Chasteberry is at home in the warm countries around the Mediterranean. The willow-like shrub can grow up to six meters high and bears small, pleasantly fragrant flowers with white, pink or purple coloring. From them arise the brown-black, pepper-like fruits, which are processed for medical purposes.
Chaste tree - chaste lamb
The plant bears the botanical name Vitex agnus castus, where agnus castus means as much as chaste lamb. Hence the name Keuschlamm, as the chaste tree pepper is often called in Germany. He hints at the effect that the plant was accorded in ancient times: in the Greek mythology, chaste tree was considered a symbol of chastity, as it should dampen the sexual instincts. Hera, the wife of Zeus and guardian of marriage, is said to have been born under such a shrub.
In medieval monastic life, the monks used to season their food vigorously with the pepper-like seed to tame their carnal desires. It was customary to fumigate the cells with chaste tree sprigs and to pad out the mattresses with the foliage, so that the calming effect on the inhabitant could pass over. Whether this has been useful, is questionable, because modern studies could not confirm a lust-inhibiting effect of the monk's pepper. Small amounts should rather inspire the desire.
The drug mix does it
Today, extracts from the fruits of the monk are among the most commonly prescribed drugs for menstrual disorders such as pain, irritability or fluid retention, all those symptoms that are summarized by the term premenstrual syndrome (PMS). But also disturbances of the control cycle and the annoying feeling of tightness in the chest can be treated well with monk's pepper extract.
Like many herbal remedies, Agnus Castus supplements contain several active ingredients, including essential oils, flavonoids, and fatty acids. Which ingredient is responsible for the medicinal effect of the monk's pepper, could not yet be finally clarified. What is certain, however, is that the total extract stabilizes various biochemical processes in the network of female hormones, whose perfectly coordinated collaboration is a prerequisite for the cycle to function without any problems. It is known that chasteberry influences the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, thereby reducing the secretion of the hormone prolactin in the pituitary gland.
Prolactin is usually produced more during lactation and then supports milk production. Many women who suffer from regular symptoms or PMS have markedly elevated levels of prolactin, resulting in breast tenderness, sad moods, or heavy menstrual bleeding. Declining levels of prolactin stimulate the production of progesterone (also known as corpus luteum hormone) in the ovaries via various control mechanisms.
This, too, has a positive effect on PMS: Progesterone, together with estrogen, plays the main role in the regulation of the female cycle. Doctors suspect that an imbalance between both hormones is one of the main causes of PMS. Most affected women lack progesterone, which is usually the dominant hormone in the second half of the cycle.
Cycle in the Lot
Even with the first symptoms of menopause, the chaste tree can compensate. Because the transition usually begins with irregular cycles and a decline in the production of corpus leucophobia. Later, however, there is an increased estrogen deficiency and the bleeding eventually stops altogether. Because progesterone prepares the uterus for the implantation of a fertilized egg cell, monk's pepper extracts could also help those women who want to have children, who do not become pregnant because of luteal weakness. Affected women report that the treatment was successful.
The right application
Monk's pepper preparations are available as capsules, film-coated tablets or drops without prescription in the pharmacy. A tea infusion is less recommended because some ingredients dissolve poorly in water. For the medicinal plant to work, a chasteberry preparation must be taken for several months. Before self-treatment, women should consult their doctor, as chasteberry must not be taken in certain hormone-dependent diseases.
The Medicinal Encyclopedia provides more information on the use, dosage and effects of Chasteberry.