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Vitex: Your Natural Ally for Hormone Balancing and Reproductive Wellness

A beautiful and unique herb that connects us more to our cyclical natures, Vitex (also known as Chaste Tree berry) is an incredible hormone modulator and mood supporter. Known most for regulating a wide variety of conditions associated with the female reproductive tract, Vitex can also be used to reduce heat and normalize energy throughout the body.


A butterfly landing on blooming Vitex plant

Vitex Key Information

  • Common Name: Chaste Tree Berry

  • Latin Name: Vitex agnus-castus 

  • Plant Family: Lamiaceae (Mint Family)

  • General Characteristics: Aromatic and deciduous tree that can grow up to 20 feet tall. Has palm-shaped leaves and small, lilac flowers characteristic of the Mint plant family.

  • Harvesting Info: Harvest berries in fall when dark and ripe, then dry before use.

  • Precautions/Safety: Contraindicated in general during pregnancy. May counteract the effectiveness of birth control and other hormone therapies. 

  • Correspondences: Vitex is connected to Ceres/Demeter, the great Grain Goddess and Earth mother who reminds us of our cyclical nature and allows agriculture to grow. This post will dive into the herbal virtues of Vitex. If you'd like to learn more about the astrological/magical correspondences of Ceres and Vitex, please check out Alicia Cielle's posts on Underworld Journeying and Herbalism with Ceres Mythology and Connecting with the Goddess and our Cyclical Natures.


Chaste Tree Herbal Actions:

  • Emmenagogue

  • Galactagogue

  • Impacts hormones

  • Progesterogenic

  • Tonic

  • Vulnerary


Ways to Work with Vitex:

Chaste Tree berries may be best known for the ways they influence hormones in the body, being particularly effective for conditions in which there is an excess of estrogen and a lack of progesterone. However, Vitex has a general hormone-balancing effect and will help to gently and slowly bring the body into balance.


Slowly is the key here - most people need to take Vitex for a month, if not several months, before experiencing a tangible benefits from this herb. 

Blooming Chaste Tree, or Vitex

This herb encourages better hormone modulation by raising progesterone levels. Dr. Sharol Tilgner notes that Vitex binds to estrogen receptors in the body to create an antiestrogenic action. This stimulates activity in the body’s progesterone receptors and also increases luteinizing hormone production, making this herb a great support for encouraging the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle.


In Artemisia Academy's Herbs for the Body class, we talk about all the body systems and the various ways that herbs and lifestyle practices can encourage overall health. Since completing the Herbal Apprentice Program, I have started to track my own menstrual cycle which has really increased my body awareness. Knowing whether I'm in my follicular or luteal phase and what that means for my energy, vitality, physical needs and wellbeing has been transformative.


Chaste Tree berry can be useful for menstrual irregularities, menopausal changes, infertility, PMS, cramping and breast tenderness. This herb can also be particularly helpful for folks seeking to balance their cycles as they transition off of birth control. In general, this herb is an incredible regulator for the female productive tract. 


Vitex is particularly indicated for PMS accompanied by anger, moodiness, bloating, headaches and breast tenderness. When taken 3-5 days before menses, it can lessen and even negate cramping. This herb is also specific for hot flashes caused by menopause.


Chaste Tree berry lowers prolactin levels in the body to reduce breast pain. It also increases breast milk production and was used in Medieval Europe for this very purpose.


Many herbs can have opposite impacts on the body depending on dosage and the individual. Vitex has a reputation for both increasing and lowering sex drive. It was used in Medieval Europe to decrease sex drive and was even chewed by monks to reduce unwanted libido (I mean, it is called Chaste Tree...).


However, Matthew Wood notes that many clinical herbalists have seen this herb act as an aphrodisiac to increase sex drive, indicating how this herb can help to balance reproductive and sexual function in a variety of cases depending on the individual.


Blooming Chaste Tree, or Vitex

The hormonal impacts of Vitex don’t stop with the reproductive system - this herb also has a notable impact on the HPA (Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal) axis and normalizes pituitary gland function. It has been shown to increase levels of dopamine and melatonin in the brain and inhibit the release of follicle stimulating hormone.


With all this hormonal action, it’s no surprise that many herbalists work with Chaste Tree berry for emotional and spiritual reasons. Margi Flint notes that this herb is good for people “caught between the material and spiritual worlds” who are striving for spirit but not quite there yet.


This is a plant that is particularly helpful for folks who experience paranoia and feel like the world is out to get them. It also helps with nervousness and hyperactivity. Patricia Huenecke has used it successfully with several children with ADHD and she notes that it is effective in part because it controls heat and normalizes energy through the pituitary


While Vitex is an incredible herb that I myself have been taking for several months as I transition off of taking birth control for the past 13 years, it is not always necessary to go straight to hormone-modulating herbs when dealing with many of the health concerns listed above.


When I was an intern at the Herb Pharm, one of our teachers shared that she prefers to focus on nourishing the body and working with liver herbs before recommending herbs that have such an impactful relationship with the body’s hormones.


The liver plays a major role in processing hormones and regulating our moods and giving it a boost in the detoxification process can have very beneficial results. Some liver herbs to consider working with are Dandelion, St. John’s Wort, Schisandra, Burdock and Milk Thistle. 


Medicine Making with Vitex:

Because Chaste Tree berry works best when taken consistently over an extended period of time, tincturing this herb is a great way to make it into easily accessible medicine.


In Artemisia Academy's Beginner Medicine Making class that's part of the Herbal Apprentice Program, we learn a simple way to make tinctures.


Here's the recipe for a folk tincture:

  1. Fill quart jar no more than 3/4 full with herbs (Richo Cech recommends crushing/milling Vitex berries to a course powder before macerating).

  2. Cover with any 40% alcohol until liquid covers herbs by at least 1 inch

  3. Seal jar, shake and press herbs back down if necessary

  4. Shake jar daily

  5. After 2 weeks to 1 month, strain tincture and pour into bottles


Herbal Apprentice Program Description

Herbal Apprentice Program

If you want to learn more incredible herbal remedies and the magic of plants, Artemisia Academy's Herbal Apprentice Program may be perfect for you. This 150-hour program is hands-on, interactive, and will give you the skills and knowledge you need to form deep and healing relationships with the herbal allies all around us.

 

Sources Used


About the Author

A headshot of the author, Alicia Cielle Heiser

Alicia Cielle Heiser is an Astrologer, Herbalist and student at Artemisia Academy. Her work centers on facilitating a greater understanding of the cyclical nature of the world and the ways that we as humans fit within the greater whole. She is writing a series of materia medica blog posts for Artemisia to make the wisdom and knowledge of herbal medicine more available to more people. Alicia also has a podcast called Conversations with the Planets and she offers herbal astrology readings and crafts personalized herbal tea blends. You can find her at www.aliciacielle.com. 


 

Disclaimer: Information presented on this webpage is for educational purposes only, and does not include the diagnosis and treatment of disease nor replace the advice of a licensed physician. Please refer to a licensed health professional for any illness or persistent symptoms before using herbal remedies.


Herbs can sometimes cause discomfort or side effects, and may interact adversely with pharmaceutical medications. Do not use herbs internally without the approval of a doctor or medical professional if you are currently on medications or have a history of medical conditions.

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