Chaste Tree

Scientific names: Vitex agnus-castus L.

Common names: Chaste tree, chasteberry, gattilier, vitex, Monk's pepper, agnus castus, Indian spice, lilac chaste tree, wild pepper, and sage tree hemp.

Efficacy rating:

ÒÒÒ...Positive clinical trials

Safety rating:

...Little exposure or very minor concerns.

What is Chaste Tree?

The chaste tree is a small (6 to 7 m) tree or shrub native to river banks in southern Europe and the Mediterranean region. The plant is cultivated in China. It blooms in summer, developing light purple flowers and palm-shaped leaves. The dark brown to black fruits are the size of peppercorns. These fruits have a pepperish aroma and flavor and are collected in autumn.

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What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

The dried, ripe fruit is used in traditional medicine. The plant has been recognized since antiquity and has been described in works by Hippocrates (AD 460), Dioscorides (AD 40), and Theophrastus (AD 372). In Homer's epic The Iliad, the plant was featured as a symbol of chastity, capable of warding off evil. Early physicians recognized its effect on the female reproductive system, suggesting its use in controlling bleeding and expelling the placenta after birth. Monks have chewed it to decrease sexual desire.

General uses

Chaste tree extract has been used to manage symptoms related to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and cyclic breast pain and may be a suitable alternative to standard drugs. Although the Complete German Commission E Monographs supports its use for PMS and cyclic breast pain, there are limited clinical trials to support these uses. Limited evidence exists for its use in menopause.

What is the recommended dosage?

Daily doses of chaste tree fruit extract are typically 20 to 40 mg.

How safe is it?

Contraindications

Patients who have an allergy to or are hypersensitive to V. agnus-castus or patients who are pregnant or breast-feeding should avoid use. Safe use in children has not been established.

Pregnancy/nursing

Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. However, chaste tree may have hormone stimulant effects and should be avoided in pregnancy and while breast-feeding.

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

Generally regarded as safe; mild and reversible adverse effects include GI reactions, itching, rash, headache, fatigue, acne, and menstrual disturbances.

Toxicities

Information is limited and safety has not been determined in children.

References

  1. Chaste Tree. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons [database online]. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health Inc; September 2011.

Copyright © 2009 Wolters Kluwer Health

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