Family Name: Lamiaceae
Chasteberry is a really interesting bush or small tree. Its leaves and flowers are covered with a really resinous substance which leaves its scent and oil on the hand with the slightest touch. I would not say that the scent is a pleasant one, more something you might expect from a decongestant rub or a muscle ache relieving cream. But, the vigorous bush produces flowers in great profusion and very resinous seeds follow shortly thereafter. These black pepper like seeds are a very old source of medicine and a very good medicine indeed. For women plagued with a troubled gynecological life, chasteberry has long been a god send. And, a cheap fix at that! The seeds are produced in such profusion this is not a rare or an exotic herbal medicine. But, if you have girlie problems, you need to review chasteberry as a potential solution.
For chasteberry to work, it must be used for at least three months! This is no quick fix, but, women who persist with it swear by it. It can be taken indefinitely, however, woman often taper off after several years use. Many times the body has gotten into the habit of balanced hormones and the balanced hormones are permanent. One dose should be taken every morning at the same time.
Chapter from “Backyard Medicine Chest”
Parts Used: Berries
Remember This: Hormone Stabilizer
Reasonable Uses: Irregular menstruation, PMS, painful periods, lack of menstruation, excessively frequent periods, excessive menstrual bleeding, hormone related skin conditions including acne, breast tenderness, excessive uterine cramping, menopausal symptoms(hot flashes, mood swings, forgetfulness, lack of libido), constipation or diarrhea associated with menstruation.
History and Traditional Uses
Ancient Athenian women used chasteberry to quell excessive sexual passion and sacrificed it to the goddess Ceres as a symbol of chastity. The medieval herbalist Gerard called chasteberry the perfect herb for celibates having a hard time sticking to their commitments.
Modern herbalists find that when hormone levels are out of balance, too high much or too low, chasteberry brings on a more balanced state of affairs.
Scientific Back Up
Chasteberry has been studied extensively and it appears to do what the ancients said it did, balance out hormone imbalances. Specifically, it influences the pituitary gland to stem secretion of the hormone prolactin. When prolactin is reduced, an irregular menstrual cycle usually normalizes.
Chasteberry is recommended for very heavy bleeding, spotting, severe hot flashes, and dizziness that often occur as you approach menopause. Researchers believe pituitary regulation is at the root of its effect in menopause.
Herbalists Use It To….
Stop Skin Acting Up Monthly
One of the gifts of having ovaries is fluctuating hormones that cause constant changes in the skin. Research shows that the small, grayish fruits of the chaste tree improve hormonally caused problems such as hormone related acne. Herbalists will tell you it helps women whose eczema or psoriasis worsens at the same time every month. This includes woman of all ages. Chasteberry is a specific remedy for women nearing menopause who find the acne they experienced in their teens returning.
End Cyclical Constipation/Loose Stools
Ever notice that you get loose stools or constipation around the time of menstruation? Hormone fluctuations can affect the bowels. Chasteberry works especially well at clearing up digestive upsets caused by fluctuating hormones. If your Irritable Bowel Syndrome flares up in a cyclical manner, think about chasteberry.
Hormones fluctuate in the span of a month and within a women’s reproductive life. The hormonal ups and downs are more pronounced in some woman than in others. This means the symptoms of hormone fluctuation, breast tenderness, water retention, and mood swings also very greatly. For those that suffer extreme hormonal ups and downs, Chasteberry will come to the rescue. It seems to mellow out the fluctuations and in time feelings become less erratic.
Moderate Manic Menopause Moma’s
As a woman enters the perimenopausal period, hormone balances can go high and low in an unpredictable manner. Hyperactivity can be followed by severe sluggishness. Chasteberry helps the body develop more of an even keel, even in the menopause!
Unhinge a Chastity Belt
Chasteberry can help those whose hormones run high and also those who run a low. Lack of sex drive can suggest low hormone levels. In women who seem to have lost their taste for sex, chasteberry can help bring hormones up to a sensible level.
Only buy products which clearly state they are made of chasteberry berries! Though standardised extracts have gained popularity, vitex seed and tinctures have worked for centuries and continue to work today. Do not buy products that contain other herbs.
Chasteberry may counteract the effectiveness of birth control pills.
If you experience bleeding between periods see you health care practitioner.
Angelica(Angelica sinensis), Black Cohosh(Cimicifuga racemose)
Chapter from Back Yard Medicine Chest
As you will have guessed chasteberry got its name in a different time and place! People that were alleged to be a little hot under the bonnet were cooled down by the use of chasteberry tea. Fear not, chasteberry will not render a person into a female eunuch. This does hint though of what chasteberry does for women, it balances the hormone system. Women that have no sexual desire and an overly abundant desire are likely to be suffering from hormone imbalances in one direction or the other. A woman may be perfectly happy with her imbalance and the manner in which it impacts her sex drive, unfortunately, physical symptoms tend to go along with these imbalances which may or may not be that bearable. Menstrual regulation is the gift chasteberry has to offer the modern woman.
