Botanical Name: Vitex agnus-castus
Common names: Agnus castus, Chasteberry, Chaste tree berry, Monk’s pepper
Plant Parts used: berries
Description and Habitat
Originally from Southern Europe and Western Asia, Vitex agnus-castus now grows in New Zealand. An aromatic, deciduous shrub or small tree, growing to 2m high with branches that divide frequently at the top, and are covered with dense white hairs. The berries are fleshy and reddish black in colour.
History, Folklore & Ritual Usage
Monks used Vitex agnus-castus as an anaphrodisiac (to curb sexual desires), hence the common name, chasteberry. Egyptians used bandages with crushed berries, barley, and red ochre to reduce swelling, mixed it with water to strengthen teeth, and used it internally with other herbs to treat constipation. Used in Pagan and Wiccan rituals to represent the virginity of the maiden as well as the wisdom of the crone.
- volatile oil (cineol, pinene, linalool)
- alkaloids (viticine)
- flavonoids (casticin)
- iridoid glycosides (aucubin, agnoside, eurostoside)
- bitter principle (castine)
- Tonic for reproductive organs
- Female hormone regulator
1. FEMALE REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM
- Stimulates breastmilk production (galactagogue)
- Menstrual disorders – period pains (dysmenorrhoea), heavy bleeding (menorrhagia), intermittent bleeding (metrorrhagia), shortened cycle (polymenorrhoea), infrequent menstruation (oligomenorrhoea), cystic hyperplasia of the endometrium, secondary amenorrhoea.
- Infertility with abnormal progesterone levels and normal prolactin
- Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS/PMT) – fluid retention, breast tenderness. Not as effective for headaches, sugar cravings, palpitations, dizziness. Helps with aggravated symptoms as a result of PMS (migraine, herpes, joint swelling)
- Ovarian pain
- Fibroids (particularly located in smooth muscle)
- Follicular ovarian cysts, Poly-cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
- Balancing hormones and re-establishing a healthy menstrual cycle following the use of contraceptive pill
- Menopausal symptoms – hot flushes, fluid retention, excess weight, depression, nerves/anxiety
- Can help to alleviate conditions which disappear during pregnancy and reappear following breastfeeding
- Acne – both female and male acne
Preparation & Dosage
- Best taken once daily following breakfast; improvements can appear relatively quickly, but treatment should be continued for a minimum of six months for long-lasting results.
- Tincture (1:5) – 1-3ml (20-60 drops)
- Capsules – 500-1,000mg daily for female reproductive health and acne; 30-40mg daily for breastmilk production
- Can also be taken as a tea, or ground and sprinkled over food (peppery flavour)
Cautions & Contraindications
- Avoid use in post-menopause
- Do not use for children
- Not to be taken alongside conventional hormone therapy or fertility drugs (contraceptive pill, HRT, Clomid)
- May cause an increase in menstrual blood volume as a part of the cleansing process (non-pathological)
Megan Sheppard is an aficionado of all things plant-based, particularly if it involves herbs and tastes delicious! She works as a Herbalist specialising in nutrition, and works freelance as a natural health author and advisor. Megan’s herbalicious creations can be found at Wildflower Botanicals, a garden of organic and ethically sourced teas, chocolate, and other delights!