Chaste Tree Berry
Names: Agnus castus, monk’s pepper, Abraham’s balm, chaste lamb tree, safe tree, Indian spice, wild pepper; Aceitunillo, Uvalama, Ahuilote (Spanish); Aghnos, Aligharia (Greek)
Properties: emmenagogue, vulnerary, normalizes female hormonal balance
History: Vitex was well known in ancient times and featured in Homer’s Illiad as a symbol of chastity capable of warding off evil.
Angus means “lamb” and castus mean “chaste”. As the name “chaste tree” implies, it was thought to reduce sexual desire, and traditionally was chewed by monks to reduce unwanted libido. Athenian women placed the leaves in the beds of virgins during the feast of the harvest goddess, Ceres, and are reported to have sometimes put them in their husband’s beds. The reputation for chastity continued into the Middle Ages when monks sprinkled the ground wild peppers liberally on their food to ensure continued chastity. It soon also became known as “monk’s pepper.” Italians still follow the old custom of strewing the flowers on the ground in front of novices as they enter the monastery or convent. In the 13th century, two Arabic medical formularies mentioned chaste tree to treat epilepsy and even insanity. The seeds are still sold today in Egyptian bazaars to calm hysteria.