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Chaste Tree

Vitex agnus-castus

Herbs gallery - Chaste Tree



Common names

  • Agnus Castus
  • Chaste Berry
  • Chaste Tree
  • Monk's Pepper
  • Vitex

This large shrub with beautiful blue–violet flowers that bloom during the summer months can grow up to twenty-two feet in height, and is considered to be native to the Southern Europe and to the Mediterranean. This tree grows mostly on riverbanks, although today it can be grown in a simple garden, which is what most Americans do. The chaste tree was believed to keep its owner chaste, with his sexual passions under check, according to ancient Romans and Greeks, and it was also assumed that the chaste tree was capable of warding off evil.

It must be remembered that in earlier times, especially after the fall of Rome, Western medicine went into a state of stagnation, and throughout the Middle Ages, the medical writers or other scientists in Europe resorted to simply copying down the original Roman and Greek sources of medical terms and history. However, some scholars like Hippocrates are known to have recommended using the chaste tree for treating conditions like injuries and inflammation, and several centuries later Dioscorides is known to have recommended the herb exclusively for treating inflammation of the womb and for encouraging milk flow shortly after birth. In Persia, however, unlike as in Europe and the Western parts of the world, this was not the case; original medical thought did flourish at these times, and this era was even known as the ‘Golden Age' of Arabic science. Fortunately this heritage has been preserved in documents of those times, and the two important works of the time, available in English editions are ‘The Medical Formulary of AI-Samarqu.andi', from about 1200 A.D., and ‘The Medical Formulary of AI-Kindi', in which agnus castus has been mentioned several times. This goes on to prove that the chaste tree (vitex) was known to man as early as the Middle Ages, and that the herb had been used to cure conditions such as madness, insanity, and epilepsy. Even today, the fruits of vitex are sold in Egyptian bazaars as a calming agent useful in hysteria. The ‘chasteberry' is often recommended today for the treatment of disorders of the female reproductive system, and other similar ailments affecting women of the reproductive age group. However, it may be a little strange to know that although the chaste tree is generally used for treating disorders and conditions of the female reproductive system, like for pre-menstrual syndrome or PMS and for peri - or postmenopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, they are associated with completely different hormonal imbalances. In fact, the results of a survey by medical herbalists concluded that the chaste tree may be considered an ‘adaptogen' which affects the pituitary gland in a human being. The parts of the chaste tree most often used in medical treatments are the dried berries, although in some Mediterranean countries, leaves of flowering chaste tree tops are also harvested and dried for medicinal use.

It was Gerard, one of the best known Renaissance herbalists, who was responsible for collecting and gathering valuable information on the use of herbs from Roman and Greek sources, and also from folk remedies and professional herbalists of the time. However, although Gerard's information has been considered being much too fanciful, it has also been praised for being quite practical too. Take this statement for example; Gerard felt that vitex could be taken as a powder, tea, or worn on the body, and it would have the same impact, and he also stressed on the fact that vitex would make sure that an individual was able to maintain his chastity without any problem. These statements were much too fanciful. However, Gerard also stated that vitex would cure flatulence, and according to him, an infusion of the fruits of the chastity tree would literally “cureth the stoppings of the liver and spleen." This great man was also known to have extolled the virtues of using this plant as a “female herb”, in that it could be put to a great many practical uses such as using the seeds and the leaves of the plant for treating pain and inflammations of the uterus, while the seed drunk with pennyroyal herb would most definitely bring on the menstruations.

The scientific name for vitex, Vitex agnus-castus, comes from the Greek agnos castus, and it means "chaste," and the great Pliny, the famous Greek natural historian (23-79 A.D.), wrote that the herb "checks violent sexual desire". It is a well documented fact that medieval monks used the berries of the chaste tree in most of their meals so that it would keep them safe from their own sexual desires and appetites. Perhaps this is the reason why the chaste tree is also known as “monk's pepper”. However, the chaste tree has several kinds of medicinal properties as well. For instance, it can help bring relief from fevers and headaches if it is taken in the form of a drink made from the seeds of vitex, and it can also help stimulate perspiration, promote menstruation, and prove effective in "purging the uterus.” Vitex is also known to promote the flow of breast milk in new mothers. Vitex seeds can also be taken to dispel "wind" or flatulence from the bowels, perhaps because of their hot nature, and this would be useful in promoting urination, checking and arresting diarrhea, and improving dropsy and spleen diseases. Both the seeds and the leaves were also considered effective against the bites of snakes and spiders. In case of snake bites, vitex can be taken in the form of two tender leaves of vitex mixed in wine or in a mixture of  water and vinegar.

