First used more than 2,000 years ago by ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians, the chaste tree plant is known for its potential to help alleviate symptoms associated with certain reproductive health conditions. (14) Today, researchers continue to investigate various chaste tree benefits including addressing symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menopause, and infertility. (4) Keep reading to learn more about chaste tree benefits and how this shrub can support certain reproductive health conditions.
What is chaste tree?
Also referred to by its Latin name Vitex agnus-castus, chaste tree is a shrub native to Asia and the Mediterranean region. The chaste tree plant grows violet colored berries that in herbal medicine have traditionally been used to treat certain health conditions related to hormonal imbalances. (3)(4)
Common names for chaste tree include:
- Chaste tree berry
- Monk’s pepper
- Vitex agnus-castus
- Vitex (3)
Did you know? Vitex is the largest genus (category) in the Verbenaceae family of plants which includes 250 different species. (13)
Chaste tree contains the following compounds which are responsible for its health-promoting benefits:
- Essential oils (concentrated plant oil)
- Flavonoids (plant pigments and antioxidants)
- Iridoids (aromatic compounds)
- Progestins (hormone-like constituents affecting progesterone) (3)
Chaste tree can be consumed as a dietary supplement and is available in the following forms:
- Liquid extracts (e.g., tea)
- Tinctures (4)
Always speak with your healthcare provider before taking chaste tree as a dietary supplement.
How does chaste tree work?
Chaste tree affects the hypothalamic-pituitary axis (HPA axis). The HPA axis includes the interaction of different glands that help regulate various bodily functions through the release of hormones. These glands include the hypothalamus (located in the brain), pituitary gland (located at the base of the brain), and adrenal glands (located on top of the kidneys). (11)
Some studies suggest that chaste tree increases the release of luteinizing hormone (LH) from the pituitary gland, increasing progesterone. LH helps regulate the function of the ovaries. Other studies suggest that chaste tree lowers prolactin levels, a hormone that also affects the menstrual cycle. Others hypothesize that chaste tree has an effect on certain neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) such as dopamine and endogenous opioids, affecting hormones such as progesterone. (20)
Low progesterone levels may be associated with PMS, irregular menstrual cycles, and fertility issues. Elevated prolactin levels may be associated with irregular menstrual cycles and fertility issues. (2)(12)(17)
Chaste tree benefits
Vitex agnus-castus has been used for thousands of years to address a variety of ailments related to women’s health. Today, researchers continue to study the validity and scientific evidence of these health claims. Research suggests that chaste berry tree may be beneficial for addressing symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menopause, and infertility. (4)
1. Premenstrual syndrome
Chaste tree berry may be helpful for alleviating certain symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome. (2)(12) PMS is a combination of physical and emotional symptoms that typically occur after ovulation and before the menstrual period as a result of changes in hormone levels. Approximately three in four menstruating people experience PMS at some point in their lives.
One study compared the efficacy of chaste tree berry tablets (dry extract) with a placebo in 170 women with PMS. Using a visual analogue scale, women self assessed their PMS symptoms before, during, and after the study was completed. Compared to the placebo group, the chaste tree berry group had greater improvements in their symptom scores on mood changes, irritability, headache, anger, and breast tenderness. These results suggest that chaste berry tablets are well tolerated and may be effective in the treatment of PMS. (16)
Another similar study assessed the efficacy of chaste tree extract in 67 women with moderate to severe PMS. Using a daily rating scale and the premenstrual syndrome diary (PMSD), women documented the severity of specific symptoms (i.e., water retention, negative mood, pain, and food cravings) before and after the study. Women were randomly assigned to one of two groups; half the participants received a placebo, while the other half received chaste tree during the study period, which lasted three menstrual cycles. Results demonstrated that all four symptom scores were reduced significantly in the chaste tree group compared to the placebo group, suggesting that chaste tree extract tablets may be effective in treating certain symptoms of PMS. (8)
2. Menopausal symptoms
Chaste tree may be helpful for alleviating certain symptoms associated with peri-menopause and menopause. (7)
Perimenopause, which can last two to eight years and usually begins during a menstruating person’s late forties, refers to the transition to menopause and a person’s last menstrual cycle. Menopause, however, occurs one year after a person experiences their last menstrual cycle. (9)
During perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause, an individual’s body produces less of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Once the person reaches menopause, they are no longer able to become pregnant. During perimenopause, or when a person is menopausal, symptoms such as hot flashes or touble sleeping may occur. (9)
Other peri-menopausal and menopausal symptoms may include:
- Changes in libido (sexual desire)
- Depression and anxiety
- Irregular periods or bleeding
- Memory problems
- Urinary problems (e.g., infection, urinary incontinence)
- Vaginal problems (e.g., infection, vaginal dryness) (10)
Several studies that have examined the benefits of chaste tree in reducing menopausal symptoms involve more than one herb or an herbal complex combining several herbs instead of chaste tree on its own.
