Herb: Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus; Verberu)
Other Names: Chaste Berries (6); Chasteberry (9) , Chaste-Tree (15)
Character/Energetics: acrid, spicy, warm (6)
Meridians/Organs/Body Parts affected: liver, spleen (6)
Part(s) used: Leaves and berries (2); the berries (6)
Identification & Harvesting: A 1-6 m. high bush or tree with quadrangular, grey, thickly hairy young branches. Leaves are deciduous, crossed-opposite, long-stemmed and palmate. They have 5-7 margined, up to 4″ long lanceolate leaflets. 3-4″, blue, occasionally pink flowers form terminal, branched, spike-like inflorescences. Fruit is 1/4″, reddish black, 4-seeded, almost surrounded by the calyx (flower cup). Indigenous to the Mediterranean as far as western Asia. (2)
The very dark berries should be picked when ripe, which is between October and November. (9)
Native to west Asia and southwestern Europe. Naturalized in southeastern US. Grown commercially in Europe. (61)
Active Constituents: Iridoide glycosides, particularly agnoside, aucubin; flavonoids incl. casticin, 3,6,7,4′-tetramethylether of 6-hydroxy-camphor oil; volatile oils incl. 1,8-cineol, limes, alpha-pinenes and beta-pinenes; fatty oils. (2)
essential oil, fatty oil, fIavonoid casticin, iridoglycoside agnuside and aucubin (6)
Iridoid glycosides which include aucbin and agnoside; flavonoids including casticin, isovitexin and orientin; essential oil (9)
No single active principle. (61)
Actions: Evidence that tinctures inhibit secretion of prolactin in vitro; that is, in relatively isolated circumstances, that could be disrupted in the body by the presence of other elements. In human biochemistry there is little information about the effects of lowering prolactin levels. (2)
emmenagogue, vulnerary (6); tonic for the reproductive organs (9); stimulates pituitary gland and hormone production. (15)
Conditions & Uses: Used for PMS, irregularities of the menses, mastodynia (2)
Vitex is a specific to counteract premenstrual syndrome. It also
stimulates progesterone production and regulates the menses. It is speciflcally useful (during) menopause and long-term taken internally for the treatment of ovarian cysts and non-cancerous breast lumps. The pulp of the berries is applied externally to relieve paralysis and limb weakness and pains. In aneient Greece and Rome, the temple priestesses used it to lessen sexual desire. (6)
Chasteberry has the effect of stimulating and normalizing pituitary gland functions, especially its progesterone function. It can produce apparently opposite effects though in truth it is simply normalizing. It has for instance a reputation as both an aphrodisiac and an anaphrodisiac! It will always enable what is appropriate to occur. The greatest use of Chasteberry lies in normalizing the activity of female sex hormones and it is thus indicated for dysmenorrhoea, pre-menstrual stress and other disorders related to hormone function. It is especially beneficial during menopausal changes. In a similar way it may be used to aid the body to regain a natural balance after the use of the birth control pill. (9)
For premenstrual syndrome: Acts on the pituitary gland to stimulate and normalize hormonal function.
For menopausal syndrome: Acts on the pituitary gland to stimulate and normalize hormonal function; can be helpful after hysterectomy. (15)
Traditionally used for menstrual difficulties for millennia. Recent research has focused on its use for PMS and dysmenorrhea. Reported to be 90% effective at relieving symptoms of PMS after treatments averaging 26 days. (61)
Combinations: For premenstrual syndrome: Acts on the pituitary gland to stimulate and normalize hormonal function. Use as a simple, but can be combined with other PMS strategies such as evening primrose oil and vitamin B supplements.
For menopausal syndrome: Use as a simple or combine 15 g powder with
5 g goldenseal powder in capsules to relieve hot flashes and other symptoms. (15)
Precautions: Contraindicated in pregnancy and lactation. Occasional rashes. Can weaken the effect of dopamine-receptor antagonistic drugs. (2)
High doses can cause a sensation of ants creeping over the skin (formication). (15)
Contains tyramine, which interacts with MAOI antidepressants to create serious side effects. (1)
Occasional transient gastrointestinal complaints, headaches, mild skin reactions. No serious side effects observed. Contraindicated in pregnancy or hormone replacement therapy. Rare side effects include early menses after delivery, itching, rashes, gastrointestinal symptoms, all in less than 2% of patients. (61)
Applications: Infusion: Pour a cup of boiling water onto 1 teaspoon of the ripe berries and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. Drink 3x daily.
Tincture: Take 1-2 ml of the tincture 3x daily. (9)
Tincture : For premenstrual syndrome, take 10 drops in water each morning in the second half of the cycle.
Tincture :For menopausal syndrome: Take 10 drops in water each morning, or take 400-500 mg powdered herb. (15)
Dosage: 3-6 grams (6)
Up to 2 g. capsules daily. Steep 1 tsp dried ground berries in a cup of hot water for 10-15 min. Tincture 15-40 drops; start low and build. (61)
(1) Cayuga Botanicals Research Data, “Herbs and antidepressant drugs can cross paths, with careful use” by Robert Rountree, MD, Herbs for Health, Sept/Oct ’99, p. 32, et al.
(2) PDR for Herbal Medicines (Medical Economics Co., 1998), p. 1222-23
(6) Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., pg. 282
(9) The Herbal Handbook by David Hoffman, pg. 147
(15) The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody, pgs. 166-67
(61) 101 Medicinal Herbs by Steven Foster, pgs. 204-05