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Vitex agnus-castus - L.

Common Name Agnus Castus, Lilac chastetree, Vitex, Chastetree
Family Verbenaceae
USDA hardiness 7-9
Known Hazards Headache, abdominal cramps and diarrhoea, increased menstrual flow, rashes, pruritus[301].
Habitats Damp places by streams and on the littoral[45].
Range S. Europe.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (5 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Vitex agnus-castus Agnus Castus, Lilac chastetree, Vitex, Chastetree

Vitex agnus-castus Agnus Castus, Lilac chastetree, Vitex, Chastetree


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Bloom Color: Blue, Lavender, White. Main Bloom Time: Early summer, Early spring, Late summer, Late spring, Mid summer, Mid spring. Form: Rounded, Vase.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Vitex agnus-castus is a deciduous Shrub growing to 3 m (9ft) by 3 m (9ft) at a medium rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 7. It is in leaf from June to October, in flower from September to October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts:
Edible Uses: Condiment

The fruit is used as a condiment, it is a pepper substitute[46, 61, 100, 183]. The aromatic leaves are also used as a spice[183, 227]. This plant forms one of the ingredients of the legendary Moroccan spice mixture 'ras el hanout'[183]. Unfortunately, the seed is very unlikely to be produced in Britain[K].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Anaphrodisiac  Aphrodisiac  Diaphoretic  Diuretic  Febrifuge  Galactogogue  Infertility  Ophthalmic  
Sedative  Stomachic  Women's complaints

Agnus castus has been used for thousands of years for its beneficial affect on the female hormonal system. Modern research has confirmed this use, the seeds being used to restore balanced functioning to the female reproductive system[254]. The seeds and fruits are anaphrodisiac, aphrodisiac, galactogogue, ophthalmic, sedative, stomachic, women's complaints[89, 148, 165]. Prolonged usage restores corpus luteum function[165]. Unfortunately, the berries are unlikely to be produced in the British climate[K]. The berries of this plant have a range of medicinal actions but possibly the most important is its ability to rectify hormonal imbalances caused by an excess of oestrogen and an insufficiency of progesterone[224]. It acts upon the pituitary gland, reducing the production of certain hormones and increasing the production of others, shifting the balance in favour of the gestagens. Thus it has a wide application of uses in malfunctions of the feminine reproductive system and has been used with great effect in restoring absent menstruation, regulating heavy periods, restoring fertility when this is caused by hormonal imbalance, relieving pre-menstrual tension and easing the change of the menopause[224]. Some caution is advised since excessive doses can cause a nervous disorder known as formication, which manifests as a sensation of insects crawling over the skin[238]. The berries are considered to be an aphrodisiac[89], though other reports say that they are anaphrodisiac[11, 46]. The reason for this apparent disagreement is that the berries have a regulating effect on the body and so are likely to increase sexual activity in those who are not very active in this area whilst reducing it in those who are very active[K]. The fresh berries are pounded to a pulp and used in the form of a tincture for the relief of paralysis, pains in the limbs, weakness etc[4]. Other uses include: reduced flatulence, suppress appetite and induce sleep. Unproven uses include: treatment of impotence, prostatitis, swelling of the testes, sterility, swelling of the ovaries[301]. Not recommended during pregnancy and could inhibit milk production[301]. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine approve Vitex agnus-castus for premenstrual syndrome, and menopausal complaints (see [302] for critics of commission E).

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Basketry  Dye  Essential  Wood

A perfume is made from the flowers[227]. Young stems are used in basket making[46, 61, 100]. A yellow dye is obtained from the leaves, the seed and the roots[100, 148]. Wood - hard, close grained[146].

