Vitex agnus-castus

Vitex agnus-castus

Agnocasto (Vitex agnus-castus) is a shrub of the Verbenaceae family (while according to the classification APG III belongs to Lamiaceae), diffused in damp Mediterranean environments. The vulgar names of the drug widely popular in Italy are Pepe False (for the resemblance of ripe and dried fruits to the Black Pepper) or pepper of the monks. This drug is also internationally known as Chasteberry, Chaste Tree, Monk’s Pepper.

Systematic –
From a systematic point of view Agnocasto belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, Kingdom Plantae, Tracheobionte Substitution, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Asteridae Subclass, Lamiales Order, Verbenaceae Family and then Genera Vitex and Specie V. agnus-castus.

Etymology –
The name comes from Latin (like that of the vine) and means “twisting”. With reference to probably the sloping branches that are very thin and flexible. With this plant in ancient times and still today in some places were used for the production of baskets or chairs.
Instead, the name agnos derives from its hypothetical aphrodisiac capacity, so it is useful to keep virginity virginity: it unites the privative alpha to the “no children”. Even today, in English, it is called a tree of chastity to remind the Greek custom of spreading the fragrant leaves of the plant on the beds of the most fiovani during the festivals in honor of Ceres. It also appears that seeds have the property of calming the ardor of youth, both in man and woman. The Vocabulum was subsequently taken from Pliny and interpreted as ‘agnus’, that is lamb, then conveyed with such meaning in medieval writings as a symbol of purity (Albertus Magnus) with the addition of ‘castus’, chaste.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
The typical habitat of Agnocasto is the desert and sub-desert areas that expand from the Mediterranean basin to Central Asia. It is a Mediterranean entity in the strict sense (with a limited area on the Mediterranean coast and therefore grows in the same area as the Olive Tree.
This plant can be found more easily in riverbed, riverbed beds, wetlands between the dunes and grows between 0 and 500, and can push under certain conditions up to 1,000 m asl often associates with Olander, Mirto and Tamerici .

Description –
Agnocasto is a perennial shrub plant with a maturity of up to 5-6 m with palm leaf composed of green color and pink-blue inflorescences.
It is usually a deciduous shrub, high 1-4 (5) m, with strong resinous-aromatic odor; Erection erect with flexible shafts, branched from the base with vigorous discards; Young branches in subquadrangular section with generally curved, antroxy hair; Gray-brown bark longitudinally desquaming.
Leaves are typed, opposite, with 4-5 cm petioles and 15 x 12 cm sheets divided into (3) 5-7 (8) lanceolato-acute, dark green-dark segments on the top, white-tomentos bottom, Subintervals and ± revolutions at the margin.
The mascara foliage is very aromatic, and the flowers are fragrant and attract butterflies. There are varieties of flowers in white, lilac or purple, although generally the most cultivated varieties have blue flowers. This plant has been used for thousands of years in popular medicine and herbal medicine.
The inflorescence appears in long and dense spighe (30 cm) terminals and axillaries in dicasio, consisting of about 20 small distanced verticillastri, each with numerous hermaphrodite flowers, slightly pedicellate (1 mm), pleasantly odorous.
The goblet is bellied, attinormorous, dense serene, with 5 small teeth (0.5 mm) of deltoids.
The Agnocasto has an irregularly bilabian pyruvate, 6-8 (10) mm, 4 times longer than the goblet, blue, pale or pink purple, rarely white, with the upper bipod lip, the lower trifido and With a hairy tube outside and fitted with a hair ring. The stamens are 4, didinamas, protruding long, with bivalve and ovary bicarpellar, tetralocular stench.
The fruit of this plant is a 3-4 mm subspheric drupa, red-blackish to maturity, mucronata, in the lower half wrapped with persistent goblet, containing 4 monosperm (pyrene) kernels. Pollination is of the entomogama type (operated by the insects).

