For the Love of Vitex, Chaste Tree and Monk’s Pepper, Part I

female reproductive system fertility awareness hormonal imbalance Jan 24, 2024
Vitex for women's hormonal health

Scientific Name: Vitex agnus-castus 

Common Names: Vitex, Chaste Tree, Chaste Berry, Monk's Pepper

(This is Part I of my Vitex series. See Part II here: How Does Vitex Work in the Female Body? Hint: It Starts in the Brain!)

This blog series is an ode to Vitex. I love this beautiful, fragrant, peppery plant. I've used Vitex to support my fertility before trying to conceive my son, and use Vitex alone or as a part of a formula for many clients.

I have Vitex growing in my front yard and it blooms each July like clock-work. Bees love Vitex too! The blossoms begin fading in October, and turn into tiny, firm green “berries,” which then turn dark brown and are ready to be collected, and made into a tincture for herbal medicine. It is truly a beautiful, magical and potent plant!



Not only does the medicinal part of the Vitex plant look like peppercorn, it also tastes like black pepper. Though it resembles peppercorn, they are actually berries. The berry has a slightly spicy, earthy and pungent flavor owing to its common name, Monk’s Pepper. Why Monk’s Pepper, you ask? 



Well that is a perfect place to begin the incredible history of Vitex’s varied uses, including as an anti-libido agent used by monks in the medieval ages! But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

Today, Vitex has grown in fame for its successful use in women’s health.

It’s most commonly used as an aid to reduce PMS symptoms, to promote fertility, and as a hormonal balancer.

It can be useful throughout any stage of the female reproductive life-span, for instance:

  • during the early years of menses (when hormones are often all over the place)
  • hormonal imbalances
  • to improve fertility prior to conception, especially when prone to repeated miscarriage 
  • hormonal support during postpartum, including postpartum depression
  • perimenopause and menopause
  • and many more nuanced conditions such as PCOS 

Vitex's long and historical use testifies to its safety. Dioscorides, one of the greatest of the ancient herbalists writes in his De Materia Medica (about 55 A.D.) about Vitex: 

It both brings down the milk and expels ye menstrua–being drank …in wine [and]..a decoction of the seed [is for] inflammation about the womb.” 

See below the ancient De Materia Medica text written in Greek with an herbal monograph and painting of Vitex! (Image is from the Morgan Library and Museum)


And according to Pliny (the Greek natural historian AD 23-79), Vitex was highly revered as one of the most useful medicines of the times, and was stated to “check violent sexual desire.”

This is how the common name, Monk’s Pepper, came to be as it helped these male monks maintain chastity. 

Don’t worry though ladies, this herb will not reduce your libido! 

Note: Unless you’re a woman experiencing elevated testosterone levels which typically occurs in women with hormonal imbalances and conditions such as PCOS, you will not experience a dip in libido. (I have had a handful of clients that have elevated testosterone, and found Vitex to be helpful in reducing elevated testosterone and exaggerated sexual urges, that they did not actually want.)

It's helpful to remember that herbal medicine is more nuanced than a one-size fits all approach, but next week, I’ll share my favorite uses for Vitex as a hormonal balancer and how it works in the female body.

This is Part I of my Vitex series. See Part II here, How Does Vitex Work in the Female Body? Hint: It Starts in the Brain! 


Hobbs, Christopher. “Vitex: The Chaste Tree.” Dr. Christopher Hobbs, Ph.D., 12 Jan. 2022,


All images are mine unless stated otherwise 


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