Updated 18 February 2013

Chaste tree

Otherwise known as "monk’s pepper", chaste tree produce was traditionally used by monks from 23-79 AD to sedate sexual passion, and in fact by many Greeks for the same purpose.


The scientific name Vitex agnus castus comes from the Greek agnus castus, meaning "chaste", the now common name for the Chaste Tree and one that suggests this plant’s interesting historical use.

Otherwise known as "monk’s pepper", chaste tree produce was traditionally used by monks from 23-79 AD to sedate sexual passion, and in fact by many Greeks for the same purpose. The chaste tree berries were dried and added to food for this purpose, and in later times Roman women whose husbands were away from home also sprinkled the dried berries in their homes to deter unwanted sexual desire.

The chaste tree is indigenous to Mediterranean countries and Central Asia, and is also found in India and Burma. It is a deciduous tree, or large shrub, growing 15 feet in height, with leaves dark green on the upside and silvery on the underside, grape- coloured flowers clustering around long elegant stems and dark purple berries.

In addition to its reputation for cooling the libido, chaste also has a longstanding reputation as a remedy for the female reproductive system, regulating the monthly cycle, treating amenorrhoea and dysmenorrhoea, easing menopausal problems and aiding the birth process, as documented by the likes of Hippocrates, Dioscorides and Theophrastus.

Aside from supporting the female body, chaste tree medicinal preparations have also been administered to relieve fever and headache, stimulate perspiration, dispel flatulence, treat diarrhoea and even repel insects. In recent years tinctures prepared from the fresh, ripe berries have also been used to relieve paralysis, pain in the limbs and weakness.

Parts used

Berries, roots, flowers, leaves, bark

Active compounds

  • Monoterpenes agnuside
  • Eurostoside
  • Volatile oil
  • Iridoid glycosides; aucibin and agnoside
  • Fixed oils
  • Aucubin
  • Flavonoids: casticin, chryso-splenol and vitexin

Medicinal Action


  • Anti-parasitical
  • Alterative
  • Aromatic
  • Vermifuge
  • Pain reliever


  • Febrifuge
  • Expectorant
  • Diuretic


  • Cephalic
  • Emmanagogue
  • Vermifuge


Medicinal use of chaste tree

Female conditions:

  • Dyspepsia
  • Endometriosis
  • Fibrocystic breast disease
  • Infertility
  • Menopause
  • Menstrual difficulties
  • Premenstrual syndrome 


  • Cholera
  • Colic
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dysmenorrhoea
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Haemorrhoids
  • Liver disorders
  • Nausea
  • Rheumatism
  • Skin diseases
  • Ulcers
  • Worms

How it works

The volatile oil in chaste tree herbal preparations has been shown to produce a progesterone-like effect by acting on the pituitary gland, stimulating the release of Leutenizing Hormone (LH) and inhibiting the release of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). The increased progesterone production helps to regulate the menstrual cycle.

Forms of chaste tree available in South Africa

  • Chaste tree berry powder
  • Chaste tree berries whole 


Follow directions on the product pack.


For cramps: black cohosh, cramp bark, valerian, wild yam
For anxiety: California poppy, lavender, valerian
For depression: St John’s wort
To support the liver: dandelion
Female tonic: dang qui


Chaste tree can be considered safe to use. Rare side effects that have been reported include minor gastrointestinal upset and mild skin rash.

Chaste tree is not recommended for use during pregnancy or breast-feeding.

- (updated by Birgit Ottermann, Health24, August 2010)


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