I have nothing but respect for women and their ability to remain cool and collected during the course of a month. There is no doubt that hormones effect how we feel and women are on a hormonal roller coaster on a monthly basis. The gearing up for ovulation, the bodies incredible desire to conceive, its let down phase when it doesn’t occur, are all hormone operated activities. Tiny little amounts of chemicals produced by the body have drastic physiological consequences. Preparation for ovulation, ovulation itself, and the sloughing off of the lining of the uterus to name a few happenings are all caused by hormonal signals. If you looked at a chart of the change in hormonal levels in a woman’s body during the course of a month it would look like a roller coaster ride. The system was designed to work but in some cases the hormone levels get a little too high or a little too low and the end result is PMS. Some women are bothered by their cycles and others are not and this probably has to do with hormone levels. There does seem to be a genetic element to it, mothers with PMS tend to bear daughters that also have PMS. It is a hormonal affair and the only way to improve the situation is to balance the hormones out. The Western medical community seems to agree, they slap women with PMS on the birth control pill as a last ditch effort to get the hormones balanced out. Its works but it doesn’t come without side effects, increased cancer risks, infertility, and heart disease to mention a few.
The beauty of our next plant is that it works to balance the bodies hormone levels , but rather than adding hormones to the body, it somehow seems to encourage the body to balance itself out. Going back to our roller coaster analogy, taking hormone pills would be like loading the individual cars with cement bags to slow the roller coaster down. When you take chasteberry it would be like getting the guy with his hand on the accelerator not to turn it to a lower setting.
The chaste tree is a mediterranean native, a small deciduous shrub producing lovely grey down covered leaves . The plant blooms lavishly in early summer and a bounty of seeds result in the early fall. The seed is blackish and looks somewhat like peppercorns and in fact they have a somewhat peppery scent. Apparently the women of Athenian society strew them about their rooms during the sacred rites to ceres as a symbol of chastity. The plant gets its name from this association with chaste living and people trapped in temple life are said to have used the plant to subdue their hormone levels.
Most of the commentary we have today on chasteberries use in the past comes to us from European sources and our friend Gerard writing in the 16th century had something to say on the matter. “Agnus castus is a singular medicine and remedie for such as would willingly live chaste, for it withstandeth all uncleannesse, or desire to the flesh, consuming and drying up the seed of generation , in what fort forever it be taken, whether in pouder onely, or the dection frunke or whther the leaves e carried about the body, for which cause it was called castus, that is to say, chaste, cleane, and pure.”
Though it is somewhat doubtful that chasteberry would remove a woman’s desire to have sex, if a man took the herb we could be talking another story. The herb is considered to be highly estrogenic and the addition of this hormone would be antagonistic to the hormone causing male ranginess. It wouldn’t be nice to put your husband on it as an experiment – say when he was on his way to a convention. Women need be concerned – men should steer clear of it.
“The decoction of the here and seen is good against pain an inflammations about the matrix, if women be caused to sit and bath their privy parts therein; the seed drunke with pennyroyal bringeth down the menses , as it doth also doth in a fume. and in a pessiary, in a pultis is cuerth the headache, the phrenticke, and those that have the lethargie are woont to be bathed herewith, oile and vinegar being added thereto.”
Gerards comments that chasteberry is good for headaches, frantic feelings, or lethargy is the part the PMS sufferer is interested, all are common symptoms of the disorder. Modern herbalists have not found that chasteberry does much to the female libido it has been found to be very effective in leveling out the mood swings and extreme emotions that sometime attend the monthly cycle.
This herbs power to regulate the hormone cycle is pronounced and is said to be due to its ability to regulate the pituitary glands action. By normalizing the hormones that are produced all sorts of menstrual irregularities are treated rather effectively. Irregular menstruation, painful menstruation, premenstrual tension(PMS), menopause, and irregularities resulting from coming off the birth control pill are all sorted out with the use of chasteberry. It has been proven that chasteberry has the ability to balance the estrogen-progesterone levels necessary for what might be called average menstruation.
The really good news is that it has been shown that women that suffer from PMS have some sense of relief within a few weeks of using the herb, and a most definite improvement is found within the second menstrual cycle following starting on the herb. Herbalists have found that the improvement is best felt after a six month period of being on the herb. It is perfectly safe, non-toxic and has no recorded side effects so there is no problem being on the herb long term. Though there is improvement straight away, it will take time for the ultimate impacts to be felt. Herbal medicine doesn’t act immediately, but it acts substantially, and there is a difference.
The part we use is the ripe seeds which the plant produces in copious quantities. The berries are usually fully ripe in late October or November, depending on where you are growing them.
The seeds go from greenish to solidly black grey when ripe and they fall from the seed casks more readily when ripe. The seeds contain iridoid glycosides including aucbin and agnoside, flavanoids including casticin, isovitixin, orientin,, and essential oil. The essential oil is in such abundance the seed is quite aromatic. Harvesting the seed will result in the hands being deeply scented until they are washed!
Getting your supply:
1. Buy the seed from a health food store or herb shop.
2. Grow them yourself. The chasteberry tree is readily available at garden centers on account of it being so widely used in perennial gardens. If you have a perennial flower garden you may already have one out back. If you don’t, with a sunny location, you can have as much chasteberry as you could ever want. For one reason or the other American gardeners are inclined to cut chasteberry bushes, down to the ground along with the roses each year. If you are growing it for seed this is a major mistake, it will reduce the amount of flowers produced and subsequently the amount of seed. All you have to do is plant the chasteberry somewhere it can catch the sun and sit back and wait. The flowers will fade and towards the end of the summer the seed will develop and ripen. Pick them once they are a black color. Store them in a sealed container.