Chaste Tree Berries
Chaste tree berries are often used as a female tonic. They benefit both the body and the mind through their balancing and normalizing properties, and they're often used for support during change-of-life periods.
Vitex agnus-castus L.
Botanical Family: Verbenaceae
Common name: chaste tree
Synonyms: monk’s pepper, chasteberry, Agnocasto (Spanish)
The Plant: Chaste tree is a large shrub or small tree, reaching 10 to 20 feet in height. A sun-loving native of southern Europe, it's not particularly cold-hardy, although it holds up well to drought. Grown as an ornamental in the southern United States, chaste tree occasionally escapes the garden and becomes naturalized.
Chaste tree berries are the fully ripe, dark red fruits harvested in the fall.
Constituents of Note: The most important compounds in chaste tree berries are the iridoid glycosides, aucbin and agnoside, and flavonoids, including casticin, to which extracts are often standardized. Chaste tree berries also contain an essential oil (0.5 to 2%) and around 5% fatty acids, primarily alpha-linolenic acid.
Quality: The hard, round-to-ovoid dried fruits are grey with a rough surface. Inside, they're red-black and contain four seeds. The flavor is strong, spicy, bitter, and peppery, with a spicy, somewhat pine-like aroma.
Minimal amounts of stem and unripe berries should be present. Occasionally chaste tree berries are adulterated with other species of Vitex
. Although similar in appearance, they can usually be identified by size and flavor of the fruits.
Regulatory Status: GRAS (Title 21 182.10 and 182.20) as a spice, natural flavoring and seasoning, and Dietary Supplement
Did you know? The names chaste tree and monk’s pepper come from a medieval European custom of monks seasoning their food with the ground berries in the belief it would help them to remain chaste
Directions: To make a tea, pour a cup of boiling water over one teaspoon of chaste tree berries and let steep, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain.
Suggested Uses: Chaste's benefits are normalizing and balancing. Chaste tree berries are primarily a tonic for the female reproductive system; they're often used for monthly discomforts and through change-of-life periods.
Studied for its various actions for over 50 years, chaste is especially popular in Germany, where many herbal preparations using chaste tree are available.
Caution/Safety: The Botanical Safety Handbook* classifies chaste tree fruit as:
Class 2b: Herbs not to be used during pregnancy.Class 2d: May counteract the effectiveness of birth control pills.Per the German Commission E Monograph
for chaste tree fruit, there are no known contraindications or drug interactions. Occasional occurrences of side effects of itching, urticarial exanthemas (rashes) were reported. *Michael McGuffin, ed., American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook
, (New York: CRC Press, 1997)**Mark Blumenthal, ed., The Complete German Commission E Monographs
, (Austin TX: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998
Origins: Most of the chaste grown for commercial use comes from Albania, Morocco and other Mediterranean region countries. Both our organic and natural chaste tree berries are grown in Albania.