Cultivation –
For the cultivation of this species, it is reminded that this shrub is rustic and resistant, it prefers sunny positions, but can also be placed in a semi-shaded place, while a poorly exposed exposure causes unpleasant flowering. It does not fear the cold and can be grown outdoors even in regions with a very hard winter climate.
The ideal exposure for Vitex agnus-castus is undoubtedly the full sun. In this condition you will surely succeed in flourishing abundantly and it is possible that you continue to emit stems even in the fall.
However, it also tolerates partial shadow without blossoming it too much.
However, we note that the more you move to the north and the more sunny it is recommended, while in the southern regions that condition will not be indispensable.
The flowers that are left on the plant lead to the development of black berry fruits, which contain the seeds.
These have become very popular in the pharmacological and phytotherapeutic field, taking the name of “false pepper” or “pepper of the monks”. They have a very strong flavor, while the leaves and flowers emanate an aroma that is pleasing to both humans and insects. It is a very suitable plant for attracting bees and butterflies.
For irrigation, it should be remembered that the agnocasto tends to settle for rainfall, although it is advisable to water sporadically specimens that have just settled in the warm months; It may be necessary to intervene by providing water during particularly dry periods. At the end of winter it spreads at the foot of the slurry of slow-moving granular fertilizer (but I still recommend it and always mature manure), gently intercepting the compound.
The agnocasto loves fresh ground; Generally, however, after a few years of life, it tends to become very autonomous and will therefore be superfluous our water supply.
The advice is to intervene during the first two years of settling with abundant but very distant irrigations. In this way the plant will be stimulated to the formation of a deep and well-branched radical apparatus capable of enduring even the most persistent summer drought.
Consequently, on an adult plant, it is advisable to intervene only in case of prolonged shortage of precipitation, especially if noticeable distress occurs.
This plant should be housed in very well drained soil, avoiding water stagnation; Any soil can be indicated for the agnocasto, also the common garden ground. It is a very tolerant substrate and generally does not have difficulty adapting and growing under different conditions.
Surely because it grows best we have to guarantee it a habitat similar to that in which it is in nature, so a fresh but well drained soil, with a good amount of siliceous sand and gravel.
It might have some problem with too heavy and compact soils. These can cause radical asphyxia or rotting. In that case it will be good to intervene at the time of settling, creating a good gravel drainage layer on the bottom and possibly mixing with the soil a fair amount of sand and fine-grained to lighten it.
The agnocasto multiplication can take place starting from the small dark seeds that sow in spring or autumn; Let’s remember that young seedlings will only be planted after a couple of years of cultivation in a sheltered place. During the summer you can pick semilegnose cuttings from branches that have not brought flowers. However, if you want to get new seedlings you can proceed both by seed and by cuttings.
In the first case you will have to pick up the fruits that are now gone and collect the seeds from inside them. They can be planted both in autumn and spring, but always in warm greenhouses with at least 18-20 ° C constant. The germination cycle of this plant generally takes place in a few weeks, but the initial development of seedlings is rather slow. For this reason it is advisable to keep them in a vase in a sheltered place until at least the second spring. They can then be transferred to the permanent home.
The cuttings must be obtained by taking semilannious segments of about 20 cm with some apical leaf at the end of summer and placing them in a very light and draining compound, for example sand and perlite. They will always be kept damp and in a hot, but rather shady area. The ideal for rooting is to cover them with a transparent plastic bag, remembering to air at least once a day to prevent the formation of molds.
Once the seedlings begin to grow and the root system is well-developed, it can be transferred to a richer substrate and proceeded with subsequent pruning to support the patterning of the specimen.
The agnocasto fears the radical rotations that can be generated in poorly drained soils or in heavy rains during the summer. It is a very healthy shrub that is rarely attacked by insects or other pathogens. As we have said, it is necessary to pay particular attention to the substrate in case it is particularly heavy. In this case, it is of paramount importance to proceed with a dwelling that will allow an optimal water shedding.
The agnocasto is a shrub rather resistant to cold. It usually does not have problems up to -15 ° C and is therefore suitable for all national territory, with the exception of mountain areas above 800 meters. Let’s keep in mind, however, that it is a plant that loves the heat and is able to do the best especially on the coast or in the Center-South.
For a good flowering of this plant and especially colorful it is best to intervene at least twice a year (the first on the arrival of winter, then in October-November) with a good quantity of mature (or pelletized) manure in a way Cover the foot of the plant. During the cold season, thanks to the precipitation, the product will penetrate the soil by enriching it, lightening it and making it more vital.
To supplement the other elements that may be needed, it is possible to make legumes and plants to be associated under this species.
One of the few cures that this plant requires is just pruning. Since it is a shrub that blooms on branches of the year, our goal will be to encourage the creation of new branches as much as possible.
This will be followed by drastic drastic cuts, leaving a maximum of two or three buds from below, in February-March.
This work will also help us to maintain a compact form, encouraging the growth of new branches both in the upper and lower parts.

