Chaste Tree

Botanical Name(s):

Vitex agnus-castus L. Family: Verbenaceae

Other Name(s):

chasteberry, cloister pepper, hemp tree, monk's pepper, vitex

General Description:

Vitex agnus-castus, or chaste tree, is a shrub that bears violet flowers and berries. The medicinal parts are the dried fruit and leaves. The plant is indigenous to the Mediterranean as far as western Asia, and now can be found in southeastern parts of North America.

Chaste tree contains iridoids, flavonoids, progestins and essential oils. The combination of its constituents helps regulate menstrual cycles, and alleviate menstrual pain. It may be effective in treating some endocrine abnormalities.

Medically Valid Uses:

Currently, there are no well-documented valid medical uses for chaste tree.

Unsubstantiated Claims:

Please note that this section reports on claims that have NOT yet been substantiated through scientific studies.

Chaste tree preparations have been used to treat irregularities of the menstrual cycle, painful menstrual cycles, premenstrual syndrome and menopause. Even though chaste tree berries may help stimulate progesterone (the female hormone dominant two weeks before menstruation), it also may have a normalizing effect for both estrogen and progesterone.

Chaste tree is claimed to be useful for treating mastodynia (painful breasts). In European herbalism and medical practice, Vitex extracts are also prescribed for uterine fibroid cysts and to promote the free flow of milk in new mothers. The herb has an extremely long history of use as a hormone-balancing remedy and as a remedy to help subdue excited libidos among those who wished to remain chaste.

Some people use chaste tree as an alterative (to gradually change a condition and restore normal function), antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and as a purgative (to cause evacuation of the intestinal contents by increasing peristalsis and producing watery stool). Chaste tree is also claimed to affect the endocrine system and hormone function due to its ability to promote flow of menstrual fluid, and to act as a tonic, invigorating and strengthening all systems, especially the uterus.

Chaste tree has also been used to reduce inflammation, weight gain and water retention associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and to help relieve female hormonal imbalances, depression, mood swings and cramps associated with PMS.

Dosing Format:

Chaste tree comes in the form of tinctures, capsules and liquid extracts. Follow packaging instructions for correct dose.

Side Effects, Toxicity and Interactions:

Chaste tree has no serious side effects. Mild side effects include nausea, gastrointestinal complaints, diarrhea and itchy rash.

Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should not use chaste tree. Researchers have yet to examine chaste tree's safety in children.

Individuals taking drugs classified as dopamine receptor antagonists should avoid the herb, since animal-study findings indicate that chaste tree berries may interfere with their metabolism.

Chaste tree berry may interfere with the actions of oral contraceptives, hormone replacement medicines and other endocrine therapies, and should not be taken simultaneously with them.

Additional Information:

Click here for a list of reputable Web sites with general information on nutrition.

References:

  1. Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C, eds. PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company; 1998.

  2. Blumenthal M, Gruenwald J, Hall T, Rister RS, eds. German Commission E Monographs. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council; 1997.

  3. Chaste Tree. Facts and Comparisons. St Louis, MO: Facts & Comparisons; 1991.

  4. The US Department of Agriculture publications

  5. Peirce A. The American Pharmaceutical Association: Practical Guide to Natural Medicines. New York, NY: Stonesong Press; 1999.

  6. Perry LM. Medicinal Plants of East and Southeast Asia. Cambridge; 1980.

  7. Cabot S. Smart Medicine for Menopause: Hormone replacement therapy and its natural alternatives. Garden City Park, New York: Avery Publishing Group; 1995.

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