Agnus-castus, chaste berry
Parts used and where grown: Vitex grows in the Mediterranean countries and Central Asia. The dried fruit, which has a pepper-like aroma and flavor, is used.
In what conditions might vitex be supportive?
Â¥ fibrocystic breast disease
Â¥menorrhagia (heavy menstruation)
Â¥menstrual difficulties (secondary amenorrhea)
Historical or traditional use: Hippocrates, Dioscorides, and Theophrastus mention the use of vitex for a wide variety of conditions, including hemorrhage 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. In addition, vitex was believed to suppress libido and inspire chastity, which explains one of its common names, chaste tree.
Active constituents: The whole fruit extract, which contains several different components, is thought to be medicinally active.
* 1 Vitex does not contain hormones; 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. Vitex also keeps prolactin secretion in check.
2 The ability to decrease excessive prolactin levels may benefit infertile women.
How much should I take? Many people take 40 drops (in a glass of water) of the concentrated liquid herbal extract in the morning. Vitex is also available in powdered form in tablets and capsules, again to be taken in the morning.
With its emphasis on long-term balancing of a woman’s hormonal system, vitex is not a fast-acting herb. For premenstrual syndrome or frequent or heavy periods, vitex can be used continuously for four to six months. Women with amenorrhea and infertility can remain on vitex for twelve to eighteen months, unless pregnancy occurs during treatment.
Are there any side effects or interactions? Side effects of using vitex 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 vitex. Vitex is not recommended for use during pregnancy.
1. Monograph Agni casti fructus (Chaste tree fruits). Bundesanzeiger, May 15, 1985 (no. 90), Dec 2, 1992 (no. 226).
2. Sliutz G, Speiser P, et al. Agnus castus extracts inhibit prolactin secretion of rat pituitary cells. Horm Metab Res 1993; 25:253-5. *These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.