Chaste tree is a shrub endemic to the Mediterranean region. Its hard, black, round berries and seeds are used medicinally for centuries. In the first century, Ancient Greek physician Dioscorides wrote in the famous ‘De Materia Medica’ that Chaste Tree (Vitex Agnes-castus L.) draws down milk and its seeds set the menses in motion.
Today both American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and German Commission E approve its use in the treatment of menstrual irregularities, mastalgia (breast pain) and a specific type of infertility. Medication containing chaste fruit extracts are available in the market through some German and Swiss manufacturers, and all of them were tested by clinical trials. Well, buying the treatment of the shelf provides an undeniable convenience, it also leads to societies that burry their knowledge of centuries into the deep ground. Luckily, folk medicine in Turkey is still widespread, and access to medicinal herbs like this one is straightforward and affordable. Same in China, India and a few other countries. But West seems to have switched to expensive health supplements.
In Turkish Folk medicine (I am referring to public online info and what I have heard from friends), chaste berry tea is known as ‘women’s plant’. It is recommended for the treatment of menstrual cycle-related issues. There is also a belief that chaste berry tea helps conception through regulating hormones. As Dioscorides discussed centuries ago, breastfeeding mothers use it to improve both the quantity and quality of the milk.
As for the drinking experience, camphor and menthol dominated the aromas. It was almost too sharp that made it astringent. Perhaps, it should be so that more of its oils and nutrients are extracted. For me, I was not able to crush the seeds (lack of equipment in confinement) properly; therefore, I could still ‘enjoy’ its taste.
De Materia Medica, Dioscorides, Pedanius.
The Handbook of Clinically Tested Herbal Remedies, Vols. I and II Edited by M. Barrett (Pharmacognosy Consulting). Haworth Press, Inc.
Harvest time: 2019
Leave colour: Pepper like brown seeds
Liquor colour: Faint yellow
Tea aroma: Menthol and floral
Tea taste: Camphor and methol
Steeping/brewing: Crush half a table spoon of seeds roughly and steep in boiled water for 3 to 5 minutes. Filter and drink up to 2 cups per day.
Shelf life: Up to 2 years or more if kept in a cool, dark and dry storage.