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A Brief History
A traditional woman's health tonic, chaste tree berries have been used since ancient times to normalize the female reproductive system. The dried ripe fruit was used as a medicinal herb in ancient Greece to cure common woman's ailments. Also called monk's pepper, chaste tree was used during the medieval era to help monks who had taken a vow of celibacy. Today the herb, also referred to as Vitex for its latin name (Vitex agnus-castus), is used as a botanical medicine for women experiencing irregular periods, PMS symptoms, menopause and even infertility.
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Active Compounds and Healing Benefits
In clinical testing, a majority of women taking an extract of chaste tree have had positive results when taking the herb over a period of three to six months, according to an article in Medscape Today by Dr. Mary L. Hardy, "Women's Health Series: Herbs of Special Interest to Women: Chaste Tree Berry." The active constituents, flavonoids, iridoid glycosides and volatile oils, affect the pituitary gland function, particularly impacting the release of progesterone. Essentially, what this plant does, is normalize. That is why it can both increase or decrease sexual desire; it has whatever effect is needed on the body to create balance.
The active phytochemicals bind to dopamine receptors of the pituitary gland lowering the secretion of prolactin, which is a hormone associated with some PMS symptoms, and stimulating the production of progesterone. For women's health, by increasing progesterone, chaste tree solves a number of problems all due to an insufficient amount of this hormone in relation to estrogen. Painful periods, the development of ovarian cysts, an irregular menstrual cycle, and infertility are all connected to an imbalance of the female sex hormones.
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This popular female botanical is a useful remedy for PMS symptoms, menopause, water retention and acne due to the menstrual cycle, heavy bleeding, irregular periods and infertility. Like most herbal remedies, it will not take effect over night or even within a few days. This plant is most effective when taken for a period of several months to a year.
Infuse one to two teaspoons of the dried berries in one cup of boiling water for about ten minutes. Remove the berries or strain. Drink this herbal tea up to three times a day. Chaste tree is an extremely bitter herb to drink as an herbal infusion. An herbal tincture is just as useful. Take a dropperful of the tincture in juice or water two times a day.
There are no known side effects of chaste tree berries, but it is still wise to consult with a health care practitioner, especially if on other medications, if your have a medical condition or if pregnant or nursing.Please read this disclaimer regarding the information contained within this article.
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Hoffmann, David. "The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal: A Safe and Practical Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies" (Element Books, 1996).
Hardy, Dr. Mary L. "Women's Health Series: Herbs of Special Interest to Women: Chaste Tree Berry." Medscape Today
photo credit: Andreanna