Plant Profiler

Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus)

Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus) Image
Synonyms / Common Names / Related Terms
Abraham's balm, Abrahams-strauch, Agneau chaste (French), Agni casti fructus (Latin), Agnocasto, agnus castus, agnus-castus, chaste berry, chaste tree, chaste tree berry, chastetree, gattilier (French), hemp tree, Keuschlammfruchte (German), kyskhedstrae (Danish), monk's pepper, Moenchspfeffer (German), petit poivre (French), Verbenaceae (family), vitex.

Mechanism of Action


  • Constituents: The dried fruit of chasteberry is used to prepare commercial products. The fruit contains essential oils (limonene, cineole, and sabinene), iridoid glycosides (aucubin and agnoside), flavonoids (primarily castican, orientin, and isovitexin), and essential fatty acids (oleic acid, linolenic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid).
  • Hormonal Effects: In vitro, constituents in chasteberry bind selectively to estrogen receptor beta.5,6 Apigenin, a flavonoid, has been identified as an active phytoestrogen in chasteberry. It has been debated whether or not chasteberry alters the secretion of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) or leutinizing hormone (LH). Most clinical trials have found that levels remain unaffected.4,1 The reported effects of chasteberry on prolactin levels in humans are variable and not well characterized. In vitro and animal studies report that constituents of chasteberry bind to dopamine-2 receptors in the pituitary, thereby inhibiting prolactin secretion.3,4 Haloperidol, a dopamine agonist, was able to counteract the prolactin-lowering effect of chasteberry.7 animal study suggests that chasteberry possesses antiandrogenic effects8, noting that a flavonoid-rich fraction of chasteberry administered to male dogs resulted in disruption of the latter stages of spermatogenesis. Reduced androgen production was reflected in low levels of sialic acid in the testes.
  • Antimicrobial Effects: Ethanolic and etheric extracts of chaste tree demonstrate in vitro antimicrobial activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus faecalis (6.5-20% extracts), Salmonella, Escherichia coli (10-20%), Candida albicans, C. tropicalis, C. pseudotropicalis and C. kruesi (10-40%). Chasteberry extracts have also demonstrated high levels of toxicity against the mycelial growth of Trichophyton mentagrophytes, Epidermophyton floccosum, Microsporum canis, M. gypseum (1.5-12%) and Penicillium virdicatum (9-23%).9 Essential oil from chasteberry has shown greater activity against E. coli and C. albicans than against S. aureus or Bacillus anthracoides.10 Five flavonoids and two iridoids extracted from Vitex agnus-castus possess inhibitory action against Bacillus cereus, B. megaterium, and Staph. aureus.11


  • The effects of dosing on clinical effects from chasteberry are not well understood. In one small study among men with normal prolactin levels, acute administration of low doses of chasteberry resulted in a small increase in prolactin secretion, while high doses resulted in a small decrease in PRL secretion.2


  1. Wuttke W, Splitt G, Gorkow C, et al. Behandlung zyklusabhangiger brustschmerzen mit einem Agnus castus-haltigen arzneimittel. Geburtsh u Frauenheilk 1997;57:569-574.
  2. Merz PG, Gorkow C, Schrodter A, et al. The effects of a special Agnus castus extract (BP1095E1) on prolactin secretion in healthy male subjects. Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes 1996;104(6):447-453. 9021345
  3. Sliutz G, Speiser P, Schultz AM, et al. Agnus castus extracts inhibit prolactin secretion of rat pituitary cells. Horm Metab Res 1993;25(5):253-255. 8330858
  4. 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. 7890021
  5. Jarry H, Spengler B, Porzel A, et al. Evidence for Estrogen Receptor beta-Selective Activity of Vitex agnus-castus and Isolated Flavones. Planta Med 2003;69(10):945-947. 14648399
  6. Wuttke W, Jarry H, Christoffel V, et al. Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus)--pharmacology and clinical indications. Phytomedicine 2003;10(4):348-357. 12809367
  7. Winterhoff H, Gorkow C, Behr B. Die Hemmung der Laktation bei Ratten als indirekter Beweis fur die Senkung von Prolaktin durch Agnus castus. Zeitschrift fur Phytotherapie 1991;12:175-179.
  8. Bhargava SK. Antiandrogenic effects of a flavonoid-rich fraction of Vitex negundo seeds: a histological and biochemical study in dogs. J Ethnopharmacol 1989;27(3):327-339. 2615438
  9. Pepeljnjak S, Antolic A, Kustrak D. Antibacterial and antifungal activities of the Vitex agnus-castus L. extracts. Acta Pharmaceutica Zagreb 1996;46(3):201-206.
  10. Mishurova SS. Essential oil in Vitex agnus astus L., its component composition and antimicrobial activity. Rastitel 'nye Resursy 1986;22(4):526-530.
  11. Gomaa CS. Flavonoids and iridoids from Vitex agnus-castus. Planta Medica 1978;33:277.

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