The popularity of the Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) can be traced back to ancient Greece, where it was sacred to Hera (the goddess of women, marriage, family, and childbirth), Hestia (the virgin goddess of the hearth), Artemis (the goddess of the hunt, the wilderness, wild animals, the moon, and chastity), and Demeter (the goddess of the harvest and agriculture). This plant was named “Chaste” for a reason; since it was believed that it could calm sexual appetites and that monks in Middle Ages used it to reduce their sexual desire.
Apart from its religious significance, the Chaste tree has been recognized since ancient times as a medicinal plant for women. Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine and a Greek physician who lived 2,500 years ago, recommended it as treatment of menstrual difficulties. The use of this shrub to treat gynecological conditions are also noted in the works of Pliny (a Roman naturalist) and Dioscorides (a Greek botanist) who both lived in the 1st century A.D.
Whilst in reality, some beliefs about it are untrue and that it may increase libido in women which is contrary to its purpose hundreds of years ago, the Chaste tree is still a precious plant with powerful healing components and medicinal benefits. Some of these will be discussed later in this article.
Characteristics of the Chaste Plant
Aside from its scientific name, Vitex agnus-castus, the Chaste plant is also called chasteberry, monk’s pepper, vitex, Abraham’s balm, and lilac chaste tree. This aromatic shrub that bears pretty violet flowers and berries, which are about the size of a peppercorn, can grow up to 5 meters. It belongs in the verbena family and is a native of the Mediterranean region. It has compound, palmate, grayish – green leaves with 5-7 lance-shaped leaflets and flexible wood and branches that can be used in manufacturing baskets and furniture.
Chaste Modern Medicinal Value
The Chaste berry plant is composed of flavonoids (which have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-viral properties) as well as essentials oils such as limonene, cineol, pinene, and sabinene (which have potential effects in decreasing heart rate and hypertension). Ingesting it or drinking it as tea may provide one healing benefits which are listed below:
- It can be used as an aphrodisiac for women
Hundreds of years ago, chaste berry was used to help maintain chastity as monks believed that it could suppress sexual desire. Imagine the disappointment it would have caused them had they known that it has components which could increase sexual appetite to those who ingest it. This herb contains testosterone and androstenedione, which are believed to be crucial components for inducing libido. Because of its aphrodisiac properties, it may also help women achieve greater sexual pleasure.
- It can help treat menstrual problems
Even the Father of Medicine, Hippocrates, recommended the use of Chaste berry in treating gynecological problems. Modern Science can help back this up through many clinical studies which suggested that it reduced a variety of Premenstrual Syndrome symptoms which include constipation, edema, breast pain and tenderness, irritability, depression, and migraine headaches. This female-friendly herb also helps a woman’s body to produce more progesterone, the hormone which can help alleviate painful periods and hot flashes in women who are menopausing.
The ancient Greeks were commendable for associating the Chaste tree to Hera, the goddess of women and childbirth. Since the time of Hippocrates, thousands of women have benefited from its use. As previously mentioned, this herb is also a good source of antioxidants which can strengthen the immune system, protect the body from illnesses, fight oxidative stress, and delay the signs of aging. As modern life can be more stressful and demanding, a cup of Chaste tea can help us keep going.