Chaste Tree (Chasteberry)
Vitex agnus-castus L. Family: Verbenaceae
chasteberry, cloister pepper, hemp tree, monk's pepper, vitex
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 may help 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.
A few studies have suggested that chaste tree preparations are beneficial for premenstrual syndrome, but the studies were not well designed, so the results are not reliable.
There is also some evidence that chasteberry may help with some types of infertility and breast pain, but more studies are needed to confirm this.
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.
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 breastfeeding should not use chaste tree. Researchers have yet to examine chaste tree's safety in children.
Individuals taking drugs classified as dopamine receptor antagonists (such as some antipsychotics and drugs for Parkinson's disease) 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.
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