Chaste tree, an ancient remedy to restore harmony
A plant dear to those seeking a natural solution to regulate the balance of female hormones. Let's go to the roots to discover the benefits, history, and uses of the Monk’s pepper
Chaste tree: botanical anatomy
Chaste tree or chaste berry, vitex agnus castus, is a perennial wild plant belonging to the Verbenaceae family characterized by yellowish-gray bark and the bushy habit of a small tree or large shrub.
The leaves are opposite, with digitiform, gray-green lamina, and smell similar to sage. The flowers bloom between June and September and can be pink or rarely white, but the best-known variety is lavender-purple. The flowers are followed by small, slightly fleshy, spherical-round fruits or drupes that contain dark spherical seeds similar to black pepper.
Chaste tree: origin and habitat
Chaste tree is native to Europe and Central Asia, and today can be found throughout the Middle East and the Mediterranean region. It is a plant that grows and lives well along the coasts, often in the company of myrtle, oleander, and tamarisk.
It grows in temperate climates and is able to adapt to any soil, but its habitat of choice is the banks of rivers or streams leading to the sea or the surrounding dunes: wet places where it grows wild.
Chaste tree: properties and e benefits
Chaste tree is rich in flavonoids, alkaloids, and essential oils with relaxing and soothing properties, but what makes it so sought after in herbal medicine is its power to act in a rebalancing manner on the hormones that regulate a woman’s fertility cycle. In fact, chaste tree is suggested as a remedy to reduce both physical and emotional symptoms related to menstrual syndrome, including the various irregularities related to poor or excessive flow and to short or long duration.
In premenstrual syndrome, chasteberry helps relieve common symptoms such as headache, tension causing pain in the breasts or lower abdomen, acne-like manifestations, feelings of exhaustion, anxiety, and irritability. These are all properties for which we at Wilden have selected it as an essential ingredient in our organic herbal tea PreCycle, a dietary supplement that helps you experience your menstrual cycle more peacefully. Among its ingredients, along with chaste tree, you’ll also find lemon balms and ginger for a synergistic effect against cramps and stomach upset, but also to help with mood swings.
Agnocasto: how to use it
Chaste tree is also known as monk’s pepper because its leaves and berries, when ripe, have a scent and smell somewhere between peppery and resinous. However, having a flavor with a distinctly bitter finish, they are rarely used alone in cooking but are often found accompanied by other aromatic ingredients such as coriander and cumin to create more balanced blends. As in the case of Ras el Hanout, a mix of spices widely used throughout the Maghreb that, in addition to chaste tree, also includes nutmeg, cinnamon, mace, and aniseed.
In addition to herbal teas, chaste tree is also used in dietary supplements, but what will surprise you is that their flowers are also used to make perfume while a yellow natural dye can be made from their leaves, seeds, and roots.
Chaste tree: fun facts
- Its Latin name, vitex agnus castus, has several origins. It contains the word vitex, meaning woven, because its flexible but strong branches were used to create baskets or even defense structures such as palisades. Then there are agnus, meaning lamb, and castus meaning chaste, referring to a legendary anaphrodisiac property. Plinio the Elder in his Naturalis Historia writes that it was put on the beds of Athenian women to ensure their fidelity when their husbands went to war.
- The name monk’s pepper, on the other hand, comes from the Middle Ages and follows and traces this peculiarity. In fact, it is said chaste tree was grown in monks’ gardens to aid them in their vow of chastity.
- Traditionally, chaste tree was used in folk medicine not only to counter PMS disorders but also for all the classic symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, abdominal bloating, and water retention.
- Birgit Frohn, La medicina dei monasteri, Editrice Pisani, 2004
- Ida Salusso, Erbe consentite erbe proibite, Verde Libri edizioni, 2014
- Nuovo erbario figurato G. Negri, edizioni Hoepli, 2010