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Vitex

Vitex

Botanical Description & Habitat

Vitex agnus castus

Family
Verbenaceae

Common Names
Chaste tree
Chasteberry
Hemp tree
Monk's Pepper

Habitat
Mediterranean area, Central Asia

Medicinal Parts
Fruits

Historical Properties & Uses

Chaste tree has a reputation as an aphrodisiac dating back to the Greeks and Romans, maybe earlier. It has also been used as a febrifuge, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, galactagogue, tonic, vulnerary, and diuretic.

Vitex is making a comeback as a reliable herbal medicine. Extensive research in Europe has done much to explicate the mode of action of this plant, and to develop reliable preparations to be used for specific indications, most of which deal with hormonal imbalances in women.

Chaste Tree fruit has approval status by the German Commission E for irregular menstruation and PMS.

References:

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Method of Action

Vitex contains agnuside, acubin, and other iridoides, flavonoids, a little essential oil. But the active components have not yet been firmly identified.

Vitex Affects Hormonal Balances in the Body
Vitex works directly on the diencephalo-hypophyseal system, through the pituitary gland, or master gland of the body. Any substance affecting the pituitary will have definite hormonal effects on the body.

In this case, it causes an increase in the production and secretion of luteinizing hormone, and inhibits the release of follicle-stimulating hormone. This changes the estrogen/gestagen ratio in favor of the gestagens, and hence has a corpus luteum hormonal effect.

Vitex would be effective in re-establishing hormonal balance in such conditions as corpus luteum insufficiency (hyper or polymenorrhea), and premenstrual syndrome involving hyperfolliculinism. Prolactin is also enhanced.

It has been effectively used in cases of acne, premenstrual herpes on the lip, and premenstrual effusions in the knee joint. Premenstrual water retention was successfully treated as was secondary amenorrhea.

Vitex has also been shown to be an effective lactagogue. Women treated with vitex were able to breast feed better than untreated mothers.

Drug Interactions & Precautions

Known Interactions

Vitex, insofar as diuretic action, increases the renal excretion of sodium and chloride. It may potentiate the hyperglycemic and hyperuremic effects of glucose elevating agents.

Possible Interactions

The use of diuretics may require dosage adjustments of antidiabetic drugs.

References:

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

One of the nice things about vitex is its absence of side effects. It has been administered on a daily basis for periods exceeding one year without any toxic symptoms being manifest.

Chaste tree fruit has approval status by the German Commission E.

References:

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Preparation & Administration

Available in capsule form. For most conditions, use 2-4 capsules daily.

Tincture
Use 2-4ml

This herb has approval status by the German Commission E.

Recommended daily dosages in Germany are as follows:

Aqueous-alcohol extracts of the dried fruit equivalent to 30 - 40 mg of the herb.

References:

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Note: This Herbal Preparation information is a summary of data from books and articles by various authors. It is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals.

Abstracts

References

Amann, W: Removing an ostipation using Agnolyt. Ther. Gegenw. 1965, 104:1,263-1,265.

Amann, W: Improvement of acne vulgaris following therapy with agnus castus (Agnolyt). Therapie der Gegenwart, 106(1), 124-126, 1967.

Amann, W: Acne vulgaris and Agnus castus (Agnolyt). Z. Allgemeinmed. 1975, 51:35, 1,645-1,648.

Amann, W: Premenstrual water retention. Favorable effect of Agnus castus (Agnolyt) on premenstrual water retention. ZFA (Stuttgart), 55, 48-51, 1979.

Amann, W: Amenorrhea. Favorable effect of Agnus castus (Agnolyt) on amenorrhea. ZFA (Stuttgart), 58, 228-231, 1982.

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Brown, D: Vitex agnus-castus. Phyto Fact Sheet. Natural Product Rsearch Consultants.

Brown, D: Vitex agnus-castus clinical monograph. Q Rev. Nat. Med. Summer 1994:111-121.

Facts and Comparisons. The Lawrence Review of Natural Products. Feb, 1998.

Gomas, C.S. et al. (1978) Flavonoids and Iridoids from Vitex agnus castus. Planta Medica 33:277.

Haller, J. (1958) Animal experimentation with the Lipschutz technics on the activity of a phytohormone on gonadotropin function. Geburtschilfe Frauenheilkund. 18:1347.

Hansel, R. and Winde, E. Constituents of the Verbenacae 2 Agnuside, a new glycoside from Vitex agnus castus. L. Arzneimittel. Forschung. 1959, 9:180-190.

Jarry, H., Leonhardt, S., Gorkow, C., Wuttke, W In vitro prolactin but not LH and FSH release in inhibited by compounds in extracts of Agnus castus: Direct evidence for a dopaminergic principle by the dopamine receptor assay. Exp Clin Endocrin 102 (1994): 448-454.

Jedrzejak, J., Teucher, T, Schmitz, H. Vitex agnus-castus extract in the treatment of luteal phase defects due to latent hyperprolactinemia: results of a randomized placebo-controlled double-blind study. Arzneim-Forsch 43 (1993): 752-756.

Jochle, W. (1974) Menses-inducing Drugs: Their role in antique, medieval, and renaissance gynaecology and birth control. Contraception. 10:425.

Kustrak, D., Kuftinec, J., Blazevic, N. The composition of the essential oil of Vitex agnus-castus. Planta Med 58 (1992): 7 suppl. 1, A68 1.

Mowrey, Daniel B., Ph.D. Exper. Psych., Brigham Young University. Director of Nebo Institute of Herbal Sciences. Director of Behavior Change Agent Training Institute. Director of Research, Nova Corp.

Sliutz, G & Speiser, P: Agnus castus extracts inhibit prolactin secretion of rat pituitary cells. Horm. Metab. Res. 1993, 25:253-255.

Stewart, A. (1987) Gerard Agnus castus in Premenstrual Tension, available from Gerard House Ltd. Bournemouth, England.

Weiss, R.F. Herbal Medicine. Beaconsfield Publishers, LTD, Beaconsfield, England, 1988.

Wollenweber, E. and Mann, K. (1983) Flavonols from the fruits of Vitex agnus-castus. Planta Medica. 48:126-127.

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Vitex agnus castus

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