Vitex agnus-castus is a popular herbal supplement used to treat a variety of health problems.
It’s most commonly used against premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menstrual disorders, infertility, acne, menopause and nursing difficulties.
In Turkish medicine, it’s also used as a digestive, antifungal and an anti-anxiety aid.
Vitex agnus-castus is particularly known for its ability to improve conditions affecting a woman’s reproductive system.
One of Vitex agnus-castus’ most popular and well-researched attributes is its ability to reduce symptoms of PMS.
These include irritability, depressed mood, migraines and breast pain and tenderness.
Researchers believe that Vitex works by decreasing levels of the hormone prolactin. This helps rebalance your other hormones, including estrogen and progesterone — thus reducing PMS symptoms including constipation.
Vitex agnus-castus also appears to help reduce cyclic mastalgia, a type of breast pain linked to menstruation. Research suggests that it may be as effective as common drug treatment — but with far fewer side effects
Vitex, which is the name of the largest genus in the Verbenaceae plant family, includes 250 species worldwide.
Vitex agnus-castus is the most common Vitex used medicinally.
The Vitex agnus-castus fruit, also known as chasteberry or monk’s pepper, is about the size of a peppercorn. It’s produced by the chaste tree, which acquired its name because its fruit was likely used to decrease men’s libido during the Middle Ages
This fruit — as well as other parts of the plant — are typically used as an herbal remedy to treat a variety of ailments.
For instance, Vitex agnus-castus is used to treat PMS, symptoms of menopause, infertility issues and other conditions affecting a woman's reproductive system. In fact, it’s been used in this way since ancient Greece.
Vitex agnus-castus’ hormone-balancing effects may also help relieve symptoms of menopause.
Vitex may improve female fertility due to its possible effect on prolactin levels.
This may be especially true in women with luteal phase defect, or a shortened second half of the menstrual cycle. This disorder is linked to abnormally high prolactin levels and makes it difficult for women to become pregnant.
Vitex may also help keep a variety of insects at bay.
In one study, an extract made from Vitex seeds helped repel mosquitoes, flies, ticks and fleas for about six hours.
Another study revealed that a spray containing Vitex and other plant extracts protected against head lice for at least seven hours.
Research further shows that Vitex may kill lice larva and impede adult lice reproduction.
Compounds found in Vitex agnus-castus may combat certain types of cancer.
Test-tube studies demonstrate that Vitex extract helped kill cancerous colon, stomach, uterus, ovary, breast, cervix and lung cells.