Chasteberry (Vitex agnus castus)

Chaste tree fruit is composed of the ripe, dried fruits of Vitex agnus castus L. Other trees and plants in the Vitex genus are typically tropical, but this species is also found in temperate areas. The tree and its berries have the name “chaste” because the fruit was long believed to be an aphrodisiac. The effects that this plant can have on the reproductive health of both men and women is largely why it remains in use to this day.

Chasteberry (Vitex agnus castus)

Uses

The fruit of chasteberry is widely used to relieve premenstrual symptoms and to treat infertility. It has a normalizing action on the menstrual cycle and contains nonsteroidal progestins that can interact with and activate hormone receptors in the body.

Chemistry/Pharmacology

The berries contain essential oils (e.g., limonene, sabinene, 1,8-cineole [eucalyptol]), iridoid glycosides (e.g., agnoside, aucubin), diterpines (e.g., vitexilactone, rotundifuran), and flavonoids (e.g., apigenin, castican, orientin, isovitexin).

Clinical Studies

Clinical studies suggest it can reduce PMS symptoms. Preliminary data also suggest chasteberry may help reduce mastalgia. In human studies, chasteberry restores progesterone concentrations, prolongs the hyperthermic phase in the basal temperature curve, and restores the luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone test to normal. It is thought to act on the pituitary-hypothalamic axis rather than directly on the ovaries.

Biomechanical Mechanism

Chasteberry has opioidergic, dopaminergic, hepatoprotective, and antiproliferative properties in vitro.

In vitro studies have identified several flavonoids in chasteberry, especially casticin, which exerts opioidergic effects through activation of mu- and delta-opioid receptor subtypes. Casticin reduced lung inflammation in a murine model by inhibiting numbers of neutrophils, macrophages, and lymphocytes, and by reducing levels of proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines.

Some evidence indicates that high doses of chasteberry decrease serum prolactin and might decrease lactation. It has been used to decrease breastmilk oversupply in Persian traditional medicine. There is evidence that aqueous-alcoholic extracts of chaste tree fruit inhibit the secretion of prolactin in vitro. Dopaminergic compounds, particularly clerodadienols, dose-dependently inhibited pituitary prolactin release, which could explain its effect during the premenstrual cycle when serum prolactin levels can be chronically elevated. Other diterpenes including rotundifuran also modulate dopamine receptors. Linoleic acid from chasteberry binds to estrogen receptors (ER) and can induce certain estrogen genes. The flavonoid apigenin was identified as the most active ER isoform-selective phytoestrogen and can also induce progestogenic activity.

Sources/Articles

Carmichael AR. Can Vitex agnus castus be Used for the Treatment of Mastalgia? What is the Current Evidence? Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. Sep 2008;5(3):247-250.

Cerqueira RO, Frey BN, Leclerc E, Brietzke E. Vitex agnus castus for premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder: a systematic review. Arch Womens Ment Health. 2017 Dec;20(6):713-719.

Cossuta, Dániel, Béla Simándi, Erika Vági, Judit Hohmann, Anita Prechl, Éva Lemberkovics, Ágnes Kéry, and T. Keve. "Supercritical fluid extraction of Vitex agnus castus fruit." The Journal of Supercritical Fluids 47, no. 2 (2008): 188-194. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/186358623.pdf

Daniele C, Thompson Coon J, Pittler MH, et al. Vitex agnus castus: a systematic review of adverse events. Drug Saf. 2005;28(4):319-332.

Dinç, Tolga, and Faruk Coşkun. "Comparison of fructus agni casti and flurbiprofen in the treatment of cyclic mastalgia in premenopausal women." Turkish Journal of Surgery/Ulusal cerrahi dergisi 30, no. 1 (2014): 34. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4379787/

Dugoua JJ, Seely D, Perri D, et al. Safety and efficacy of chastetree (Vitex agnus-castus) during pregnancy and lactation. Can J Clin Pharmacol. Winter 2008;15(1):e74-79.

He Z, Chen R, Zhou Y, et al. Treatment for premenstrual syndrome with Vitex agnus castus: A prospective, randomized, multi-center placebo controlled study in China. Maturitas. May 20 2009;63(1):99-103.

Ho SH, Singh M, Holloway AC, et al. The effects of commercial preparations of herbal supplements commonly used by women on the biotransformation of fluorogenic substrates by human cytochromes P450. Phytother Res. Jul 2011;25(7):983-989.

