Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus cactus)

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Traditional Indications

Chaste tree is an aphrodisiac, aphrodisias, diaphoretic, diuretic, febrifuge, galactogogue, fertility aid, ophthalmic, sedative, stomachic and treats women's complaints. Chaste tree has been used for thousands of years for its beneficial effect on the female hormonal system. Its primary function is to regulate hormone levels via the Hypothalamic Pituitary Ovarian /Gonadal (HPG) access. Traditionally, Vitex has a modulating ability. Vitex has the ability to increase or decreases hormones as necessary. This regulatory effect is known as being amphoteric. Increased levels of the hormone prolactin are often responsible for menstrual irregularities and premenstrual syndrome. Vitex is used to regulate the menstrual cycle, improving PMS symptoms of breast tenderness, mood swings, fluid retention and headache. Vitex is used to treat acne with a hormonal cause. As a hormonal regulator it is specific for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). For women who are trying to get pregnant, vitex balances oestrogen and progesterone levels thereby regulating ovulation and increasing chance of conception. The berries are considered a tonic herb for both the male and female reproductive systems. (1)

Pharmacognosy

Vitex agnus can be considered as an effective and well tolerated treatment for the relief of symptoms of mild and moderate PMS. (2)

A study concluded that Vitex agnus-castus fruit extract can improve serum levels of testosterone and progesterone in animal models of PCOS, however it cannot change oestrogen and DHEA levels significantly. (3)

A study looking at the effects of Vitex agnus castus extract and its interaction with dopaminergic system on LH and testosterone in male mice concludes that it appears that Vitex agnus castus extract exerts effects through dopaminergic system and other pathways. The findings of this study show we can use Vitex agnus castus extract for pathological cases of increasing LH and testosterone, suggesting that dopamine regulates the gonadotroph-leydig cells axis. (4)

A study investigating the possible opioidergic activity of Vitex agnus castus extract results suggest Vitex agnus castus extract may exert its therapeutic effects through binding to and activation of μ- and δ-, but not κ- opioid ie. MOR, DOR, but not KOR. (5)

Vitex is so effective at lowering prolactin levels care needs to be taken as it can mask a prolactinoma. (6)

1. PFAF. Vitex agnus-castus. 2019.
2. Zamani M, Neghab N, Torabian S. Therapeutic effect of Vitex agnus castus in patients with premenstrual syndrome. Acta medica Iranica. 2012;50(2):101-6.
3. Jelodar G, Askari K. Effect of Vitex agnus-castus fruits hydroalcoholic extract on sex hormones in rat with induced polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)2012.
4. Nasri S, Oryan S, Rohani AH, Amin GR. The effects of Vitex agnus castus extract and its interaction with dopaminergic system on LH and testosterone in male mice. Pakistan journal of biological sciences : PJBS. 2007;10(14):2300-7.
5. Webster DE, He Y, Chen S-N, Pauli GF, Farnsworth NR, Wang ZJ. Opioidergic mechanisms underlying the actions of Vitex agnus-castus L. Biochemical pharmacology. 2011;81(1):170-7.
6. Tamagno G, Burlacu MC, Daly AF, Beckers A. Vitex agnus castus might enrich the pharmacological armamentarium for medical treatment of prolactinoma. European journal of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology. 2007;135(1):139-40.