Vitex agnus-castus [ Plantae: Angiosperms: Eudicots: Asterids: Lamiales: Lamiaceae: Vitex: Vitex agnus-castus ]
Common Names: Vitex, Chaste Tree, Chasteberry, Hemp tree, Abraham’s Balm, Chaste Lamb-Tree, Safe Tree, monk, or Monk’s Pepper
Native of the Mediterranean region; woodlands of southern Europe and dry areas of western Asia.
The Chaste Tree is an sprawling deciduous aromatic tree or large shrub that grows height and equal width of 1-5 meters and is most notable for its aromatic flowers and leaves. Its palmately compound leaves and tender stem grow upwards of 10 cm with 5-7 fingerlike leaflets (similar in appearance to the leaves of a marijuana plant), blossoming into violet to blue to deep purple flowers and fruits on new wood in late spring and early summer that bear medicinal seeds.
Best cultivated in warm temperate and subtropical regions, native to woodlands and dry areas requiring full sun or partial shade with well-drained soil.
Is a popular fruit plant used to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development, and supports sustainable landscaping. Branches were used to make furniture.
The seeds are sometimes used as a seasoning, similar to black pepper.
The seeds of the Chaste Tree are medicinal and harvested by gently rubbing berries loose from the stem. Leaves ,flowers, and berries are consumed as decoctions, tinctures, teas, syrups, elixirs, or raw and help interact with hormonal circadian rhythms, as a tonic for male/female reproductive systems, and improve fertility. It is a carminative, a anxiolytic, a aphrodisiac, and an anaphrodisiac. Extracts have proven effective in managing premenstrual stress syndrome (PMS) and cyclical breast pain (mastalgia). Low doses it is used to suppress sexual desire by inhibiting activation of dopamine 2 receptors, but in higher doses the binding activity is sufficient to reduce the release of prolactin thereby influencing levels of follicle-stimulating hormones and estrogen in women and testosterone in men. It is also described in literature as a fertility-promoting herb used as such from Ancient Greek times to increase odds of conceiving a baby and to reat symptoms associated with hormonal imbalance, skin conditions, and PMS. Science has found confirmation with this to help stimulate and stabilize reproductive hormones involved in ovulation, cycle balance, and menstrual regularity. A hot decoction of the seeds are used as a contraceptive.
Believed to invoke chastity and celibacy, quieting desires of the flesh.
Folklore and History: Called Monk’s Pepper as it was once used by monks as a anti-libido medicine to remain chaste – which gave name to the Chaste Tree. It was believed in ancient times to be a anaphrodisiac though others claim it to be an aphrodisiac. The Chaste tree was associated with various Greek festivals – especially one held in honor of Demeter, the Greek Goddess of agriculture / fertility / marriage / and women who remained chaste during the festival who used tree blossoms to adorn the temples during the festivities. Roman virgins carried twigs of the tree as a symbol of their chastity. Hera, the Goddess protectress of marriage, was born under as chaste tree. Pliny claimed it “checks violent sexual desire”. Also said if one keeps a twig in their hand or in their girdle won’t suffer from chafing between the thighs.