In several Mediterranean countries where chaste tree grows in nature, the herb has been popularly and widely used for a wide variety of ailments, including gas, colic, and other digestive problems, and in fact, some of the earliest recorded instances of the use of vitex are during the year 1880, when fruits of the chaste tree were used to remove "visceral obstructions" and promote good digestion. According to Cazin, the author of a French herbal article from the late 1800's, vitex could be used for ‘cooling one's passions' and he also mentions the soothing drink that could be made of the seeds of vitex, which proved to be "an infallible remedy for maintaining chastity and repressing the ardors of Venus." Cazin contradicted himself however, when he said that this syrup which could even cool the ardors of Venus, when distributed to convents so that unwarranted passions could be subdued, could well prove to be completely ineffective, and in fact could even prove to stimulate passions!

Research has shown that extracts of the chaste tree berry have the effect of decreasing prolactin secretion in laboratory rats, with a direct impact on their pituitary glands. This would dramatically reduce milk secretion in these animals, which is in direct contradiction to what has been mentioned in ancient texts, wherein vitex is recommended for mothers to increase lactation. This is the reason why the chaste tree is often recommended for cases where there is an excessive secretion of prolactin. For example, in clinical studies of the uses of the chaste berry for treating cases of menstrual disorders related to excessive prolactin, the herb was able to normalize both the cycle and the levels of prolactin and progesterone hormones. Vitex is also believed to reduce the symptoms of swelling and PMS breast tenderness, a condition linked to excess prolactin, and also in reducing symptoms of PMS, although the latter studies are uncontrolled ones, conducted in Germany. In one of these studies, it was reported by the investigators that the patient demonstrated higher blood levels of progesterone as a result of the treatment.

It goes without saying that if the chaste tree can be used for normalizing and regularizing hormone levels, then it could also be used for perimenopausal women with heavy bleeding or unusually short cycles. Although there have not been any proper studies conducted on the efficacy of using chaste berry for menopausal symptoms, it is widely used within the UK by medical herbalists to treat hot flashes, a symptom of menopause. The same practitioners recommend using chaste berry for female infertility, but it is a fact that there has been no proof of its effectiveness in such cases. Very often, the chaste berry is used to treat acne in both men and women, and it is believed that it is the antiandrogenic effect of the herb, although there is a lack of research on the subject, that is responsible for the fact. Chaste berry is also recommended to decrease an unusually active libido.

Parts used

Berries.

Liver / endocrine capsules

This is a very strong and excellent remedial herbal formal. It rinses out as well as reinforces the liver and the endocrine glands, in addition to providing nutriments to and developing the total system. This formula is indicated for severe hormonal imbalances that are obvious from deplete levels of energy, remarkable mood swings, absence of menses and agonizing and erratic menstrual cycles. As this herbal formula tastes very bitter, it is suggested that you take it in the form of a capsule or a tincture. The recommended dose of this formula is taking two ‘00’ capsules every day - one in the morning and another in the evening. Alternatively, you may also take 1/4 teaspoon of the tincture form of this preparation thrice every day.

