Plant Family: 

Verbenaceae

 

Habitat & Cultivation: 

Vitex known to help the female reproductive system is Native to European, Mediterranean, and Central Asian countries.

It has been naturalized in the southeastern United States.

 

Vitex has been used for centuries, with wide support from both practitioners and the general public primarily for its use for gynecological complaints. However, Vitex has broad sweeping use in traditional folk medicine where it was used as a diuretic, digestive, antifungal, anti-anxiety, early birth, stomach aches, aphrodisiac, anti-oestrus cycle effect, analgesic, emmenagogue antispasmodic, aperitif, soporific (sedative) action, mastopathies (breast issues), inhibition of prolactin synthesis, and inhibitor for dopamin D2 and opiod. The cultural history around this plant is also fascinating. In Thesmophoria, an ancient religious greek festival held in honour of the goddess Demeter and her daughter Persephone, the plant was associated with chastity, so the women who remained “chaste” during the religious festival used the plant to adorn themselves as well as made their beds up with the leaves on them to help the remain chaste. And according to greek mythology, Hera, the sister and wife of Zeus, was born under a chaste tree. The plants association with chastity was adopted in some christian ritual and is still used today in some regions of Italy when nuns walk paths strewn with Chaste tree blossoms.

Vitex is understood to support menstrual irregularities because it is believed to…

  • stimulate the pituitary -

  • which, releases LH -

  • which, mildly inhibits FSH -

  • this shifts the estrogen/progesterone balance (to favor progesterone) -

  • thereby having a corpus luteum-like effect

 

More simply, there ends up being an improvement in the progesterone levels (due to the series of events listed above) which helps regulate the menses. Also, Vitex decreases prolactin.

 

Parts Used/Collection: 

Fruit and Berries

 

Herbal Actions: 

  • Inhibits prolactin

  • Dopaminergic agonist

  • Galactogogue

  • Indirectly progesteronic

  • Blood tonifying

  • Reduces imbalanced fluids.

 

Indications: 

  • Pre-menstrual sx and PMS

  • Luteal phase dysfunction

  • Fertility problems

  • Mastodynia/mastalgia

  • Hyperprolactinemia

  • Recurrent miscarriage

  • Insufficient lactation

  • Regulates menstrual cycle

  • Normalizes pituitary function (FSH and LH levels)

  • Menopausal hot flashes

  • Gynecologic concerns that worsen pre-menstrually

  • Acne

  • Estrogen sensitive endometriosis, fibroids, functional ovarian cysts

 

Contraindications: 

Contraindicated with known allergy to chamomile (Mills & Bone, 2005, p. 325).  Theoretical potential for interacting with warfarin because a constituent acts as a vitamin K antagonist (McKay & Blumberg, 2006).  When taken with iron-fortified products, iron absorption was reduced by 47%, which is less than black tea or coffee which is 79%-94% (American Herbal Products Association, 2013, p. 550).  Potential to increase CNS depression when combined with other sedative drugs and alcohol (McKay & Blumberg, 2006).

Avoid contact with eyes (Singh, Khanam, Misra, & Srivastava, 2011).

 

Plant Constituents: 

  • No-herb drug interactions have been reported.

  • Prudent to avoid use in conjunction with dopamine agonists and antagonists.

  • Case reports from herbalists have demonstrated that rarely, depressive sx can exacerbate in women with hx of depression that take chaste tree to treat menstrual irregularities- if it happens it is a reversible effect.

  • Generally a safe herb.

 

System Affinities:

  • Reproductive

  • Integumentary

  • Endocrine

Energetics: 

Pungent/spicy, sweet, cool, mobile (moves heat and congestion, as you state below), clearing

 

Safety: 

 

Safety class: 1

Contraindications: None known.

Precautions: “Chaste tree is not recommended for use with hormonal contraceptives.

Drug and supplement interactions: None known”

Adverse Events and Side Effects: “chaste tree is generally well tolerated and… any adverse

events reported were mild and transient.”

Pharmacological Considerations: “Human studies have indicated that chaste tree may inhibit prolactin secretion”, though traditionally, it has been used as a galactagogue.

(AHPA, 2013)

 

Dosage: 

 

Typically, the fruit/ berry is used from the Vitex plant (Riccio & Zollinger, 2019). Zahid, Rizwani, & Ishape (2016) recommended dosage for vitex includes: 30-40 mg of the fruit extract per day or 40 drops of tincture per day.

Personal Experience:

Used in a decoction, bitter and pungent flavors, not my favorite.

Research: 

  • Gardner, Z. & McGuffin, M. (2013). American herbal products association's botanical safety handbook (2nd ed.). Boca Raton: FL.

  • Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Healing Arts Press: Vermont.

  • Riccio, L. & Zollinger, R. (2019). Infertility lesson. Botanical Medicine for Midwifery Care 5. PDF.

  • Romm, A. (2009). Botanical medicine for women’s health. Churchill Livingston.

  • Zahid, H., Rizwani, G. H., & Ishaqe, S. (2016). Phytopharmacological review on Vitex agnus-castus: A potential medicinal plant. Chinese Herbal Medicines, 8(1):24-29. doi:10.1016/s1674-6384(16)60004-7

 

 

 

 

Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus)

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