Uses and Traditions –
Vitex agnus-castus contains phenolic compounds, glycosides (vitexina) alkaloids, di-and triterpenes, essential oils, flavonoids, and has sedative, anti-pesticidal, aperitive, eupeptic, diuretic, galactogenic properties. In addition, homeopathy is used in the treatment of neurovegetative disorders of menopause and premenstrual syndrome. The seeds are also used as a seasoning for their very aromatic flavor. Also a yellow dye is obtained from the plant. It is also commonly cultivated as an ornamental plant.
Vitex agnus-castus is very much used in herbal medicine for its therapeutic qualities. This plant is used for problems related to irregularities in the menstrual cycle by reducing premenstrual symptoms, in the treatment of spasmodic dysmenorrhoea and in cases of reduced milk production. The German Ministry of Health indicates drug use for menstrual abnormalities for premenstrual syndrome and mastodynia. The mechanism of action seems to be linked to a decrease in the release of hormone stimulating hormone and an increase in the release of luteinizing hormone and prolactin.
The Agnocasto was a plant already known to ancient Greek physicians. Hippocrates used this plant for the treatment of lesions and inflammation. It was Dioscoride, the author of “De Materia Medica” to have found the positive effect of the Gnocasto on the female reproductive system. She recommended it to mothers who nursed, to expel the placenta after delivery, and to check for hemorrhage. According to Pliny the Elder, a writer in the first century, Greek women who wished to preserve their chastity, laid some leaves of this plant under the bed and slept on it. Plinio’s contemporaries, Dioscoride, stated that “Agnus Castus allowed women to preserve chastity, because the smell was so strong that when it spread on the bed, it was a sufficient effective remedy to discourage any loving offerings from Men. “In ancient Rome, the Vestals carried a twig of the tree as a symbol of their virginity. The Agnocasto was used by women of ancient Greece in their rituals to the goddess Cerere. In the Middle Ages, the monks ate their fruit for Supposedly suppressing their sexual instincts, and it was also thought that the seeds were particularly useful for the monastic life for which they were also called “monk pepper.” Therefore Agno chasto was abundantly cultivated at the monasteries and Arnaldo da Villanova (XIII sec) declared With great seriousness that it was enough to carry a knife with the handle made with Agno casto wood to keep away any voluptuous idea.
As a natural remedy, Agnus Castus was certainly used extensively by ancient herbalists. Although it is not an original plant in the United Kingdom, some research has shown its presence since the seventeenth century, but it is in the rest of Europe that the Agnocasto has found a real boom in cultivation and use, Since the twentieth century.
At the agnocasto plant is still used in phytotherapy for the treatment of some symptoms or pathologies, thanks to some of its particular beneficial properties. It is used in medicine and herbal medicine for its many medicinal qualities. Powder from its dried berries can have effects on the endocrine system, especially on pituitary gland. It is recommended to relieve menstrual pain, to regularize the appearance of the female cycle, to make menopause symptoms less irritating (such as irritability, breast and abdominal tension, sudden heat sensation).
For the current uses of this plant, most of the studies conducted were performed with Agnus Castus mother dye, the standard dose of which was 40 drops a day for at least 12 weeks. The Agnocasto is a slow-action plant: it usually takes several months to get the first benefits, except in lactating cases, which often shows improvements within a few weeks.
The natural remedy Agnus Castus has never been linked to significant side effects, but may have problems with mild, such as stomach upset, pruritus and skin rashes. The agnocasto should not be given to girls in pre-puberty.
It can be used in pre-menstrual syndromes. In this case, the remedy with Agnus Castus can improve headache, breast tension, tiredness, swelling, anxiety and similar symptoms, irregular cycle and too short or too long. In menopause, the natural remedy with Agnus Castus can improve many symptoms, including: Night sweats, hot flashes and tiredness.

