Chaste Tree Summary:

The chaste tree got its name from its traditional usage as a way of promoting chastity. It was popular among the monks, and roman soldiers to consume chaste berry, or leave behind for their wives to reduce libido.

Although undeniably libido dulling, chaste berry ironically has powerful actions on promoting successful reproduction. Its actions work on both men and women, but appears to have a preference towards the female reproductive system. It works mainly through a general improvement in the chemistry involved in producing and supporting gametes. 

It is also a useful treatment for PMS, menstrual irregularities, and insufficient lactation. It can be combined with aphrodisiac herbs to effectively reduce the libido killing side effects of this herb. 


Botanical Name

Vitex agnus-castus

Family

Verbenaceae

Part Used

Dried or fresh ripe berries

Herbal Actions:

[4-6]

  • Galactagogue
  • Female tonic

Specific Actions:

  • Prolactin inhibitor
  • Dopamine agonist
  • Progesteronergic (indirectly)
vitex agnus castus

Dosage

Liquid Extract (1:2)

1-2.5 mL/day

Tincture (1:5)

2.2 mL/day

Recommended Source

Indications:

[4-6]

Female disorders:

  • Mensruation disorders
  • Ammenorrheae
  • Metrorrhagia
  • Oligomenorrhoea
  • Polymenorrhoea
  • Latent hyperprolactinaemia
  • PMS (except type C)
  • Insufficient lactation (use small doses <150mg/day)
  • Infertility (due to decreased progesterone levels)
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Endometriosis
  • Follicular ovarian cysts
  • Breast cysts

Male Disorders

  • Erectile dysfunction

Autoimmune Disorders

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sjogrens syndrome
  • Juvenile arthritis
  • Reiters syndrome

Common Names:

  • Chaste tree
  • Monks pepper
  • Vitex
  • Gatillier (France)

Traditional Uses:

Chaste trees main usage medicinally was as a treatment for womans complaints. This still holds true today in western herbal medicine. [4-6, 11-13]. 

The eclectics used a tincture of the fresh berries as a galactagogue, and emmenagogue [4, 11-13].]. It is interesting to note that this traditional usage for promoting breast milk production somewhat contradicts the known activity of prolactin inhibition. 

the Spartans used chaste berry to treat impotence which also contradicts some of the other traditional uses as a means of decreasing libido. 

In France, this herb was used to relieve minor sleep disorders in adults and children [4]. 

The chaste tree was associated as a symbol of chastity and was used as a means of suppressing sexual excitability. [4, 6]. 

The dried fruits have a peppery taste, and were used as a substitute for pepper in monasteries. Partly for their flavour, but also as a means of reducing the sexual excitability of the monks who lived there in order to help with the abstinence that came with the role. 

Chaste tree has been mentioned by Hippocrates, Dioscorides, and Theophrastus as well. [4]. 


    Botanical Description:

    Still compiling research. 


    Habitat Ecology, and Distribution:

    Vitex is native to southern Europe, but can be found in cultivation worldwide. 

    It is a shrub that can be found growing between 3 and 5 meters high. 

    The leaves are dark green and radiate from a long hairy stalk.

    The fruit consists of small berries that are around 5mm in diameter, and contains four seeds [4]. 


    Harvesting Collection, and Preparation:

    Still compiling research. 


    Constituents:

    Chaste tree berries contain an essential oil (0.7%) consisting of monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes such as sabinene, cineole, beta-caryophyllene, and trans-beta-farnesene [4], as well as bornyl acetate, limonene, and pinene [2]. 

    The berries also contain flavonoids (methoxylated flavones such as casticin, eupatorin, and penduletin), iridoid glycosides (including aucubin, and agnuside), diterpenes (including rotundifuran, vitexilactone, vitetrifolin B and C, and viteagnusins A to I), and other constituents such as vitexlactam A, triterpenic acids, phenolic acids, and cleroda-7,14-dien-13-ol. [4]. 

