Vitex / Vitex agnus-castus
Commonly referred to as chaste tree, chasteberry, or monk’s pepper, Vitex has a long use in history and has been widely used medicinally amongst European and North American herbalists. Native to southwestern Europe and western Asia, Vitex is a large shrub that can grow to the size of a small tree, and grows rapidly and abundantly around Central Texas. In spring, it’s a pollinator’s delight with long spikes of purple flowers that turn into fragrant clusters of seeds or “berries” toward the end of summer. The seeds are used in herbal medicine today, but historically the leaves have also been used in medicine and the branches as an alternative to Willow in basketry or for weaving fences. In fact, the name, Vitex, is derived from a latin word meaning “wicker work.”
There were many ancient celebrations around fertility in Ancient Greece and Rome, where young women would carry the branches of Vitex to symbolize their chastity. Eventually it made its way into Christian ritual, and the seeds were given to monks to curb their desire, hence the name monk’s pepper.
Vitex use in herbal medicine dates back to Hippocrates’ time (over 2,500 years ago) for the treatment of hormone imbalances and other gynecological conditions, which it is still used for today. One of the most therapeutic uses of Vitex comes from its ability to normalize female sex hormones, and relieve the symptoms of high estrogen and low progesterone, making it a first choice in helping with PMS symptoms. Multiple clinical studies have proven its efficacy in reducing PMS symptoms when taken over 3-6 months, and Vitex has even become the treatment of choice amongst German gynecologists over prescription medications.
Vitex can also be effective in cases of irregular menstruation, symptoms of endometriosis, regulating ovulation, infertility, and can even help stimulate milk flow in nursing mothers.
Vitex’s use doesn’t stop at women though! Vitex is great in both men and women in all stages of life dealing with hormonal issues, and can be part of formulas for prostate health. For teens, it can be effective in hormonal acne, and can also help with the roller coaster of emotions during puberty.
All Peoples Rx locations carry Vitex in some form. From the single herb in capsules by Gaia, or Medi Herb, to standardized extracts by Integrative Therapeutics. We also carry a tincture made by one of our favorite local Austin herbalists, EZ Herbs. A personal favorite of mine is Gaia’s Vitex Elixir which is a blend of other hormone and liver-supporting herbs. Come on in and chat with a wellness specialist about Vitex!
Laurène Elliott-Deyris is an Herbalist and Wellness Specialist at Peoples Rx. She received her training at The Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine in Austin and is furthering her clinical studies with the Eclectic School of Herbal Medicine program out of North Carolina.
Photo provided by Laurène Elliott-Deyris
**This article is not intended to be medical advice. Please consult your healthcare practitioner before use.**
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