Special Uses

Espalier  Food Forest  Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Border, Container, Espalier, Pollard, Standard, Specimen. Prefers a light well-drained loamy soil in a warm sunny position sheltered from cold drying winds[49, 200]. Succeeds in dry soils. Intolerant of water-logging[202]. Hardy to about -10°c, this species only succeeds outdoors in the milder parts of Britain[1, 11], though it grows well on a wall at Kew[11]. Plants only flower freely in a warm summer, so they are best grown against a sunny wall even in areas of the country where they are hardy[219]. The plants failed to open their flowers on our Cornish trial ground even after a very hot summer[K]. The flowers are produced so late in the season that they are unlikely to produce viable seed in this country even if they flower properly[K]. A very ornamental plant[1], there are some named varieties[219]. The whole plant is aromatic, the leaves and stems are strongly aromatic[182], the flowers are deliciously scented[245] and the dried seeds have a pungent lemony perfume[245]. This species has long been regarded as a symbol of chastity[46]. Flowers are produced at the ends of the current year's growth[202]. Any pruning is best carried out in the spring and should consist of cutting out dead wood and shortening last year's flowering branches[219]. Special Features: Fragrant foliage, Not North American native, Naturalizing, Attracts butterflies, Fragrant flowers, Attractive flowers or blooms. For polyculture design as well as the above-ground architecture (form - tree, shrub etc. and size shown above) information on the habit and root pattern is also useful and given here if available. The plant growth habit is multistemmed with multiple stems from the crown [1-2].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - sow March in a warm greenhouse. The seed does not need pre-treatment[113]. Germination is usually free and quick[113]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer of the following year. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 - 8cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Good percentage[78]. Cuttings of mature wood of the current seasons growth, November in a cold frame[113].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Vitex cannabifolia Shrub3.0 -  LMNDM021
Vitex donianaBlack PlumTree15.0 10-12 MLMHSNM434
Vitex keniensisFulu, Mkombachiko, MufuuTree25.0 10-12 FLMNM204
Vitex madiensisEkarukei, MurukukweTree4.0 10-12 MLMHNM423
Vitex negundoHuang Ping, Chinese chastetree, Cut Leaf Vitex, Cut-leaf ChastetreeShrub3.0 6-9 MLMNDM232
Vitex payosChocolate BerryTree8.0 10-12 MLMHNDM422
Vitex pinnataKelebanTree20.0 10-12 MLMHNDM024

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment



Botanical References


Links / References

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Readers comment

Chris Turner   Wed Oct 27 13:24:06 2004

Link: Agnus Castus Agnus Castus, buy online at Storeplus. Many other Natural health remedies available. Free delivery in the U.K

nic   Thu Nov 15 2007

i got some Vitex-agnus castus tincture from a hebalist i visited on holiday it worked great i have run out and my symptoms have returned is it safe to get it mail order or should i visit another herbalist

Sal   Mon May 8 2006

where can i buy the plant from? Can you find it in the UK?

   Fri Nov 17 2006

Young bare-root plants available from Cool Temperate. email: [email protected]

hilda   Tue Dec 19 2006

Please tell me if agnus castus has any relation as for the treatment of endometriosis.

Ken Fern, Plants for a Future   Wed Dec 20 2006

We have no information that this plant has been used successfully in the treatment of endometriosis, though its ability to regulate the female hormonal system might be of help, especially if the plant is used in conjunction with other herbs that can ease the symptoms of the complaint. If anyone should require a fact sheet on the herbal treatment of this complaint then please email me at Plants for a Future. If you use this page to do so, please make sure you leave your email address in the message so that I know where to send the fact sheet. Your email address will not be posted on this site.

Jana   Mon Jan 22 2007

Thank you for the infromation. I was recommended Vitex agnus-castus in a shop with natural remedies and I started to take 100mg a day, hoping that would help me during my heavy, very painful periods. I used to faint and feel sick, well this period wasn't so bad but I should let you all know after 3 months or so. [email protected]

paula   Wed Feb 14 2007

after heavy chemotherapy treatment at the age of 27 my body went into early menopause. i had hormone levels of a 60 yr old woman. i used vitex agnus castus for a period of less than 3 months. i have just had my first period in three years since completing treatment. i last took vitex agnus castus 4 months ago.

Dorothy McKenzie   Sat Mar 3 2007

My 21 year old son has been advised to try the tablets to help reduce his acne after trying various creams, low-dose antibiotics and laser treatment. What is your opinion on this?

Ken Fern, Plants for a future   Sun Mar 4 2007

Agnus Castus has been used with some success to treat acne, though it is not usually the herb of first choice. If you have been advised to use it by a person experienced in herbal treatment, then I would certainly advise you to give it a go. If, however, you have not had experienced advice, then I feel that there may well be other herbs that would be more effective. Chinese herbalists are especially skilled in treating this condition, and their herbal remedies have proven to be particularly effective.

Laura   Tue Mar 6 2007

Does anyone taking Vitex experience Any symptoms of insomnia or getting emotional? I've taken another product and had both so I'm concerned with taking Vitex.

