Vitex agnus-castus has been used since ancient times as a female remedy. One of its properties was to reduce sexual desire and it is recorded that Roman wives whose husbands were abroad with the legions spread the aromatic leaves on their couches for this purpose. It became known as the chasteberry tree. During the Middle Ages, chasteberry's supposed effect on sexual desire led to it becoming a food spice at monasteries, where it was called "Monk's pepper" or "Cloister pepper."
Conversely, it also has a reputation as an aphrodisiac, with Greek philosopher and naturalist Plato describing its aphrodisiac effects, a seeming contradiction to the aforementioned anaphrodisiac qualities it was used for by the monks. It is thought that the Chasteberry is able to both dampen and heighten sexual desire because it is an adaptogen. This means it works to normalize hormone imbalance through its effect on the adrenal glands, in this case the pituitary - in other words, it restricts hormonal excesses.
Vitex agnus-castus can be used to treat the following:
- acne (associated with menstrual cycle)
- female infertility
- fibrocystic breast disease
- menorrhagia (heavy menstruation)
- menstrual difficulties (secondary amenorrhea)
- premenstrual syndrome
Female Reproductive System
Traditionally, it has been an important European remedy for controlling and regulating the female reproductive system. Long used to regularise monthly periods and treat amenorrhea and dysmenorrhea, it was used to help ease menopausal problems and aid the birth process. Hippocrates, Dioscorides, and Theophrastus mention the use of agnus castus for a wide variety of conditions, including haemorrhage following childbirth, and also to assist with the 'passing of afterbirth'. Decoctions of the fruit and plant were also used in sitz baths for diseases of the uterus.
Because of the intact herbal culture in Germany and other parts of Europe, agnus-castus has not lost its popularity. In fact it remains probably the most commonly used herb for regulating hormones and relieving menstrual difficulties and is considered to be the best herb for ailments such as fibroid cysts of the uterus and endometriosis.
Agnus castus has not been significantly investigated for its therapeutic effects. However, preliminary investigations do indeed show the presence of compounds which are able to adjust the production of female hormones. Studies have shown that extracts of agnus castus can stimulate the release of Leutenizing Hormone (LH) and inhibit the release of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). This suggests that the volatile oil has a progesterone-like effect. Its benefits stem from its actions upon the pituitary gland specifically on the production of luteinizing hormone. This increases progesterone production and helps regulate a woman's cycle. Agnus castus may also regulate prolactin secretion. The ability to decrease excessive prolactin levels may benefit infertile women.
Anxiety and PMS
A study conducted in London (double blind study) showed a 60% group reduction or elimination of PMS symptoms such as anxiety, nervous tension, insomnia, or mood changes, from subjects who were taking dried agnus castus capsules.
Employing an aqueous extract from the fruit, a 1979 study reported good results on premenstrual water retention. Women were able to sustain a good level of milk production for breastfeeding while taking this herb. While it took some time for the drug to take effect, the women were able to continue the use of the drug for months without harmful side effects.
With its emphasis on long-term balancing of a woman's hormonal system, Agnus Castus is not a fast-acting herb. For premenstrual syndrome or frequent or heavy periods, Agnus Castus can be used continuously for four to six months. Women with amenorrhea and infertility can remain on Agnus Castus for twelve to eighteen months, unless pregnancy occurs during treatment.
Side effects of using Agnus Castus are rare. Minor gastrointestinal upset and a mild skin rash with itching have been reported in less than 2% of the women monitored while taking Agnus Castus. It is not recommended for use during pregnancy.
How to use Cyprus Hobbit Wild Chaste Tree berries
Grind them into a powder. It can be encapsulated, added to smoothies or mixed with water and taken daily.
Or make a tea. Here is our favourite recipe of wild chaste tree berries.
Cyprus Hobbit’s Wild Chasteberry and Rose tea for two
Steep 1 tablespoon of Cyprus Hobbit’s wild Rosebuds and 1 teaspoon of whole chaste tree berries, crushed (use a grinder or pestle and mortar), for 10 minutes in 4 cups of hot water, add the sweetener of your choice and enjoy, hot or cold.
Most studies conducted have been done with Agnus Castus tincture. Recommended use up to 20 drops daily for at least 12 weeks.
Chaste tree is a slow acting herb, it usually takes several months to show benefit, except in cases of lactation, which often improve within a few weeks.
* The information contained here are for educational purposes only. The traditional uses of specific plants as recorded through history, are merely recounted here. Always seek advice from a medical practitioner. Cyprushobbit.com and its representatives will not be held responsible for the improper use of any plants or documentation provided. By use of the information contained herein you agree to hold harmless cyprushobbit.com and its representatives.