Chaste Berry - Vitex agnus-castus, Verbenaceae
Names: Vitex, Chasteberry.
Collection: The very dark berries should be picked when ripe, which is between October and November. They may be dried in sun or shade.
Part Used : The fruit.
- Iridoid glycosides which include aucbin and agnoside
- Flavonoids including casticin, isovitexin and orientin
- Essential oil.
Actions: Uterine Tonic
Indications: Chasteberry has the effect of stimulating and normalizing pituitary gland functions, especially its progesterone function. It may be called an amphoteric remedy, as 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 usually 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, premenstrual 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.
Here are some quotes from an article on Vitex by Medical Botanist Christopher Hobbs: In 1930 Dr. Gerhard Madaus conducted some of the first scientific research on the plant and developed a patent medicine from an extract of dried fruits named Agnolyt. Almost all of the studies on Vitex have been done with this preparation. He found it to have a strong corpus-luteum effect, which increases progesterone. Scientists think that it regulates the pituitary gland, which detects increased estrogen levels and tells the ovaries to make less of it. Recent findings confirm that vitex helps restore a normal estrogen-to-progesterone balance. It can not only ease but, with time, actually cure premenstrual syndrome, which has been linked to abnormally high levels of estrogen, especially if symptoms tend to disappear when menstruation begins. Vitex can also help with irregular menstruation (especially if accompanied by endometriosis). In the late 1950s, in a study of 51 women who had heavy bleeding and excessively short menstrual cycles, 65% of those who took Agnolyt showed improvement. About 47% of the women were entirely cured (those over 20 years old seemed to have the highest cure rate) Vitex also helps resolve hormonally-related constipation.
Other problems that Vitex can help include fibroid cysts that occur in the smooth muscle tissue, or subserous areas. However, vitex is less likely to be helpful with submucous cysts. Because progesterone production decreases at menopause, vitex may help reduce some of the undesirable symptoms. Herbalist David Hoffmann reports that the most important use of Vitex in England is for treating menopause symptoms, and that this is the only female health situation in which he uses vitex by itself. For relieving symptoms such as hot flashes, he claims good results after 2 or 3 months of taking 2 ml of vitex a day. Several studies indicate vitex can help control acne in teenagers, both among young women and men.
Vitex can stabilize the cycle after withdrawal from progesterone birth control pills. For women who are trying to get pregnant, vitex may be helpful to help regulate the ovulatory cycle. It can safely be taken throughout the end of the third month of pregnancy, which may help prevent miscarriage, according to German research. After the third month it is still safe to take but is not recommended, because it may bring on the flow of milk too early. In one carefully controlled study with 100 nursing mothers, it was found that women who took vitex had an increased milk flow compared to women who took a placebo. Later research showed that the best way to stimulate milk production is to take Vitex the first ten days after birth.
Clinical research shows that vitex may start working to treat imbalances after about 10 days, but for full benefit it should be taken up to 6 months or longer. With PMS, a positive result may be felt by the second menstruation, but permanent improvement may take up to a year or longer. Vitex has no reports of even moderate side effects - for over 2,000 years.
Preparations & Dosage: Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1 teaspoonful of the ripe berries and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.
Tincture: take 1 ml of the tincture three times a day.