Plant of the Month: Chaste Tree

Common Name: Chaste Tree or Vitex, Chasteberry, Monk’s pepper, Chaste Lamb Tree

Latin name: Vitex agnus-castus

Family: Vervain Family Verbenaceae , Perennial

Common to: Mediterranean to Western Asia

Native: Greece and Italy

Habitat: Found next to streams and also in dry rocks spots

Growth: Grows from 3-9 feet tall and under cultivation can be up to 20 feet tall. The bark is white-felted, has an opposite leaf pattern and the flowers are interrupted spikes (pale lilac to purple or red) and the fruit is a small hard reddish-black drupe.

Element: Water, Fire

Process: Involution (Water): Bringing Spirit into Matter;

Evolution (Fire): Bringing matter into Spirit

Gender: Feminine

Energy: Warming and drying

Planet Association: Moon and Pluto

Chakra: 2nd chakra: Svadishthana: “one’s own abode” Located behind the genitals and sacral region. Relates to our sensual and sexual drives, our unconscious material, as well as the collective unconscious, intuition, connection to self and others, place of creation: I love all dimensions of myself I delight in weaving the creative tapestry that is my life

Part of Plant Used: Fruits

Day of the Week: Monday (Moon)

Taste: Pungent

History and Lore:

The name “Vitex comes from the Romans because they associated it with Willow, “Salix”. They both have flexible branches that are used in wickerwork. “Angus-castus” comes from the Greek “agnos castus” or “chaste”, because the plant is associated with remaining chaste (refraining from sexual desire). The Romans felt the word “agnos” sounded like their word “agnus” which translates to lamb and so the other common name, Chaste Lamb tree came to be.

Ancient Medicine:

For as long as 2500 years, Chaste Tree has been used in woman’s health regulating menstruation, increasing fertility, purging the uterus from inhabitants such as fibroids, increasing mother’s milk in new mothers, marriage rituals and reducing sexual desire. Its branches were used to make furniture and the seeds were drank to reduce fevers and stimulate perspiration. Chasteberry was also used to cure insanity, what was called the stroke of madness and epilepsy, and was used to calm hysteria. The Germans used this herb for all hormonal imbalances such as PMS, bloating, headaches, acne as well as menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats.ritual cup.

Greek Goddesses:

Ceres: Goddess of agriculture, grain crops, fertility and motherly relationships. The Greeks used the seeds for chastity and used the leaves to invoke Ceres. Athenian matrons would make chains of the leaves and use them to decorate couches during holy days sacred to Ceres.

Hera: The goddess, the protector of home, marriage and fidelity (faithfulness and loyalty)

Demeter: The goddess of the Harvest, fertility and sacrament of marriage. (Queen of the Underworld)

Persephone: Goddess of Fertility (daughter of Demeter and Queen of the underworld)

The Chaste Tree was a central piece of the ancient Greek festival, Thesmophoria. Thesmophoria was a 3-day woman’s festival, which was held in honor of Demeter and Persephone (the two Demeters). During the festival women remained “chaste” and the blossoms and branches were used to decorate the Goddesses temples with bows of the Vitex purple blossoms (Purple: 3rd eye). This festival honored the cycles of renewal and fertility in woman’s lives. It was customary to use Vitex leaves as bedding since they were thought to increase fertility and enhance women’s receptivity to the life-giving powers of the Goddess. Due to that fact men were not at these festivals Chasteberry became more associate with remaining chaste rather than fertility.

Rome: Chasteberry is often called monk’s pepper because it is strongly connected with European monastery gardens where is was often cultivated by monks. It was used to inhibit sexual desire so the monks could remain chaste and free from desires. They used it to suppress all wicked urges and nuns would line their bedding with the leaves in hopes the herb would help maintain their innocence as well as withstand them their own sexual desires. In Rome, the vestal virgins carried twigs of Chaste Tree as a symbol of their chastity and faithfulness to divine spirit. Woman used the foul-smelling branches above their bed to deter men. Throughout history it has been associated with passion. It calms violent sexual desire and headaches, purges uterus and bowels. It was also said that those who carry a twig in their hand will not suffer from chafing between thighs. Newlyweds were crowned with chaste flowers to show their fidelity (faithfulness and loyalty) to another in their vows. Although in Morocco it was used opposite, to call upon sexual desires and to attract men as well as other cultures as stated. The powdered seeds and berries were added to incense to draw down the moon to increase fertility or to b