Chaste Tree Berry (Vitex agnus-castus)

agnus-castus

Botanical Name: 
Vitex agnus-castus

Common names: 
Agnus castus, Chasteberry, Chaste tree berry, Monk’s pepper

Family: 
Verbenaceae

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.

Main Constituents

  • volatile oil (cineol, pinene, linalool)
  • alkaloids (viticine)
  • flavonoids (casticin)
  • iridoid glycosides (aucubin, agnoside, eurostoside)
  • bitter principle (castine)

Actions

  • Progesterogenic
  • Antiandrogenic
  • Galactagogue
  • Emmenagogue
  • Tonic for reproductive organs
  • Female hormone regulator

Indications

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)
  • Endometriosis
  • 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

2. SKIN

  • 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)

Click here to purchase certified organic Vitex agnus-castus

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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!
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6 thoughts on “Chaste Tree Berry (Vitex agnus-castus)

    • Hey Kylie! It is quite peppery tasting – if you are taking it therapeutically, probably best to stick with therapeutic doses though. Most herbalists find that the tincture form for Agnus castus is the most effective for hormonal issues.

  1. Hello:-) I would ask how to use agnus castus…i order two weeks ago.I have hormonal problems (terrible pains during pms..and my stomach is like ballon all the time even i dont have pms.Thanks a lot for answering me.Greetings from Slovenia..

    • Hello! You can use the Agnus castus berries as a tea, simply by infusing a teaspoon of the dried berries per 250ml of near-boiling water. It has quite a peppery flavour. For more intensive medicinal purposes, you could easily make your own tincture. Combine at a ratio of 1:5, which means that you could use 100g dried agnus castus to 500ml of alcohol. Put the dried herb in a jar and pour the alcohol over and seal with an airtight lid, then store in a cool, dark place for 4-6 weeks. Shake the mixture once every day for best effect (this isn’t necessary when using fresh herbs). Make sure that you label your concoction, so that you know what you put in it, and when you made it. After the six weeks, strain off the liquid (using a muslin bag or similar with a sieve to press the liquid out of the herbs is a good idea!), and store in a dark glass bottle (again, re-label this bottle stating that it is Agnus castus at 1:5 ratio, and date the bottle). Use as recommended (usually 1-3ml once daily, following breakfast). I hope this helps!

  2. Hi there, I have just bought some tincture and wanted to add it to green tea, rather than a cup of cold water, will the hot water effect it in anyway, I don’t want to take any goodness out of it.

    Thank you

    • Hello – This should be absolutely fine. Many people do this in order to remove some of the alcohol from the tincture base (although it will not remove all of the alcohol). You will still get the benefits of the tincture by adding it to your tea.

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