In a study of 50 pre- and post-menopausal women aged 44 to 65, researchers examined whether an herbal formula of black cohosh, dong quai, milk thistle, red clover, American ginseng, and chaste tree berry was safe and effective for relieving menopausal symptoms. Women recorded their symptoms for three months. Participants who received the herbal formula reported a significant reduction in menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, and sleep trouble compared to the placebo. These results suggest that the formula may be safe and effective for relieving certain menopausal symptoms in pre- and post-menopausal women afterthree months. (15)
However, another study that examined the effectiveness of a combination of St. John’s wort and chaste tree berry compared to a placebo in 100 perimenopausal and post-menopausal women experiencing related symptoms did not observe any significant differences between the two groups. (18)
Chaste tree berry may be helpful for improving fertility in people who experience a shorter than normal second half of their menstrual cycle (the luteal phase). Sometimes referred to as luteal phase defect, people who experience this shortened luteal phase may also have abnormally high levels of prolactin, a hormone produced by the pituitary gland. Elevated levels of prolactin have been associated with infertility in menstruating people, and chaste tree may help reduce prolactin levels and balance hormones such as progesterone and estrogen, improving fertility. (14)(19)
One study examined the effects of an herbal combination on progesterone levels, basal body temperature, menstrual cycle length, and pregnancy rates in 93 women who had tried unsuccessfully to conceive for six to 36 months compared to a placebo. The herbal combination included chaste tree berry, green tea, L-arginine, and certain vitamins and minerals. Results demonstrated that after three months, women in the herbal combination group experienced more balanced hormones compared to the placebo group. After three months, 26% of women in the herbal group became pregnant, compared to 10% in the placebo group. These results suggest that herbal supplements that include chaste tree may provide fertility support. (21)
Did you know? According to animal and clinical studies, chaste tree may have a positive effect on individuals with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), an endocrine disorder that involves menstrual irregularity, excess androgen (hyperandrogenism), and/or polycystic ovaries. (1)(5)(6)
Chaste tree side effects
When used safely according to the instructions of your healthcare provider, chaste tree berry is well tolerated and has no serious side effects. (4) Some may experience mild side effects after taking chaste tree such as:
Chaste tree may interact with certain medications such as:
The bottom line
Chaste tree berries are used to manufacture different chaste tree products including nutritional supplements, herbal tinctures, and liquid extracts. Chaste tree benefits continue to be studied; however, clinical research suggests that the constituents of chaste tree have an effect on the HPA axis and may be beneficial for addressing symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), infertility, and menopause. Always speak with your healthcare provider before taking new supplements including chaste tree.
- Alois, M., & Estores, I. M. (2019). Hormonal regulation in pcos using acupuncture and herbal supplements: A case report and review of the literature. Integrative Medicine (Encinitas, Calif.), 18(5), 33–39.
- Cerqueira, R. O., Frey, B. N., Leclerc, E., & Brietzke, E. (2017). Vitex agnus castus for premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder: A systematic review. Archives of Women’s Mental Health, 20(6), 713–719.
- Chaste Tree. (n.d.). University of Rochester Medical Center. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=19&contentid=ChasteTree
- Chasteberry. (2020). NCCIH. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/chasteberry
- el Hayek, S., Bitar, L., Hamdar, L. H., Mirza, F. G., & Daoud, G. (2016). Poly cystic ovarian syndrome: An updated overview. Frontiers in Physiology, 7, 124.
- Feyzollahi, Z., Kouchesfehani, H. M., Jalali, H., Eslimi-Esfahani, D., & Hosseini, A. S. (2021). Effect of vitex agnus-castus ethanolic extract on hypothalamic KISS-1 gene expression in a rat model of polycystic ovary syndrome. Avicenna J Phytomed, 11(3), 292–301.
- Kargozar, R., Azizi, H., & Salari, R. (2017). A review of effective herbal medicines in controlling menopausal symptoms. Electronic Physician, 9(11), 5826–5833.
- MA, L., Lin, S., Chen, R., & Wang, X. (2010). Treatment of moderate to severe premenstrual syndrome with vitex agnus castus (BNO 1095) in chinese women. Gynecological Endocrinology, 26(8), 612–616.
- Menopause basics. (2019). Office on Women’s Health. https://www.womenshealth.gov/menopause/menopause-basics#1
- Menopause symptoms and relief. (2018). Office on Women’s Health. https://www.womenshealth.gov/menopause/menopause-symptoms-and-relief
- Miller, W. (2018). The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal axis: A brief history. Hormone Research in Paediatrics, 89(4), 212–223.
- Rafieian-Kopaei, M., & Movahedi, M. (2017). Systematic review of premenstrual, postmenstrual and infertility disorders of vitex agnus castus. Electronic Physician, 9(1), 3685–3689.
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- van Die, M. D., Burger, H. G., Bone, K. M., Cohen, M. M., & Teede, H. J. (2009). Hypericum perforatum with vitex agnus-castus in menopausal symptoms. Menopause, 16(1), 156–163.
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