CHASTE TREE BERRY (Vitex agnus-castus)

Latin: Vitex agnus-castus

WHAT IT DOES: Chaste tree berry is bitter and pungent in taste and cooling in action.  It  helps regulate female hormones and relieves symptoms associated with PMS and menopause.  

RATING: yellow, due to limitations in usage

SAFETY ISSUES: Do not use when pregnant or nursing.  Use under professional guidance if taking hormones or birth control pills.  

• Tincture: 15-35 drops 2-3 times per day
• Dried berry: three to six grams three times per day

Chaste tree berry has risen in popularity over the past ten years because of its effect on the female hormone system.  It has the ability to increase progesterone production, inhibit FSH (Follicle-stimulating hormone or follitropin), and inhibit prolactin.  Research has shown these effects to be safe and non-toxic, and attributes them to dopamine receptor-site binding (Jarry et al., 1994).  FSH assists in follicle maturation in females, encouraging progesterone production.  Additionally, it increases the secretion of estradiol, one of the female estrogens.  Simply put, chaste tree berry helps increase both estrogen and progesterone, with a stronger effect on progesterone.  This explains its traditional use as a remedy for PMS, anxiety, menopausal symptoms, and breast pain (mastodynia). Herbalists also report anecdotally that it can help with infertility and ovarian cysts (based upon its progesterone effects), though no direct research has been done.

At our clinic we often use chaste tree berry to treat simple PMS symptoms before resorting to more complex formulas.  Although we usually use stronger herbs like lycium bark, red clover blossoms and soy extracts to treat hot flashes, sometimes adding chaste tree berry tincture can improve results.  Chaste tree berry may also be taken internally to aid in reducing acne breakouts related to hormonal changes from PMS.
There is a commercial German chaste tree product (Agnolyt) that is beneficial for amennorhea, PMS-related water retention, mouth ulceration, and severe constipation (Amann 1982; Amann 1979; Amann 1965; Hillebrand 1964).  However, for best results when treating amenorrhea it needs to be taken for up to a year.  According to herbalist Paul Bergner, elevated prolactin levels are often found in people with celiac disease.  Therefore, it may be wise to undergo a trial withdrawal of gluten before using chaste tree berry.

Research Highlights

• In a double-blind, placebo controlled of 100 patients, extract of chaste tree berry was found effective in the treatment of breast pain related to the menstrual cycle (Halaska et al., 1998).
• In a randomized controlled clinical trial involving 52 women with mentrual problems due to elevated production of prolactin, chaste tree berry capsules reduced prolactin levels significantly and restored the mentrual cycles to normal without side effects (Milewicz et al., 1993).
• In a series of animal studies, chaste tree berry extract proved as effective as a synthetic dopamine agonist (Lisuride) in inhibiting prolactin secretion (Silutz et al., 1993).