Botanical Name: Vitex agnus-castus
Common name: Chaste berry, Abraham’s Balm, Monk’s Pepper
For over 2500 years chaste tree has been used for gynaecological conditions since the days of Hippocrates. Chaste tree has enjoyed high cult esteem since olden times. When the women of Athens took part in the 8-day Thesmophoria (a fertility festival honouring the goddess Demeter) they decorated themselves with the plant's flowers and placed its leaves on their beds to preserve their chastity. In Rome, vestal virgins carried twigs of chaste tree as a symbol of chastity. According to Greek mythology, Hera, sister and wife of Zeus, regarded as protectress of marriage, was born under a chaste tree. The shrub's ancient association with chastity led to later use of the fruits as an "an aphrodisiac," quieting the desires of the flesh, especially of celibate clergy.
In medieval cloisters, the fruit from the bush were used as a substitute for pepper as the German name ‘Monchspfeffer’ (Monk’s Pepper) implies in order to suppress carnal desire (an aphrodisiac), the monk’s scattered Agnus-castus chaff in their sleeping quarters. Novitiates entering a monastery walked on a path strewn with the blossoms of the tree, a ritual that continues to the present day in some regions of Italy.
The tough, hard branches are still used for wicker fences today.
Chaste tree is a 3 to 5 metre high bush or tree with four-edged, light brown, branches which in the initial stages are covered with a fine down. It forms small violet, blue, pink, or white flowers in dense, apical flower heads. The whole plant has a peppery aroma and flavour. It is interesting to note that the bush comes into flower and produces fruit just after midsummer when there is a shortage of nutrition.
The bush is found throughout the Mediterranean area and in Asia, as far as North West India. It thrives on the banks of rivers and in coastal areas, forming dense thickets.
With a rich traditional of use, modern research supports historical wisdom, and has made chaste tree fruit preparations a phyto-medicine of choice by European gynaecologists for treatment of various menstrual disorders, PMS, and other conditions.
Chaste tree has been used for the treatment of menstrual difficulties for at least 2,500 years. The Greek physician Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.) wrote, "If blood flows from the womb, let the woman drink dark wine in which the leaves of the chaste tree have been steeped.
"The trees furnish medicines that promote urine and menstruation," wrote Pliny, "They encourage abundant rich milk. . ."
In 1954, a clinical study on 1000 maternity patients, compared vitamin B1 and a chaste tree fruit preparation in stimulating milk production to a placebo. Chaste tree preparations came out on top.
It was found that chaste tree fruit preparations act on the pituitary gland to regulate the production of, and induce normalization of the ovarian hormones.
Chaste Berries with the proper management helps with menstrual disorders, PMS, treatment of infertility produced by mild corpus luteum insufficiency, and hot flashes at the initial stages of menopause, among other conditions.
It has also been called Indian-Spice, and Wild-Pepper, referring to the use of the fruits as a pepper substitute. The small round fruits (seeds) have a pungent scent and flavour reminiscent of black pepper.
PREGNANCY AND LACTATION:
Not recommended for use during pregnancy. No known restrictions during lactation. There is insufficient information regarding chaste tree’s influence on prolactin levels in lactating women to reliably predict the lactogenic response. Long-term use of chaste tree (more than two weeks) during lactation may lead to disruption of the lactation amenorrhea state and an early return to fertility.
All information on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. It is simply for educational purposes only. Always seek professional help and advise.