Chasteberry is the fruit of the chaste tree, a small shrub-like tree native to Central Asia and the Mediterranean region. The name is thought to come from a belief that the plant promoted chastity—it is reported that monks in the Middle Ages used chasteberry to decrease sexual desire.
Common Names—chasteberry, chaste-tree berry, vitex, monk's pepper
Latin Name—Vitex agnus-castus
What Chasteberry Is Used For
Chasteberry has been used for thousands of years, mostly by women to ease menstrual problems and to stimulate the production of breast milk.
Chasteberry is still used for menstrual problems, such as premenstrual syndrome, as well as for symptoms of menopause, some types of infertility, and acne.
How Chasteberry Is Used
The dried ripe chasteberry is used to prepare liquid extracts or solid extracts that are put into capsules and tablets.
What the Science Says
A few studies of chasteberry for premenstrual syndrome have found a benefit. However, most of these studies were not well designed, so firm conclusions about chasteberry for premenstrual syndrome cannot be drawn.
Small studies suggest that chasteberry may help with breast pain and some types of infertility, but there is not enough reliable scientific evidence to determine whether chasteberry has any effect on these conditions.
NCCAM has funded studies on chasteberry. Projects have explored how chasteberry works in the body and how it might affect symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.
Side Effects and Cautions
Chasteberry has not been associated with serious side effects. However, it can cause gastrointestinal problems, acne-like rashes, and dizziness.
Chasteberry may affect certain hormone levels. Women who are pregnant, or taking birth control pills or who have a hormone-sensitive condition (such as breast cancer) should not use chasteberry.
Because chasteberry may affect the dopamine system in the brain, people taking dopamine-related medications, such as certain antipsychotic drugs and Parkinson’s disease medications, should avoid using chasteberry.