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Vitex: The Women's Herb by Christopher Hobbs
Vitex: The Women’s Herb by Christopher Hobbs

Vitex: The Women’s Herb by Christopher Hobbs. Summertown, TN: Healthy Living Publications; 2003. 95 pp., softcover, tables, appendices, references. $7.95. ISBN 1-57067-157-5.

Vitex: The Women’s Herb provides comprehensive information on chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus), including botany, cultivation, chemistry, pharmacology, and potential toxicity. It relies on clinical evidence supporting the potential role of the berry’s extract in treating female hormonal conditions including premenstrual syndrome, menopause, irregular menstrual cycles, fibroid cysts, acne, and others. This book is a useful consumer guide to understanding what chaste tree berry treats, how it works, how it is used, type of product (i.e., dosage form such as teas, extracts, and capsules), dosage, and duration of use.

The Appendix is divided into three main sections: general and background information, human studies and indications, and the advantages of chaste tree berry compared to synthetic hormone therapy. The modern research is derived largely from a chaste tree berry extract patented and marketed as Agnolyt® (Madaus AG, Cologne, Germany). In Germany, Agnolyt is the most widely used herbal remedy to treat a variety of female hormonal problems (e.g., premenstrual syndrome, menstrual disorders, menopausal symptoms, and acne). This book includes safety information and contraindications. The human studies and medical indications contain table summaries of clinical trials dealing with the following conditions: PMS, fibrocystic disease, perimenopause, lactation, hyperprolactinemia, corpus luteum insufficiency, bleeding disorders, post-gestatory acne, acne vulgaris, and various menstrual irregularities such as poly/hypermenorrhea, secondary amenorrhea, and mastodynia. The table summaries are comprehensive but not overly technical. This book is helpful for the average person seeking natural treatments for common female hormonal imbalances as the table summaries of clinical studies on specific conditions are easy to understand.

In addition, the author includes recommendations for herbs that are synergistic with chaste berry and the various constitutional types of the patient. The author, a widely recognized herbal author and licensed acupuncturist, utilizes an integrative approach by discussing the clinical experience of modern herbalists, including medical herbalists, medical doctors, licensed acupuncturists, nurse practitioners, as well as his personal and professional experience.

The concluding appendix section centers upon chaste tree berry versus synthetic hormone therapy, evaluating specific hormone preparations commonly prescribed by medical doctors, and the hormones’ influence and their side effects. Hobbs follows by exploring alternatives to synthetic hormones and offers an integrative comparison and professional opinion. Lastly, he provides a sensible table summary supporting the use of vitex, entitled The Vitex Top Ten, consisting of the best ten reasons to take chaste tree berry preparations. Hobbs presents recommendations from medical doctors of analyses on clinical studies and comments on synthetic hormones versus Vitex treatment.

This is a comprehensive and user-friendly guide for basic information on chaste tree berry and is highly recommended for anyone who wants to learn about remedies for female hormonal problems. However, the information in this book is not limited to female problems, as vitex has effectively been used to treat both female and male adolescent acne vulgaris, although the research on this does not support the herbal remedy as a fully reliable and effective treatment for this indication. Overall, the book’s presentation is simple, straight-forward, and a quick-read. Hobbs condenses the latest scientific studies and clinical research reviews with a reader-friendly approach while successfully providing strong evidence for the effective use of vitex for treating various common female hormonal problems.

—Lan Truong, ABC Intern