Vitex agnus-castus, aka Chastetree, Monk’s Pepper, is a small tree native to the Mediterranean that produces lilac colored flowers on long stalks which fruit large round berries.
Vitex was mentioned many times in the writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans. It was also known to 13th century Europe. The tree grows well in both temperate and subtropical zones.
CTB – Chastetree berries, or simply Chasteberry – have a long traditional history of use to help balance hormonal systems, both male and female. While males and females have different levels of hormones produced by the sex organs, the activity of those organs is influenced by the same pituitary hormones, namely LH and FSH.
Recent research into the actions of CTB extract has shown it supports the activity of dopamine. Since dopamine regulates LH and FSH secretion, this is believed to be how the plant works. Dopamine also regulates the secretion of prolactin and hormones from the PPI, the intermediate lobe of the pituitary, i.e. the POMC derived hormones beta-endorphin, alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone and ACTH.
CTB extract functions as an adaptogen in these hormone systems. Adaptogens are substances that assist in stabilizing physiology and promoting homeostasis. Homeostasis is a state of equilibrium in which the organism functions optimally.
CTB extract has been well studied for human use and is listed by the German Commission E, a body which provides scientific background on the use of traditional herbal substances.
In horses, CTB extract has the potential to assist the body in maintaining homeostasis in a wide range of situations, including:
- Ovarian function and female hormone production
- Female behavior
- Male hormone production
- Male behavior
- Shedding (under the control of prolactin)
- Intermediate pituitary lobe hormone production
Vitex agnus-castus is an excellent example of scientific study validating and explaining traditional herbal uses.
Eleanor Kellon, VMD