Herb of the Day: Vitex


Vitex

( Vitex agnus castus )

Vitex is a aromatic deciduous tree that grows to 21 feet and is native to Greece and Italy. It has palm shaped leaves and small lilaclike flowers. The rips yellow red berries have been harvested in the fall for the use of herbal medicine for 1000 years in Europe and China.

Vitex has the effect of stimulating and normalizing the pituitary gland function. It normalizes the female sex hormones and is indicated for dysmenorrhea, menopausal symptoms, and other disorders related to hormone imbalance.

The Greeks knew of vitex in the time of Homer, more than 1000 years before it was used in China. Homer’s sixth century, B.C.E. epic The Iliad mentions vitex as a symbol of chastity capable of protecting people against evil.  According to the first century Greek historian Pliny, chaste berries strewn on the beds of soldiers wives was a testimony of the wives faithfulness while their husbands were in battle.

Vitex aids with; acne, fibrocystic breasts, menopause related problems, PMS, hot flashes. German and Austrian physicians take advantage of vitex’s ability ti increase the production of progesterone in treating endometriosis, a condition in which the endometrial tissue normally found within the uterus escapes into the abdominal cavity, causing pain and menstrual problems. Because it stimulates growth of the uterine lining, vitex can help reverse infertility. There are ground to believe that vitex could be useful in treating prostate cancer, and the herb is frequently recommended for this purpose. At least in laboratory studies, vitex reduces the production of prolactin, a hormone responsible for converting testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, which in turn stimulates the growth of prostate cancer cells.  Since vitex contains both compounds that stop the conversion of testosterone and the testosterone compounds themselvers, it is probably too risky to use this herb as a treatment for prostate cancer.

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