Herb: Agnus Castus
Latin name: Vitex agnus-castus
Family: Verbenaceae (Verbena Family)
Medicinal use of Agnus Castus: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. The seeds and fruits are anaphrodisiac, aphrodisiac, galactogogue, ophthalmic, sedative, stomachic, women's complaints. Prolonged usage restores corpus luteum function. Unfortunately, the berries are unlikely to be produced in the British climate. 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. 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. 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. The berries are considered to be an aphrodisiac, though other reports say that they are anaphrodisiac. 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. 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.
Description of the plant:
(9 3/4 foot)
Habitat of the herb:Damp places by streams and on the littoral.
Edible parts of Agnus Castus:The fruit is used as a condiment, it is a pepper substitute. The aromatic leaves are also used as a spice. This plant forms one of the ingredients of the legendary Moroccan spice mixture "ras el hanout". Unfortunately, the seed is very unlikely to be produced in Britain.
Other uses of the herb:A perfume is made from the flowers. Young stems are used in basket making. A yellow dye is obtained from the leaves, the seed and the roots. Wood - hard, close grained.
Propagation of Agnus Castus:Seed - sow March in a warm greenhouse. The seed does not need pre-treatment. Germination is usually free and quick. 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. Cuttings of mature wood of the current seasons growth, November in a cold frame.
Cultivation of the herb:Damp places by streams and on the littoral.
Known hazards of Vitex agnus-castus:None known
Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.