Skip to content
September, 07 2018

Agnus castus: the female herb explained


Joanna @JdeV Edinburgh West End store

Agnus castus is often hailed the ‘female’ or ‘women’s’ herb and many women assume it is the go-to option for all female issues.  Although it can often relieve symptoms of PMS, this remedy is thought to help by addressing a specific hormone imbalance so, contrary to popular belief, it may not be answer to all ladies’ problems. Let me explain. 

Understanding your hormones

Understanding your hormones is key! Although many of us learnt this in school, it’s easily forgotten and misunderstood. 

So, the two main female sex hormones are called oestrogen and progesterone. These hormones take part in a delicate balancing act throughout the month in order to prepare the lining of your womb for potential impregnation. They trigger ovulation and then prompt the arrival of your period. Both hormones have an important role and fluctuate throughout the month however, if one becomes dominant relative to the other when it shouldn’t, we can suffer as a result. 

Oestrogen dominance

All women (even men actually) need oestrogen but in the wrong balance it is thought to give rise to a whole host of symptoms – and is even though to be responsible for many cases of PMS and the symptoms we associate with it. Think heavy, painful periods, often arriving more frequently than every 28 days (21-27 day cycles may need some Agnus attention) plus, not to mention the tender breasts, water retention, and erratic mood swings (more irritable or angry than sad) to go with them. 

If these symptoms sound familiar, then Agnus castus is quite likely to be the right remedy for you, so many women are on the right tracks. Agnus castus gently helps to support the hormone progesterone. I like to think of progesterone as oestrogen’s little minder. By supporting your progesterone levels you can help keep oestrogen in check and nicely in balance.

Progesterone dominance

Progesterone dominance on the other hand, is a totally different type of hormone imbalance which is thought to be affecting more and more women – the use of progesterone-based methods of contraception may or may not, have something to do with this. Although we don’t advocate the use of hormone balancing herbs whilst on hormonal meds, when women eventually come off of them, this is often when hormonal imbalance becomes apparent and needs addressing.

Although we know that progesterone helps balance oestrogen, too much the other way and it can become overbearing and oestrogen doesn’t stand a chance to shine. Oestrogen is important for supporting everything from our mood to our skin, so too little oestrogen (ask any menopausal women) can leave us feeling low in mood, lacking in confidence, tired, it can affect our skin, and leave our periods few and far between. 

So, what’s the solution? Agnus castus? Well, no, and this is key. We already know that Agnus castus helps support progesterone, so we probably don’t need any more help on that front, what we want instead, is to support our oestrogen levels. This is where fermented soy isoflavones come in.

Now traditionally, fermented soy isoflavones have been used by women approaching the menopause. This makes perfect sense, as we know that oestrogen levels start to drop off around this time in our lives. 

However, we are now beginning to understand that younger women may need to support their oestrogen levels too. Fermented soy isoflavones may instead be the remedy to help gently support your oestrogen levels and bring some welcome relief from an undesirable set of symptoms.