Ken Fern, Plants for a Future   Tue Mar 6 2007

Vitex is usually very well-tolerated and side effects are quite rare, though they do occur. These side effects include gastrointestinal upset, headache, diarrhea, nausea, itching and urticaria, rash, acne, insomnia, weight gain, and irregular menstrual bleeding. This might seem like a long list but, as I said earlier, these side effects rarely occur and always cease within a short period after stopping using the herb. As for getting emotional, whilst this is not on the recorded list of side effects, it is important to remember that the herb does help to regulate the hormonal system and so it could quite feasibly have an effect on the emotions. If in doubt, you should stop taking the medicine, at least temporarily, and consider seeing a medical herbalist for further advice. If the herb is unsuitable for you, then there will usually be alternatives that can be used.

k   Sat Mar 10 2007

Has any one found it helped to shorten their cycle? I am trying to conceive after coming of the pill and I've been taking agnus castus for about a month. Any success stories?

   Mon Mar 26 2007

hi is it useful in returning periods after the depo provera jab? and should i speak to my doctor before taking it or is it safe?

Ken Fern, Plants for a Future   Tue Apr 24 2007

Depo Provera is a progesterone-based injection that is a very effective contraceptive method. Vitex agnus-castus is likely to be very helpful in bringing hormonal balance back to the body after using this contraceptive method. It is very safe, though it is always wise to either consult your doctor or a herbal practitioner before using herbal products.

Vicki Smith   Wed Feb 21 2007

I am 56 and have just missed a couple of periods and suffering increasingly from hot sweats/flushes night and dayI have been told that agnus-castus treats this. I have previously taken Isoflavons and black cohosh but these do not seem to be helping.

Laura   Tue Mar 6 2007

Does anyone taking Vitex experience Any symptoms of insomnia or getting emotional? I've taken another product and had both so I'm concerned with taking Vitex. Please Email me at [email protected]

PE   Mon Mar 26 2007

I have been off the pill for 4 weeks and i have been taking Agnus Castus for a few days as i was recommentded this on a 'trying to conceive' website. Does anyone have any sucess stories as i have neve taken herbs before and i am a bit apprehensive!!

Lisa stepney   Thu Apr 19 2007

Is it safe to take Agnus Castus whilst taking thyroxine? Many thanks

k   Wed Apr 25 2007

don't use it unless discuss with professional first, i did and now i havent had a period in 13 weeks, there's loads of warnings about it, i chose to ignore and now i wish i'd listened.

Vicki   Wed May 2 2007

where can i buy the plant from? Can you find it in the UK? Vicki

Tricia   Tue Jun 12 2007

Hi, I have just started taking Agnus-castus as I have started having flushes and anxiety attacks which are quite strange to say the least, I have the marina coil as contraception, will this cause any conflicting results Tricia 12/6/07

Cathy   Wed Jun 13 2007

Hi, Can I take Vitex Agnus Castus while I am taking St. Johns Wort? Cathy

Alison   Tue Jun 19 2007

I have been taking it for three days and have been waking early with panic attacks and feeling very nervous and emotional. It is terrible. I am not sure whether to carry on taking it or to stop. I hardly ever have periods and started taking it to help with those issues. Any thoughts?

Katy   Tue Jun 19 2007

HI there, I get spots on my neck prior to my period. THey are sore red spots that take a long timt to coem to a head. There position just below my jaw line either side and their timed appearance brings me to believe they are directly ralted to hormonal fluctuations. I had trouble with the pill and have come off of it, these horrible red sspots are painful and as I am 30 I feel like I'm too old for acne! I have been taking agnus castus but wonder if there is anything fmore suitable? Please help I feel very unnattractive having these glaring red spots on my delicate neck skin...and don't wnat to end up scarred. Thank you, Katy

Julia   Thu Jul 12 2007

Hi I have read that this will boost prolactin levels which in turn stimulates breast milk production. Do you have any further information on this? I had real problems with my milk supply last time and new baby is due in september!

Anita   Wed Aug 8 2007

Hi, After 10 years I came off the pill in May 2006 and actively started trying for a baby in October 2006. So far we've had no luck and my cycles have been irregular. I have recently started to use ovulation predictor kits and they have not detected any ovulation. Would agnus castus help me?

LeeAnn   Wed Aug 15 2007

I have have been taking the herb tablet for three weeks and I dont know whether its a coincidence but I am presenting swollen glands in my throat and little red lumps on the back of my throat and ache is in the glands and up into the ear area. I started with these symptoms around a week into taking the herb...is there any significance or is it a coincidence? many thanks.

