Vitex: The Hormone Balancer

Chaste Tree berries come from the beautiful, purple-flowering tree known as Vitex agnus-castus. Vitex’s use as an herbal medicine dates back to the ancient Greeks and beyond; it was one of Hippocrates’ favorite herbs. Its common name is Chaste Tree, so named because it was believed to have the ability to preserve chastity and decrease sexual desire. If you’re looking for an anti-aphrodisiac, however, Chaste Tree won’t do the trick. Vitex berries have a sweet, spicy, peppery, warming taste and have often been used to make an aromatic herbal wine.

Chaste Tree’s most wonderful and amazing use is as a hormone balancer. Vitex is the best herb for cyclic disturbance in the menstrual cycle. Most of the common problems experienced by menstruating women are due to hormonal imbalance of one kind or another. Cramping, for instance, is often caused by the precipitous drop of progesterone levels in the body just before bleeding. Vitex can work wonders for hormone-induced difficulties such as PMS, depression, cramping, irregular cycles, fluid retention, acne, sore breasts, heavy bleeding, you name it.

Vitex works directly on the pituitary gland, which is where our hormones are distributed into the bloodstream. Vitex is what is known as an amphoteric herb. This means that it has a balancing, or normalizing, action on a particular system. No matter what hormonal imbalance you may be experiencing, Vitex will work to normalize it. And Vitex is not just a women’s herb- for example, it is often given to teenage boys experiencing difficulties with hormonal acne.

For women coming off of hormonal birth control, Vitex has the capacity to “reset” the body’s natural cyclic rhythms within 8-10 months.

Vitex also encourages the flow of breast milk in nursing mothers. Typically, Vitex is given in low doses for lactation support and in high doses for cycle regulation and hormonal depression.

While Vitex performs the important work of balancing the dance of hormone production in the body, it is also working to help us out in other ways. Vitex is anti-microbial, fighting off unfriendly pathogens and clearing up infections. It is also a digestive herb. The same essential oils that make Vitex anti-microbial also help to warm up the digestive system, stimulating healthy activity and breaking up excess gas.

Another reason to love Vitex is because it is a sustainable medicine. Many herbal wildcrafting techniques damage or kill the medicinal herb or tree. Herbs such as Osha, Goldenseal, and Slippery Elm have become endangered due to overharvesting. The good news is that there are many herbs we can harvest in a sustainable way, and Chaste Tree is one of them. Vitex agnus-castus is a beautiful, purple-flowering tree, and the berries can be harvested after the flowers bloom. Taking the berries doesn’t damage the tree, so we can harvest them year after year and enjoy the benefits of their miraculous medicine. Next time you’re at the shop, say hello to our Vitex tree out front!

 

Nicole can be reached at herbalcole@gmail.com.

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