Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) got its name from the anti-aphrodisiac quality purported since its early use.
Monks used to chew the berries and leaves of this tree to reduce the urges of the flesh. This use is not scientifically proven, but it has deep roots traditionally.
Syrup of the berries was even given at convents to nuns to reduce the chances of succumbing to sexual desires.
This plant has been used for menstrual difficulties for over 2500 years, with its earliest uses documented during early Roman and Greek history.
The berries contain various alkaloids and flavonoids, as well as substances that are precursors of steroidal hormones.
Studies have indicated that the health properties of the herb are not due to only one substance in particular but to several compounds interacting together.
Studies have shown a reduction in breast tenderness and pressure, headaches, bloating and fatigue in women who took the herb regularly and over some time.
Vitex agnus-castus is often used in combination with other herbs depending on the ailment. It can be used with black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) or golden seal (Hydrastis canadensis) to treat PMS and menopause symptoms.
This herb has also been used to increase stimulation of breast milk production.
Chaste tree berries are used as an herbal treatment for infertility associated with mild corpus luteum insufficiency.
This plant may also be beneficial in combating breast cancer
Chaste tree berry has been shown to help balance the progesterone and estrogen levels. This is why it has been referred to as a “female” herb.
Based on traditional use, it may have a negative effect (anti-androgenic) on male hormones and could reduce the sex drive. Something most men are not very keen on.
The berries can be dried and used as a substitute for pepper. They are also used in various spice blends in the Middle East.
The aromatic leaves can be used as a seasoning. The plant is one of the ingredients in a legendary Moroccan spice blend called “ras el hanout”.
A perfume is made from the flowers. The young stems have been used to make baskets and a yellow plant dye can be obtained from the leaves, seeds, and roots.