Vitex (agnus-castus) is an absolutely gorgeous small landscape tree or bush. If you live in Arizona, then you’re sure to have seen it and possibly not even known what it was. It looks a lot like a Butterfly Bush (Buddleia) or lilac. Vitex can grow to be a medium-sized tree if pruned well. I personally love Vitex because it is an excellent nectar source for honeybees, and you know how I feel about that! Whether you have a yard to grow a tree in, or you are in an apartment with, you can harvest Chasteberries in Arizona.

Morbi vitae purus dictum, ultrices tellus in, gravida lectus.

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Vitex is a tree full of history and is well-known as an herbal medicine. Some of its names kind of give away what those might be: Chaste Tree, Chasteberry, and Monks Pepper. The berries of the Vitex plant were thought to suppress libido in monks and was often prescribed to help them manage their celibate life. This makes sense when you realize that it is used frequently to treat Premenstrual Syndrome, Infertility, and Menopause by helping to balance hormones like estrogen and progesterone. However, research has shown that it doesn’t necessarily inhibit sex drive in men.

Foraging for Vitex

If you are looking for a natural treatment for hormonal issues, you have very likely run across Vitex or Chasteberry supplements and teas. These are simply seeds that are processed into useable tinctures and powders. If you have access to the plant, you can do the same. This is great news for those of us in Arizona because Vitex grows incredibly well here. In fact, it is easy to grow from seed or planted as an older tree. I was super surprised to see it on the shores of Apache Lake last week and can only assume that as the seeds fall into the water they are carried all around the lake. This is another reminder for us to carry bags for harvesting plants wherever we go. I like the doggie poo baggies like THIS that I can just clip on my backpack or belt loop.

I happen to have two Vitex trees growing in my garden at home, but they are still small and haven’t given me a large enough harvest to use yet. My old neighborhood actually uses Chaste trees as landscape plants along the streets. I love it when cities plant multi-use plants that people can harvest from. Vitex is deciduous, so they do lose their leaves in the winter even in Phoenix, but all winter you can harvest the seeds until they begin to leaf out and produce more flowers. If you aren’t very familiar with Vitex trees, then scouting them out when they have leaves and flowers is your best bet. That way you can come back for the seeds or berries in the Fall and Winter. 

How do you use Vitex?

Before you start making your herbal preparations, it’s a good idea to know why you want to use it and then research the best methods and recommended amounts for that use. Don’t forget to read any precautions as well. Your best bet would be to talk with a Naturopathic Physician for help. Otherwise, just make sure you know as much as you can and ALWAYS start with a small amount to gauge your body’s response and build from there.

The 4 common preparations for Vitex are:

  1. Tincture
  2. Tea
  3. Capsules
  4. Seasoning
tincture of Monks Pepper

How to Make Vitex Tincture

Tincturing is a very easy and effective way of drawing out the properties of Vitex. There are only a few steps, and the only hard part is having patience to wait for the alcohol to do its magic (2-3 weeks). Because herbal medicine is not an exact science, I find it helpful to do some research to draw on the most common recipes and dosages.

Most recommendations for dosage is 1-2 tablespoons or 1-2 ml taken once or twice a day. It takes a month or more to see results generally, so it’s worth making a pint or quart. I have heard so many good things about the efficacy of Vitex for helping with female cycle issues like PMS, PCOS, and Menopause. I look forward to this journey of using it.

Here is the process

  1. Use a mortar and Pestle or blender to coarsely grind enough Vitex berries (seeds) to fill a jar halfway.
  2. Pour in 80 proof Vodka to fill the jar. Close the lid tightly and shake.
  3. Leave the jar on a counter for 2-3 weeks, shaking once daily.
  4. When ready to strain, have a clean jar and strainer ready to pour the tincture into. You can use a clean pillowcase if you like, or (my favorite) a pour-over coffee filter like THIS metal one and add paper filters for extra filtering if you like.
  5. Once strained you can compost the spent seeds
  6. Store the tincture in a dark place and use daily. I like to keep my tinctures in small amber bottles near the kitchen sink so I can remember to use them. Just keep the excess in larger containers in the cupboard.

Note: I recommend keeping a journal of how you feel for your next two to three cycles to see how it is working.

How to Make Vitex Tea

You certainly can drink Chasteberry in a tea, but it may not be for everyone. It has a bitter taste that is very interesting and is improved with honey (as everything is). It reminds me of straight Echinacea. You can certainly brew it alone, but it would be better mixed in with other herbs for a tastier drink.

To brew tea

  1. pour boiling water over 1 tablespoon of berries and allow to steep for 10 minutes.
  2. Use a coffee strainer or french press to strain the tea into a cup.
  3. Drink 1-2 cups a day.
how to make vitex capsules

How to Make Vitex Capsules

If you would like to be able to just get all your vitex ready in capsule form, you can easily do that. Simply grind your dried Vitex berries into a powder using a coffee grinder and then fill all the capsules you want. The best way to do this is with a capsule-filling kit like this one HERE. You can also choose to get empty gelatin or vegan capsules in whatever size you want. I would suggest checking out your local Sprouts, Whole foods or herbal supplement store to see what the capsules and dosages are for Vitex. Gaia is a brand I know and trust.

grinding chaste berries with a mortar and pestle

How to Make Vitex Seasoning

This is one of my favorite ways to use Vitex because it allows you to add the peppery flavor to your food as a seasoning. As I have said before, another name for this plant is Monks Pepper. You can do a coarse grind in a mortar or coffee grinder to use as pepper. Vitex isn’t a strong flavor, but it’s definitely there. Why not keep a jar of it in your cupboard to add to your other local meals. You’ll be giving your body nourishment, and that feels so good.

So is Vitex good for men?

if you’ve read through this article and find that Vitex is a great addition to your life, you may be wondering if it is ok for men to use. I know I was curious.

Good news! Vitex is actually beneficial to men as well. THIS ARTICLE explains how Vitex can be helpful to men dealing with prostate issues and other challenges related to hormones. It’s worth doing some research, for sure. In the meantime, don’t worry that adding some chasteberries to your dinner are going to wreck your man’s libido. It may actually help him.

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