    • The falvonoids offer estrogenergic effects [2]. 
    • The essential oils pinene, bornyl acetate, and limonene are antifungal, andtimicrobial, and insect repellant. [2]. 
    • The diterpenes are dopaminergic (in vitro) [1]. 
    • The glycosides have an indirect activity on hormones (in vitro) [1]. 

    Pharmacology and Medical Research:

     

    Female Specific Disorders

    • Enhances corpus luteal development (thus correcting progesterone deficiency) through dopaminergic activity on the anterior pituitary. [5].
    • It is suggested that for PMS, chaste tree should be taken for longer than 3 months. [6]. 
    • Dopaminergic action reduces elevated prolactin levels. [7, 8]. 
    • Chaste tree has been found to inhibit the release of FSH, and increase the release of LH [9, 10]. This leads to an increase in prolactin levels and a corresponding reduction in estrogen levels [9, 10]. 
    • Still compiling research, 

     

     

    Toxicity

    Chaste tree is not considered safe for use during pregnancy, but no restrictions are known during breastfeeding. [6].   

     

    Cautions:

    • Although chaste tree is suitable for long term use, any excessive changes in the menstrual cycle should be closely monitored and application ceased or reduced. [4, 5].
    • Some mild gastrointestinal discomfort has been reported at the therapeutic dose [4]. 
    • Chaste tree is often adulterated with other species of Vitex that are more widely used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine [4]. 
    • Avoid taking chaste tree with progesterone drugs, contraceptive pills, or hormone-replacement therapy [5]. 
    • Chaste tree may aggravate pure spasmodic dysmenorrheae that is not associated with PMS [5]. 
    • Chaste tree should be used cautiously during pregnancy, and only in the early stages. It is suggested for treating insufficient corpus luteal function [5]. 
    • Adverse effects can include: itching, rash, headaches, hair loss, fatigue, agitaion, tachycardia, nausea, increased menstrual flow (rare) and dry mouth [6]. 

    Traditional Chinese Medicine:

    still compiling research. 


    Synergy:

    Still compiling research. 


    Author: 

    Justin Cooke

    The Sunlight Experiment

    Updated: June 2017


    Recent Blog Posts:

    References:

    1. Wuttke W, Jarry H, Christoffel V, et al. Chaste tree {Vitex agnuS'Castus) - pharmacology and clinical indications. Phytomedicine 2003:10:348-357.
    2. Hoffman D. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press; 2003:62-120.
    3. Vitex agnus-castus. Monograph. (2009). Alternative Medicine Review : A Journal Of Clinical Therapeutic, 14(1), 67-71.
    4. Bone K, Mills S. (2013). Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy. Elsevier health. China.
    5. Bone, K. (2003). A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs: Herbal formulations for the individual patient. Edinburgh [u.a., MO: Churchill Livingstone.
    6. Blumenthal, M., Brinckmann, J., & Wollschlaeger, B. (2003). The ABC clinical guide to herbs. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council.
    7. Jarry, H., Leonhardt, S., & Wuttke, W. (1991). Gamma-aminobutyric acid neurons in the preoptic/anterior hypothalamic area synchronize the phasic activity of the gonadotropin-releasing hormone pulse generator in ovariectomized rats. Neuroendocrinology, 53(3), 261-267.
    8. Milewicz, A., Gejdel, E., Sworen, H., Sienkiewicz, K., Jedrzejak, J., Teucher, T., & Schmitz, H. (1993). [Vitex agnus castus extract in the treatment of luteal phase defects due to latent hyperprolactinemia. Results of a randomized placebo-controlled double-blind study]. Arzneimittel-forschung, 43(7), 752-756.
    9. Boon, H., & Smith, M. (1999). The botanical pharmacy: the pharmacology of 47 common herbs. Quarry press.
    10. Weiss, R. F., & Fintelmann, V. (2000). Herbal medicine 2 nd ed. Theme Publication, 251-91.
    11. Blumenthal M. The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs. New York, NY: "Thieme; 2003:61-72. 2.
    12. Weiss R. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Beaconsfield Publishers; 1988:317-318. 3. 
    13. Blumenthal M. The Complete German Commission F Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council; 1998