several years after giving birth. Since monk’s pepper was already used in ancient times against such complaints, science has taken up the subject in recent years.

Both older studies and more recent studies from 2009 to 2013 demonstrate efficacy against typical PMS symptoms such as, among others:

  • depressive moods,
  • Digestive Problems,
  • inner tension,
  • severe irritability,
  • increased water retention,
  • Headaches,
  • Breast pain and tightness.

A 2013 meta-study by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology summarizes the results of numerous studies that have been done on monk’s pepper and PMS. [1] Here too the result is clear. But that’s not all, because compared to other active ingredients, monk’s pepper extract proved to be free of severe side effects.

Beating the menopause

Monk’s pepper not only offers a possible solution for PMS and menstrual cramps, but also for alleviating the effects of menopause. Since the usual symptoms such as hot flushes, sweating, depression, sleep disturbances and an often irregular cycle are due to the decreasing estrogen production, monk’s pepper is also promising in this case.

As early as 2007, a clinical study from Israel was able to find conclusive evidence of the alleviating potential of the active ingredients contained in monk’s pepper. [2]

Figure : Decrease in the average perceived incidence of hot flashes of the subjects from week 0 to week 12. (Source: own presentation based on Rotem, D. et. al.) [2]

Together with other active ingredient extracts from ginseng, meadow clover and milk thistle, the intensity of typical menopausal symptoms could be significantly reduced over a 12-week intake period. For example, this applies to hot flashes (Fig. 1) and night sweats (Fig. 2).

Decrease in the average cases of night sweats in the test subjects from week 0 to week 12
Figure 2: Decrease in average perceived cases of night sweats among subjects from week 0 to week 12. (source own representation based on Rotem, D. et. al.) [2]

Side effects and contraindications

With all the positive evidence from science and the great potential, however, contraindications should not fall under the table. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, for example, should avoid monk pepper products, as the active ingredients interfere with hormone metabolism and can thus disrupt milk production.

Those taking medications that influence the dopamine balance should also talk to their doctor first because of possible interactions. Fortunately, on the other hand, hardly any side effects are known. In individual cases, however, headaches and itchy rashes may occur.

In what form can I take monk’s pepper??

The active ingredients of monk’s pepper are now part of numerous preparations of renowned manufacturers, which are also available without prescription in pharmacies. Alternatively, monk’s pepper preparations can also be ordered from a well-stocked online retailer. The range extends from tablets and capsules through drops and ointments to monk’s pepper seeds and the dried fruits of the plant.

[1] van Die, Diana & G Burger, Henry & Teede, Helena & Bone, Kerry. (2012). Vitex agnus-castus Extracts for Female Reproductive Disorders: A Systematic Review of Clinical Trials. Planta medica. 79. 10.1055/s-0032-1327831.
[2] Rotem, Carmela & Kaplan, Boris. (2007). Phyto-Female Complex for the relief of hot flushes, night sweats and quality of sleep: Randomized, controlled, double-blind pilot study. Gynecological endocrinology : the official journal of the International Society of Gynecological Endocrinology. 23. 117-22. 10.1080/09513590701200900.

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