   Mon Aug 20 2007

Please kindly advise. I am a 36 year old Single African female without any children yet and have had hormonal imbalance with extremely heavy periods for over 10 years with a period of 4 years in between of no heavy periods just aneamia. This is also compounded with fibroids. A Vitex user highly recommended I try it out. What are the likely side effects and how can I access the herbs and how long would or should I use them? Thank you all for the useful stories and testimonies of your experiences.

Marielle Tanase   Thu Aug 30 2007

Vitex is the best herb I've tried for acne! Together with Burdock root it's wonderful. And it even helps my chronic and severe acne. I take about 5 fresh leaves a day, or 2 centilitres of alcohol tincture.

zuby   Mon Sep 3 2007

does it have any effect on reducing dark,strong facial hair?

brenda   Sat Sep 8 2007

Hi, Im on the Depo jab as well back I'm experiencing alot of dryness in my vaginal area. Would agnus-castus help with the dryness? will it affect my contraception?

Ma.Armi Cadapan   Mon Oct 22 2007

Hello, I would like to know the difference between Vitex Agnus castus and vitex negundo, do they have the same medicinal use?

Julie   Sun Nov 4 2007

I have recently been put on a Medi Herb Chaste Tree pill to help my mood swings, I'm 28 and have always had bad periods and mood swings, however, the dose I have been prescribed by my herbalist is 3 pills daily of 'extract equic. dry: Vitex agnus-castus fruit 500mg. making my prescribed dose well above any other listed dosages. What do you think about this? I haven't noticed any changes apart from daily bloating, one day my clothes won't fit, the next they are loose.

Anna   Fri Jan 11 2008

I took agnus castus for years to help with suspected womb pain. It got rid of pre menstrual tension-in fact i was abnormally 'high' for the last 9 days of each cycle. But-it made me depressed in the early part of cycle-during my period and after and then around days 10 or 11 then a bit after mid cycle!Its not for everyone-it can increase pre menstrual problems! I went off it eventually as i began to feel tired all the time. When i have tried it since it makes me feel very VERY depressed!!??

Julie Marshall   Fri Jan 11 2008

I have been on agnus castus 2 x 400mg daily for a few years and found they have helped with my PMT. Is is safe to continue to stay on these? I am 45 years old.

e hathaway   Fri Jan 18 2008

is it safe to continue taking agnus castus for years.i have felt so much better since starting years ago when i had heavy painful periods and was tired all the time. i'm pretty much through the menopause now but prefer to keep taking agnus castus as i don't want to go back to having no energy

xenia   Sun Jan 6 2008

I have ben taking agnus vitex 200mg per day for years are there any downsides to taking it for so long what is the recommended time for using it or is it okay to use indefinitely? Should I increase the doage to 2 perday to help with menopause symptoms?

hilda   Sun Feb 3 2008

can you take angus castus when you have been prescribed metotrexate which is currently treating my knee arthritis.hilda

   Thu Feb 7 2008

Agnus castus I believe has increased my spotting before my period and makes me so very anxious and depressed in the first half of my cycle. I actually feel like crying on it. So it is definately something to take with caution.

Bailey m.   Fri Mar 7 2008

This herb is for balancing what is missing in your body. I had two miscarriages and I take the liquid Extract as per the label and I have never felt better! my acnes are gone too. Please remember that it only helps in the long run after about two to three months and it should only be taken for two weeks before your period and not after ovulation!.

J.A. Ward   Mon Mar 10 2008

The recommended daily amount from Holland & Barrett (RDA) is 4 X 400 mg. (1.6 g). Try this amount; if it is conducive with good health then fine, if not, then cease this herb and reevaluate...

paula brookes   Tue Mar 11 2008

i have endometriosis, i have been taking agnus castus for over 6 months now. but still have very bad mood swings and depression around the time of my period. could you please send me a copy of the fact sheet on herbal treatment. and the max dose i can take of agnus castus in one day. thankyou.

