• The Fantastic Spices World
  • The Fantastic Spices World
  • The Fantastic Spices World
  • The Fantastic Spices World

CHASTE TREE ( Vitex agnus-castus L. )
Names in Other Languages:

English Hemptree, Agnus castus, Abraham’s balm
French Arbre au poivre, Gattilier, Poivre des moines
German Mönchspfeffer, Abrahamsstrauch, Keuschlamm
Spanish Agnocasto, Pepe di Venere
Italian Agnocasto, Pepe di Venere
Turkish Ayıt, Hayıt
Japanese イタリアニンジンボクItarianinjin-boku

FAMILY: Verbenaceae

ORIGIN:   : Mediterranean

GENERAL DESCRIPTION:

Chaste tree is a deciduous shrub with aromatic palmate leaves, divided into 5 or 6 pointed leaflets. Small lilac scented flowers are borne in summer, followed by red-black fruits which have medicinal and culinary uses.

USEFUL PARTS: Fruits

SENSORY PROPERTIES: Aromatic, but weak aroma; slightly pungent and bitter taste.

MAIN CONSTITUENTS:

The dried fruits contain only small amounts (0.5%) of essential oil, which is dominated by the monoterpene derivatives limonene, 1,8-cineol, bornyl acetate, α- and β-pinene and sabinene. The bitter-astringent taste is caused by flavonoids (castican, orientin and isovitexin) and iridoid glycosides (agnuside, aucubin). It contains iridoid glycosides (agnuside and aucubin), flavones and flavonoids (casticin, penduletin and chrysospenol-D), diterpenoids (vitexilactone and rotundifurane) and a low yield of essential oil containing 1,8-cineole, limonene and pinene.

MAIN USES IN FOOD PROCESSING:

Dried chaste tree berries have been used in small scale as a pepper substitute, but the taste is rather weak. They have some merit in spice mixtures for barbecued or fried meat. Chaste tree berries are used in spice mixtures from Morocco.



MEDICINAL PROPERTIES:

Chaste tree is a bittersweet, slightly astringent herb that regulates hormonal functions, promotes lactation and relieves pain and spasms.

The diterpenes have a dopaminergic action in the pituitary gland, which results in the inhibition of prolactin secretion. Studies support the effectiveness of this herb with gynecological problems, including premenstrual syndrome (PMS), dysmenorrhoea as well as corpus luteum deficiency.

The properties of chaste tree are; diaphoretic, antipyretic, regulatory and uterine tonic. Chaste tree is used in a tincture and herbal tea to relieve premenstrual syndrome symptoms, normalize menstrual flow, increase milk production in nursing mothers, and reduce levels of androgens (the male sex hormones), therefore supposedly reducing the male libido. The herb is however used to treat impotence and depression, as well as to increase milk production in nursing mothers. It is a slow-acting herb, and usually takes quite a few months to show any reaction, except in the case of lactation, which usually improves within a few weeks.

Safety precautions and warnings: Pregnant women should not use chaste tree. Some minor side effects have been reported when using chaste tree, such as itching, rash and stomach upset.

REFERENCES and SOURCES:

http://www.aidanbrooksspices.blogspot.com/2007/10/chaste-tree.html

http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/Vite_agn.html

http://www.ageless.co.za/herb-chaste-tree.htm

http://ezinearticles.com/?Chaste-Tree---Medicinal-Uses,-Interactions,-Side-Effects,-Dosage&id=459922

http://www.herbal-supplement-resource.com/chaste-tree-berry.html