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Comments

From Kande10456 - Aug-15-2012
I have been using organic chaste tree extract for 6 months, for treatment of enlarged uterus. I have had no side effects other than I no longer have an enlarged uterus. Cycle is regular and without incident. I use a liquid, one dropper full (about a teaspoon) in a shot of water each morning. I think those of you suffering serious side effects like hair loss, maybe your dosage is too high?...I strongly recommend the liquid extract - small dose.
From Allie - Oct-09-2011
Using chaste tree berry in a tea has helped my all of the symptoms associated with menstruation to decrease. I am using such a small amount that I don't seem to suffer any of the side effects. Perhaps decreasing the amount would lessen or eliminate the hair loss and headaches associated with tinctures or capsules containing higher amounts of the herb. My symptoms generally lasted two weeks of the month. My family was forced to endure terrible mood swings. As I feel the mood swings coming on, I make tea and all is well again!
From Hariette - Jul-06-2011
I was diagnosed with pcos. After taking chaste berry leaves decoction first thing in the morning I started getting my menses regularly.
From Helen - Jun-05-2011
I too have noticed a significant amount of increased hair loss on Agnus Castus which I have just started taking about a month ago. In fact, it was whilst researching whether my hypothesis of Agnus Castus causing hair loss was correct or not that I came upon this website with other people's comments on same side effect. I think I will stop taking the tablets from tonight as I can't afford to lose more hair!
From Myriam - Apr27-2011
I have been using chaste berry for about 2 weeks and have noticed I have been tired after but I'm quite positive about it and I'm going to stick with it considering tiredness is the only side effects.
From Maria - Apr-24-2011
I initially was introduced to vitex in tincture form to help me withdraw from birth control pills. I could not tell if it helped because I was given topical progesterone which I ended up not tolerating. About a year and half ago I resumed acupuncture and vitex but this time I took a capsule that was organic. Purpose use was to regulate menstrual cycles, severe tension headaches associated with menses, insomnia, depression, brain fog, anxiety, severe tension on face/jaw(had to have night guard made) and irritability. After taking vitex for about 11 months I developed a rash, unbearable all over body itch including scalp. It initially gave me abdomen cramps which eventually subsided. I suspected it was the vitex and sure enough itching and rash went away after getting off the product. I tried a smaller dose however within days the rash and severe itching returned. The scalp itching was unbearable. I had numerous allergic reactions to medications that I had previously tolerated. I wonder if vitex has contraindication with certain medications?
It it unfortunate that I do not tolerate vitex for it did help me tremendously. My PMS and post menses depression and tension headaches had improved drastically. I also did not have any acne at all what so ever. My GERD symptoms were gone to the point that I had to stop taking remedy for it. My painful jaw pain and night biting was minimal. Had no more toothaches or sensitivity. I was finally able to eat an apple without teeth/mouth pain. I had two allergic reactions to meds which caused hair loss and I wonder now if it was related to the vitex. Getting off the vitex to me was like getting off a hormone. Same side effects I experienced when getting off birth-control pills and progesterone. Back where I started but now I have new symptoms that I did not have before. I have intermittent itching on my nose, ears, scalp and eyelids. I noticed worse around time of menses. I hope this helps someone out there. I wished I had known of the common side effects and I would have reconsidered as I had been battling thinning brittle hair prior to trying vitex.
From Sarah - Feb-10-2011
I have been on chaste tree for 15 months now for PCOS; I have seen significant improvement, for example, I have no pain anymore during my period and my cycle has been regulated. But I have been noticing my hair dropping tremendously and I am currently doing research and I believe that the chaste tree has caused it; I have half the amount of hair I had a year ago.
From Cindy - Feb-08-2011
Having suffered continuously with PMS, research brought me to chaste tree. What a relief! I could be myself. It also carried me through menopause. I ran out once thinking I could do without, which proved that it really did work. That was the first time I experienced a hot flash. I don't remember ever being extra tired, even if I was, I appreciated not having the other ailments. I have weaned off since over menopause, but wonder if it would be good to take for hormone levels. It has been a savior for me.
From Kelly - 2010
Chaste Tree tincture also made me tired, so my naturopath had me switch to dosing in the evening before bed instead of in the morning. Voila, problem solved. While using this along with acupuncture, my uterine fibroids shrank.
From Jacqui - 2010
I suffered badly with PMS, the breast tenderness, irregular periods and bad moods would last for two weeks of every month. After few months on chaste tree I noticed relief. A few more months and symptoms now only come for a day or so.
From Janice - 2010
I have been giving my horse 1 teaspoon of chaste powder to her daily for equine cushing and I have seen a marked improvement.
From Jennifer - 2010
I started using chaste tree extract about three weeks ago. I wouldn't suggest using it! It caused me to be extremely tired and I haven't been able to keep myself awake. Then when my body lets me wake up I end up with a major headache.
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