Dee   Tue Apr 22 2008

Hi i am thinking of taking Agnus Castus to regulate my periods but i just wanted to know if they need to be taken for a certain number of times or once started need to continue having it to keep up the regular periods Thanks

Jacquie   Mon May 5 2008

hi, i just got told that i have PCOS and was prescribed the pill which had more side effects than i choose to take on. so i started taking Vitex Agnus Castus with the hope to atleast revert the damage and return my runaway period. I wanted to know how long should i take these, i am trying to avoid something that i will have to take for the rest of my life that is the other reason i refused to go on the pill. can anyone out there please tell me of any side effect and if i will have to be taking it for the rest of my life. another thing my dose is 2*400gm twice a day is this too much?

julie   Wed May 7 2008

my grandaughter of 16 suffers dreadfully with pms, terrible mood swings, very emotional, then angry at everything it's always as her period is due, we were recommended Agnus Castus but as she takes the pill to regulate her periods I'm not sure I should let her take it, but she wants to as she hates the way her life is for about 7-10 days a month and now with GCSE's looming it's more important that she is more stable. Thanks

Adrienne   Tue Sep 16 2008

i took vitex over the summer for hormonal balance and acne... i'm 33. i inadvertantly caused myself to start having cold sore outbreaks, as shifted/high levels of progesterone and estrogen will cause this (and has, indeed, in the past, for me) - how long will the vitex stay in my system? I took it for about 3 months, 800mg 2x a day - and have been off for over a month.... when can i expect my estrogen to subside? thank you for any info.

bhaskar banerjee   Mon Nov 10 2008

hi, i want to know that wheather vitex agnus castus is having anticancer activity or not?

KK   Fri Jan 30 2009

After having a mmc and discovering my luteal phase is too short for implantation, I have just started using 2x400mg of Agnus Castus. I have discovered black blood during my period and am wondering if this is normal?

Janet Fawcett   Wed Feb 18 2009

hi, i am 50 years old and have been taking between 500 and 1000 mg of agnus castus most days for many years .i wonder if it is safe and usefull to carry on at this dosage. i dont notice any adverse side effects any ideas?

Megs   Tue Apr 21 2009

I currently suffer from very heavy periods, with terrible headaches. I am also very emotional and weepy before and during my period so I was wondering if Vitex agnus-castus would help me? I am however currently taking Citalopram and dont know if this will have an adverse affect? I would be grateful for your advice and comments.

Lawler Barnes   Sun May 31 2009

Nature Abhors a Garden Nature abhors a Garden for 1/25/09 discusses the relationship between the early leafing of the Chaste Tree and its role as fertility symbol.

AA   Wed Jun 10 2009

I'd like to find out if you can take vitex and black cohosh together

Tina   Sat Jun 20 2009

I have been taking vitex agnes-castus for the last couple of months to help with conception and I have not had my period now for 43 days and I'm very hormonal! My cycle is usually 32 days. I've just had a pregnancy test which has come up negative. I used vitex prior to conceiving my 1st child but was seeing a naturopath then and taking other stuff too. I take 2 x500 mg a day. Is this too much? or should I stop taking vitex?

kate   Fri Jul 31 2009

I started taking Vitex for pms and acne and followed the dosage directions as per my "Fusion" blend, which was 2x1000mg daily. After about 3 weeks my acne was worse and I felt VERY depressed and teary. I have since read on the internet that I am not the only one to have been affected by Vitex in this way. I thought perhaps it was just my hormones adapting but was not willing to take the risk and continue taking it. I stopped taking Vitex and for the next 3 days had a bad headache - which is unusual for me. It is a very strong herb and I think 2g per day was way too strong. I think some companies advise higher than required dosages so you will perhaps run out more quickly and buy there product again sooner. I would be careful if considering taking Vitex and definately take a lower dose than I did!

katie   Mon Aug 17 2009

I have found several reputible sites such as webmd ,sloan -ketterling that list agitaion as a side effect of vitex.I had been taking Esterone a low dose mix of cohosh,ginger and vitex for heavy periods .This worked fairly well,but my periods were still heavier than I would like so I decided to change from 40 mg to 400 mg of vitex ,after reading this was a recomended dosage .I felt fine for 2 weeks then the week before my period I started to get really agitated,anxious, and have cramps an hour after taking the supplement .I have gone back to my old dosage and things are back to normal.These sites say if you do experience these side effects discontinue using vitex-seems logical!

sarah   Thu Dec 17 2009

hi i have not been on the pill for 7 months now me and my husband are tryin for a baby i heard about agnus castus an the net aand thought i would give it try and my periods are very irregular do you think that these would help me with both my proplems

rebecca   Sat Jan 16 2010

I have taken agnus castus for nearly a year now. I have found that it has nearly eliminated my psychological pms symptoms, but I still get breast tenderness and headaches. I also find that I have quite strong mid-cycle pain that I never had before. However, I do feel that it is a small price to pay in comparison to the emotional turmoil every month! I believe that every woman responds differently to vitex agnus castus, but it can be highly beneficial.

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Subject : Vitex agnus-castus  
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