HÜRKUL, Muhammed Mesud, and Ayşegül KÖROĞLU. "Morphological and anatomical studies on hayıt fruit fructus agni-casti and leafs sold in the market." Biyolojik Çeşitlilik ve Koruma 11, no. 2 (2018): 47-59. https://dergipark.org.tr/en/download/article-file/1181533

Jarry H, Leonhardt S, Gorkow C, et al. In vitro prolactin but not LH and FSH release is inhibited by compounds in extracts of Agnus castus: direct evidence for a dopaminergic principle by the dopamine receptor assay. Exp Clin Endocrinol. 1994;102(6):448-454

Jarry H, Spengler B, Porzel A, et al. Evidence for estrogen receptor beta-selective activity of Vitex agnus-castus and isolated flavones. Planta Med. Oct 2003;69(10):945-947.

Lee H, Jung KH, Lee H, Park S, Choi W, Bae H. Casticin, an active compound isolated from Vitex fructus, ameliorates the cigarette smoke-induced acute lung inflammatory response in a murine model. Int Immunopharmacol. 2015 Oct;28(2):1097-101.

Li S, Qiu S, Yao P, et al. Compounds from the Fruits of the Popular European Medicinal Plant Vitex agnus-castus in Chemoprevention via NADP(H):Quinone Oxidoreductase Type 1 Induction. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:432829.

Liu J, Burdette JE, Sun Y, et al. Isolation of linoleic acid as an estrogenic compound from the fruits of Vitex agnus-castus L. (chaste-berry). Phytomedicine. Jan 2004;11(1):18-23.

Loch, Ernst-Gerhard, Hartmut Selle, and Normann Boblitz. "Treatment of premenstrual syndrome with a phytopharmaceutical formulation containing Vitex agnus castus." Journal of women's health & gender-based medicine 9, no. 3 (2000): 315-320. https://www.medref.se/munk/loch_dig_2000.pdf

Meier B, Berger D, Hoberg E, et al. Pharmacological activities of Vitex agnus-castus extracts in vitro. Phytomedicine. Oct 2000;7(5):373-381.

Mirghafourvand M, Mohammad-Alizadeh-Charandabi S, Ahmadpour P, Javadzadeh Y. Effects of Vitex agnus and Flaxseed on cyclic mastalgia: A randomized controlled trial. Complement Ther Med. 2016 Feb;24:90-5.

Niroumand, Mina, Fatemeh Heydarpour, and Mohammad Farzaei. "Pharmacological and therapeutic effects of Vitex agnus-castus L.: A review." Pharmacognosy Reviews 12, no. 23 (2018). https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Fatemeh-Heydarpour-2/publication/325086277_Pharmacological_and_therapeutic_effects_of_Vitex_agnus-castus_L_A_review/links/5c7a18e592851c69504c3501/Pharmacological-and-therapeutic-effects-of-Vitex-agnus-castus-L-A-review.pdf

Roemheld-Hamm B. Chasteberry. Am Fam Physician. Sep 1 2005;72(5):821-824.

Russo, Mariateresa, and Guido C. Galletti. "Medicinal properties and chemical composition of Vitex agnus-castus L.: a review." In International Symposium on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants 426, pp. 105-112. 1995. https://www.actahort.org/books/426/426_11.htm

Schellenberg R. Treatment for the premenstrual syndrome with agnus castus fruit extract: prospective, randomised, placebo controlled study. BMJ. Jan 20 2001;322(7279):134-137.

Tandon VR, Khajuria V, Kapoor B, et al. Hepatoprotective activity of Vitex negundo leaf extract against anti-tubercular drugs induced hepatotoxicity. Fitoterapia. Dec 2008;79(7-8):533-538.

van Die MD, Burger HG, Bone KM, et al. Hypericum perforatum with Vitex agnus-castus in menopausal symptoms: a randomized, controlled trial. Menopause. Jan-Feb 2009;16(1):156-163.

Verkaik S, Kamperman AM, van Westrhenen R, Schulte PFJ. The treatment of premenstrual syndrome with preparations of Vitex agnus castus: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2017 Aug;217(2):150-166.

Webster DE, He Y, Chen SN, et al. Opioidergic mechanisms underlying the actions of Vitex agnus-castus L. Biochem Pharmacol. Jan 1 2011;81(1):170-177.

Weisskopf M, Schaffner W, Jundt G, et al. A Vitex agnus-castus extract inhibits cell growth and induces apoptosis in prostate epithelial cell lines. Planta Med. Oct 2005;71(10):910-916.

Wuttke W, Jarry H, Christoffel V, et al. Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus)—pharmacology and clinical indications. Phytomedicine. May 2003;10(4):348-357.

Zamani M, Neghab N, Torabian S. Therapeutic effect of Vitex agnus castus in patients with premenstrual syndrome. Acta Med Iran. 2012;50(2):101-106.