Chaste tree belongs to the verbena family and originally comes from the Mediterranean and the Near East. Its Latin name agnus castus means "chaste lamb". The shrub can reach five meters in height. The individual stems are square; the leaves have the shape of lancets, are black-green at the top and covered with white down on the underside. Chaste tree blooms in blue, pink and violet from June to September, it develops brown-black drupes.
Chaste tree in the Middle Ages
In the Middle Ages, chaste tree was supposed to curb sexual desire, which is why monks and nuns reportedly ate the fruit. It is more obvious, however, that the clergy also used the fruit primarily as a spice. The stone fruits taste hot and were a good substitute for real pepper. It came from the Orient and was exorbitantly expensive in the Middle Ages. Chaste tree, on the other hand, originally grew on the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, but spread easily in the monastery gardens of Central Europe.
Symbol of chastity and abstinence
In Greek mythology, however, the plant stood for chastity. So the goddess Hera was born under such a shrub, had sex with the father of the god Zeus every year under such a tree and became a virgin again through a bath. Greek women cleaned the genital organs with the leaves of the chaste tree.
At the Tonaiah celebrations, the faithful wrapped a picture of Hera with branches of a monk's pepper, which stood in Heraion on Samos. In Greichenland the chaste tree was a symbol of conjugal chastity, in the Middle Ages the sexual abstinence of the monks.
In the early modern period it was mentioned as a plant to tame the lust for wool. Franz von Sales (1567-1622) wrote: “Those who bed on the herb Agnus castus become chaste and shameful themselves. In this way, your heart will be cleaned of all flaws and bad pleasure when it rests in the Savior, the truly pure and flawless lamb. ”
In 1626, Matthiolus gave specific instructions on how to use the plant: “He takes his desire to trade in Venus and not only the seeds do this, but also the leaves and flowers, but not only how you eat them, but also when you scatter them in bed. "
The term chaste tree refers to the fact that monks used the fruits of the bush like pepper, the popular term chaste mud combines the "innocent lamb" as a symbol for Jesus Christ, who is said to have sacrificed himself like an "innocent lamb" with the Christian ideal of sexual abstinence.
Chaste tree: Effect
It is not pure superstition. The chaste tree contains medicinally effective substances. There is essential oil in the fruit, as well as iridoid glycosides, diterpenes, flavonoids and tannins.
Chaste tree promotes blood circulation. This is due to coumarins and flavonoids. It helps with joint diseases and rheumatic complaints. The production of bile juice is boosted by the high proportion of bitter substances, they strengthen digestion.
Use in folk medicine
In folk medicine, chaste tree is traditionally considered a medicinal plant to treat irregularities in the period and problems with menstruation, and it also helps to relieve chest pain.
The plant was used against (!) Impotence and to increase the milk production of the mothers. While women use it in many places to prevent unwanted children, elsewhere it has been used to increase fertility. Neither one has been proven in scientific studies.
Scientific studies on chaste tree
The following is scientifically proven: The fruits of the chaste tree can balance the female hormone level. They cause less prolactin to be released, a hormone that not only promotes breast milk production, but also causes chest pain in excess or is complicit when the period comes irregularly.
The Commission E (Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices) and ESCOP (European umbrella organization of the national associations for phytotherapy) consider chaste tree to be helpful for: Period disorders, premenstrual syndrome and period pain.
Risks and side effects of chaste tree
Chaste tree usually causes few problems. Rarely there is an itching sensation on the skin combined with inflammation. Nausea and diarrhea can also occur. Since chaste tree influences hormones, pregnant women and nursing mothers should under no circumstances take medicines that contain chaste tree.
Do not use chaste tree on your own if you experience chest pain during puberty or if you have problems with menstruation for the first time. Here you should first ask the gynecologist you trust for advice.
Because of the influence on the hormones, the following people are not allowed to use chaste tree: Patients suffering from diseases related to the hormone balance. These include people who have cancer in the uterus, ovaries, or breasts.
Chaste tree can interact with other medications. This includes certain neuroleptics and medicine for nausea. Here, the appropriate doctor should assess whether and which interactions could arise. There are also interactions with Ritalin and dopamine reuptake inhibitors.
You should only take chaste tree as medicine if a doctor has clarified the causes. Symptoms during the period or chest tenderness need not necessarily have anything to do with hormones.
A variety of means
If you do not have your own monk pepper bush, you can use a variety of preparations. In pharmacies you can get chaste tree as dragees, capsules, tinctures or dry extracts. It can also be found in teas and tea blends.
Teas with other gynecological plants, for example yarrow or lady's mantle, are widespread.
Chaste tree in the natural garden
In addition to its medicinal use, chaste tree is also an excellent plant for the natural garden. The numerous flowers not only look good, but also offer an excellent pasture for bees and bumblebees from May to September.
Due to the long flowering period and the strikingly shaped leaves, chaste tree is suitable as an ornamental shrub, so it can stand individually in the center of the garden. However, it also offers itself as a hedge plant, can be easily cut back and thus offers a hiding place for birds, which it also provides with fruit in autumn.
Harvest fruits yourself
Before using chaste tree to reduce gynecological problems, please consult a doctor. Then you can easily harvest the fruit yourself. It's very easy: you collect the berry-like drupes in September and October. You can either use them fresh, for example in spicy sauces, as an ingredient in vegetarian dishes or in teas, or you can dry the "berries" and have something like this for longer.
To dry, look for a room with low humidity and heating. You remove the seeds and lay the pulp on dish towels or a clean surface. Depending on the temperature, it takes a few days to a few weeks for the chaste tree to dry completely.
You can fill the dried fruit in glasses or mix it with other dried plant parts to make a tea. If you have lady's mantle or yarrow in the garden, this will result in a tea blend for mentoring problems; If the promotion of blood circulation is more important to you, you can add blackberry and raspberry leaves, but also chillies or ginger.
The peppery taste of the fruit gives a tea an unusual taste. If this is too spicy for you, you can add a sweet note with mint leaves or fennel. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
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