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Herb Information
Name: Vitex
Biological Name: Vitex negundo, Vitex agnus castus
Other Names: Five Leafed Chaste Tree, Chasteberry, Nirgundi, Sambhalu, vitex, Agnus-castus, chaste tree, monk’s pepper, cloister pepper

Indrani, Nirgandhi, Nochi


This plant is indigenous to the Mediterranean countries and Central Asia. It is also found in parts of India and in Burma. The dried fruit, which has a pepper-like aroma and flavor, is used in western herbalism.

Parts Used: Roots, root, flowers, leaves, bark
Active Compounds:  

Chasteberry has not been significantly investigated for its therapeutic effects. However, preliminary investigations do indeed show the presence of compounds which are able to adjust the production of female hormones.

It is thought to contain a progesterone-like compound The chemical constituents are the monoterpenes agnuside, eurostoside, and aucubin. Chasteberry also contains the flavonoids casticin, chryso-splenol and vitexin. 

Animal studies have shown that extracts of Agnus castus can stimulate the release of Leutenizing Hormone (LH) and inhibit the release of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). Another study found that extracts of Chasteberry can stimulate the release of Leutenizing Hormone (LH) and inhibit the release of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). This hormonal effect has been confirmed in another laboratory report which suggests that the volatile oil has a progesterone-like effect.

Thus, Vitex's benefits stem from its actions upon the pituitary gland—specifically on the production of luteinizing hormone. This increases progesterone production and helps regulate a woman’s cycle. Vitex also keeps prolactin secretion in check. The ability to decrease excessive prolactin levels may benefit infertile women


Chasteberry has been used since ancient times as a female remedy. One of its properties was to reduce sexual desire, and it is recorded that Roman wives whose husbands were abroad with the legions spread the aromatic leaves on their couches for this purpose. It became known as the chasteberry tree.

During the Middle Ages, Chasteberry's supposed effect on sexual desire led to it becoming a food spice at monasteries, where it was called "Monk's pepper" or "Cloister pepper."

In tradition, it was also known as an important European remedy for controlling and regulating the female reproductive system. Long used to regularize monthly periods and treat amenorrhea and dysmenorrhea, it also helped ease menopausal problems and aided the birth process.
Hippocrates, Dioscorides, and Theophrastus mention the use of vitex for a wide variety of conditions, including hemorrhage following childbirth, and also to assist with the “passing of afterbirth.” Decoctions of the fruit and plant were also used in sitz baths for diseases of the uterus.

Medicinal Applications


Leaves-anti-parasitical, alterative, aromatic, vermifuge, pain reliever.

Root-tonic, febrifuge, expectorant, diuretic.

Fruit-nervine, cephalic, emmanagogue.

Dried fruit-vermifuge

Vitex is useful for the treatment of:

Ear disorders
Fibrocystic Breast Disease
Heart Disease
Infertility (Female)
Liver disorders
Menorrhagia (Heavy Menstruation)
Menstrual Difficulties (Secondary Amenorrhea)
Premenstrual Syndrome
Skin diseases

A study conducted in London (double blind study) showed a 60% group reduction or elimination of PMS symptoms such as anxiety, nervous tension, insomnia, or mood changes, from subjects who were taking dried agnus castus capsules.

Employing an aqueous extract from the fruit, a 1979 study reported good results on premenstrual water retention. Women were able to sustain a good level of milk production for breast feeding while taking this herb. While it took some time for the drug to take effect, the women were able to continue the use of the drug for months without harmful side effects.

Leaves are insect repellents. It is also useful for rheumatic swellings. Root juice is said to increases the growth of hair. Decoction of leaves may improve eyesight.


Fruit powder-sugar/water or honey paste, decoction; powder, tincture, decoction, poultice

Many people take 40 drops (in a glass of water) of the concentrated liquid herbal extract in the morning. 

Vitex is also available in powdered form in tablets and capsules, again to be taken in the morning.

With its emphasis on long-term balancing of a woman’s hormonal system, vitex is not a fast-acting herb. For premenstrual syndrome or frequent or heavy periods, vitex can be used continuously for four to six months. Women with amenorrhea and infertility can remain on vitex for twelve to eighteen months, unless pregnancy occurs during treatment.


Side effects of using vitex are rare. Minor gastrointestinal upset and a mild skin rash with itching have been reported in less than 2% of the women monitored while taking vitex. Vitex is not recommended for use during pregnancy.

Use caution when taking any herb. Ayurvedic herbs are often taken in combination with others to neutralize the toxicity one herb with the opposing effect of other. Do not take except under the supervision of a qualified professional.

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