In the dye, 60-120 drops (about 1-2 tablespoons, or 3-6 ml) can be used per day. Or, follow the instructions on each package of a product where the Agnocasto is used.
There are “standardized extracts” available on the market, which are certainly easier to find, but sometimes not advisable, because:

They are manufactured industrially (and therefore not customizable).
They often contain chemicals
Using Agnus Castus berries in capsules, or fluid or dry extracts, or mothers (cheaper), is definitely an alternative – if not the primary remedy – preferable, as it presents less risk and / or contraindications.
The natural remedy Agnus Castus is usually taken in a single dose of early morning. This is the best time to influence the pituitary gland – which seems to be the main goal to act on the plant. Positive results after using Agnus Castus are often visible within a few weeks. However, if you do not notice any change, you should not surrender before taking the remedy for at least two months in a row, for two cycles.
If you are beginning to get the benefits, it is advisable to continue taking the Agnocasto for at least 4-6 months, then it is recommended to reduce the dose for a few weeks. If the improvement persists, you may try to stop completely. If the symptoms, on the contrary, come back, it is advisable to go back to the previous dosage, and continue for another 2-3 months. If symptoms continue to come back after this period, you should consult a qualified specialist in alternative therapies. Agnocasto can be a very useful natural remedy, but if the problem persists, it is probably necessary to have more specific professional help as it is faced with a different treatable imbalance.
The Agnus Castus remedy can be combined with the use of other herbs useful for problems such as menopause, even in alternate periods. It often happens that a combination of different herbs with similar properties is more effective than a single plant. There are many products that can be combined with the Agnocasto. The essential thing is to find the right products for those who use them, and persist in treating with patience, even with the help of specialists in the industry.
You must not take Agnocasto during pregnancy (negative fetal interactions may occur)! It would also be wise to avoid associating the use of the Glnocasto with other synthetic products or medicines acting on the female hormone system – such as hormone replacement therapy or contraceptive pill. Signs of negative reactions or side effects following Agnus Castus treatment are very few. About one in every 50 people may experience slight digestive problems or slight skin irritation. In this case, it is advisable to stop taking it and then re-introduce the treatment more slowly.
In conclusion: in order to have a “trace” on the trend of “therapy” it is advisable to keep a real “diary”. It is necessary to take note of how it feels when Agnus Castus is injected, what herbs are combined, how the treatment proceeds. This is often very useful to note the progress of the cure, but also to provide your doctor with all the information needed to decide how to proceed or when to stop treatment.
A very important thing to keep in mind: the agnocasto is surely the most popular natural remedy to fight menopause symptoms, though not the only one.

Preparation Method –
Among the preparations, remember to leave one teaspoon of fruit in a cup of boiling water for ten minutes and drink two cups a day.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. The Health of the Lord’s Pharmacy, Tips and Experiences with Medicinal Herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (eds.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.

Caution: Pharmaceutical applications and surgical uses are indicated for information purposes only; they are not prescription-related in any way; Therefore, no liability is accepted for their use for any aesthetic or food purpose.




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