Chaste tree is derived from the dried, ripened fruit of Vitex agnuscastus. It contains the two iridoid glycosides, agnuside and aucubin, as well as flavonoids, essential oils, and progestins. The berries exert a progesterogenic effect on women and an antiandrogenic effect on men. Progestin components include progesterone, testosterone, and androstenedione. Chaste tree is believed to act directly on the hypothalamic-pituitary axis. The herb is also contained in various multivitamin supplements for women and in combination products used to alleviate menopausal symptoms. By increasing the release of luteinizing hormone, which in turn increases progesterone production in the ovaries, chaste tree helps to regulate the menstrual cycle.
A component in chaste tree has been shown to bind to dopamine receptors, thereby inhibiting the release of prolactin. This is particularly useful in treating premenstrual breast pain associated with excess secretion of prolactin. It may also act as a diuretic to reduce water retention before menstruation. Chaste tree is available as capsules, elixir, liquid extract, tablets, tea, and tinctures, in products such as Vitex, Vitex Alfalfa Supreme, Vitex Extract, Vitex 40 Plus, and Vitex Vegicaps.
Benefits And Uses of Chaste Tree
Chaste tree fruit is used to treat menstrual irregularities such as amenorrhea or excessive menstrual bleeding, premenstrual complaints, menopausal symptoms, and fibroids. It’s also used to increase breast milk production and treat fibrocystic breast disease, infertility in women, and acne. Chaste tree has also been used to control libido, decrease appetite, reduce flatulence, and enhance sleep.
Capsules: 150 to 325 mg/capsule (standardized to contain 0.5% agnuside) taken by mouth one or two times a day .
Tinctures, liquid extracts: German Commission E recommends aqueousalcoholic extracts (50% to 70% alcohol) with 30 to 40 mg of the active herb.
Side Effects of Chaste
Adverse effects associated with the use of chaste tree include headaches, GI upset, Increased menstrual flow, itching, and urticaria.
Chaste tree may have an antagonisticeffect when used with antihypertensives; Using chaste tree in conjunction with beta blockers may cause hypertensive crisis . Chaste tree has a dopaminergic effect, and therefore may interact with dopaminergic anti-dopaminergic medications. Chaste tree may alter female hormones; for this reason, it shouldn’t be used in conjunction with hormone replacement therapy.
Men, pregnant patients, breastfeeding patients, adolescents, those with hypersensitivity to chaste tree or its components, those with active urticaria, those receiving hormone replacement therapy, and those taking oral contraceptives should avoid use.
Caution male patient against using this herb because of the antiandrogenic effects.
Oral use of chaste tree can cause rash, urticaria, and pruritus. If these symptoms occur, patient should discontinue use.
If patient is using chaste tree orally, monitor her for signs or symptoms of hypersensitivity, including shortness of breath and swelling of the tongue.
Chaste tree can be used for 4 to 6 months to treat premenstrual syndrome or to regulate the menstrual cycle.
Women with amenorrhea or infertility can use chaste tree for 12 to 18 months. . If patient is pregnant or breast-feeding, advise her not to use chaste tree.
If patient is taking an antihypertensive, especially a beta blocker, advise her not to use chaste tree because of the potential for hypertensive crisis.
Remind patient that the herb is not fast acting, therefore benefit may not be seen right away.
Advise patient to keep chaste tree away from children and pets.
Tell patient to remind prescriber and pharmacist of any herbal or dietary supplement that she’s taking when obtaining a new prescription.
Advise patient to consult with her health care provider before using an herbal preparation because a treatment with proven efficacy may be available.
The concepts behind the use of chaste tree and the claims made regarding its effects have not yet been validated scientifically.