Vitex – Chasteberry

vitex = Agnus castus
Vitex – Agnus castus – flower spires

Botanical: Agnus castus
Family: Verbenaceae
parts used: fruit, (ripe berries harvested late autumn)
energetics: moist
actions: nervine, cephalic, dysmenorrhea, emmenagogue
used for: premenstrual syndrome, abnormal menstrual cycle, amenorrhea, painful periods, menopause
common names: Agnus Castus, Nirgundi, Sambhalu, Monk’s Berry, Monk’s pepper, cloister pepper, cloister berry, Indrani, Nochi, Vitex, Vitex agnus castus, Sage Tree

The ripe seeds of the Vitex have become a mainstay in modern herbalism, used to address a wide-range of conditions related to hormones. We had a Vitex bush for a few years before we realized its worth. It is a beautiful shrub with purple flowers and often called “Texas Lilac”. Now we grow four large shrubs.

Vitex (or Chaste Berry) is native to Mediterranean countries, and its uses were first developed in ancient Greece and Rome and were only slowly developed after the fall of these two empires. Most of its early uses were related to its spicy, warming nature in “dispelling wind”, although there are early references to its use in “inflammation of the womb”, and as an herb to “quench the passions”.

Culinary Uses for Vitex (Chaste Berry)

The seeds can be ground into a peppery condiment. (why it is sometimes called Monk’s pepper)

Cosmetic Uses for Vitex (Chaste Berry)

The antimicrobial properties of vitex make it an adequate choice in anti-acne skin care products.

Benefits of Vitex for Wellness

Vitex has an long history of being useful for aiding many symptoms brought on by female hormonal imbalances. These include premenstrual syndrome, breast tenderness, and infertility.

No single constituent has been identified as accounting for vitex’s biological activity. The volatile components of the fruits of two varieties of Vitex (Agnus-castus) were obtained by hydrodistillation and identified by GC and GC-MS. Altogether 41 components were identified. The examined oils show a significant antibacterial activity. [2]

Vitex is a slow-acting herb. It is usually recommended to allow three full cycles for the plant to really work its magic, and many women take it for up to several years. In the thousands of years that it has been in use, there are no reports of even the mildest side effects. Vitex is a safe, gentle, and effective remedy, with something to offer women in every cycle of life.

Extract of the seeds of the plant Vitex (Agnus-castus) proven to be highly efficacious as a repellent against ticks, fleas, mosquitoes and biting flies. [3]

Vitex has been recommended by herbalists to reduce a man’s testosterone levels and to balance hormones in women. It is also used to suppress the onset of prostate cancer related to high testosterone levels.

Breast Tenderness

Vitex has been used in the production of a drug for Mastalgia (sore breasts/tenderness) related to PMS and menopause. It’s considered that the extract of the chasteberry herb might help prevent excessive amounts of the hormone prolactin in the pituitary gland. High levels of this hormone might promote milk production in lactating and pregnant women, causing breast tenderness, and may also trigger unpredictable menstrual cycles and missed periods. Consequently, getting one 300mg of chasteberry extract capsule daily may be advantageous to lessen breast tenderness. [5]

vitex - Agnus Castus
one of the vitex shrubs at FarmHomestead

Dose

  • Dried Berries: 500 – 3000mg
  • Dried Berry Tea: 1 tsp in 1 cup twice daily
  • Tincture: 1.0 – 2.5mL (30 to 50 drops) 3x per day (1:2)

Safety

  • Should be avoided by women taking oral contraceptive, during pregnancy and, because of the inhibitory effect on prolactin secretion, during lactation (reduces/interferes with milk supply). Small doses however may increase lactation. [5]
  • In the case of lactation, theoretical and expert opinion conflict as to whether chaste tree increases or decreases lactation.

References:

  1. Blumenthal, M., et al., eds. S. Klein, trans. German Commission E Therapeutic Monographs on Medicinal Herbs for Human Use. Austin, Texas: American Botanical Council, 1998.
  2. Chemical composition and antibacterial activity of essential oil from fruits of Vitex agnus-castus L. (Verbenaceae) growing in Turkey F. Senatore, F. Napolitano, and M. Ozcan Dung Journal of Essential Oil Bearing Plants Vol. 6 , Iss. 3,2003
  3. Extract of the seeds of the plant Vitex agnus castus proven to be highly efficacious as a repellent against ticks, fleas, mosquitoes and biting flies. 2005 Mar;95(5):363-5. Epub 2005 Jan 29.
  4. Carmichael, Amtul. (2008). Can Vitex Agnus castus Be Used for the Treatment of Mastalgia? What Is the Current Evidence?.
  5. The genus Vitex: A review
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