Agnus Castus (Vitex agnus-castus)

Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Agnus Castus
Vitex agnus-castus

A perfume is made from the flowers[227].

Young stems are used in basket making[46, 61, 100].

A yellow dye is obtained from the leaves, the seed and the roots[100, 148].

Wood – hard, close grained[146].

  • Medicinal Use

    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[254].

    The seeds and fruits are anaphrodisiac, aphrodisiac, galactogogue, ophthalmic, sedative, stomachic, women’s complaints[89, 148, 165]. Prolonged usage restores corpus luteum function[165]. Unfortunately, the berries are unlikely to be produced in the British climate[K].

    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[224]. 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[224]. 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[238].

    The berries are considered to be an aphrodisiac[89], though other reports say that they are anaphrodisiac[11, 46]. 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[K].

    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[4].

  • Edible Use

    The fruit is used as a condiment, it is a pepper substitute[46, 61, 100, 183]. The aromatic leaves are also used as a spice[183, 227]. This plant forms one of the ingredients of the legendary Moroccan spice mixture ‘ras el hanout'[183]. Unfortunately, the seed is very unlikely to be produced in Britain[K].

  • Cautionary Notes

    None known

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – sow March in a warm greenhouse. The seed does not need pre-treatment[113]. Germination is usually free and quick[113]. 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[78]. Cuttings of mature wood of the current seasons growth, November in a cold frame[113].
Prefers a light well-drained loamy soil in a warm sunny position sheltered from cold drying winds[49, 200]. Succeeds in dry soils. Intolerant of water-logging[202]. Hardy to about -10¡c, this species only succeeds outdoors in the milder parts of Britain[1, 11], though it grows well on a wall at Kew[11]. Plants only flower freely in a warm summer, so they are best grown against a sunny wall even in areas of the country where they are hardy[219]. The plants failed to open their flowers on our Cornish trial ground even after a very hot summer[K]. The flowers are produced so late in the season that they are unlikely to produce viable seed in this country even if they flower properly[K]. A very ornamental plant[1], there are some named varieties[219]. The whole plant is aromatic, the leaves and stems are strongly aromatic[182], the flowers are deliciously scented[245] and the dried seeds have a pungent lemony perfume[245]. This species has long been regarded as a symbol of chastity[46]. Flowers are produced at the ends of the current year’s growth[202]. Any pruning is best carried out in the spring and should consist of cutting out dead wood and shortening last year’s flowering branches[219].
S. Europe.

Become ungovernable, break the chains of the matrix; grow and forage your own food and medicine.

*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.