All over the world, there are various types of plant products which have been used as aphrodisiacs for hundreds of years. Some of these substances claim to directly affect the sex organs or hormones thereby stimulating desire, while others act to heal certain aspects of the sexual or reproductive system and thus promote overall sexual well-being. An example of the latter class of aphrodisiacs is chasteberry whose use is supposed to benefit women and the female reproductive system.
Chasteberry, also known as vitex or monk’s pepper, is the berry-like fruit of a tree whose botanical name is Vitex agnus castus. The tree belongs to the Verbenaceae family and can grow to a height of twenty-two feet. The tree is extensively found along the wet banks of rivers in southern Europe and the Mediterranean.
Chasteberry as an aphrodisiac for women
The chasteberry is the most used part of the tree and since ancient times has been used to treat hormonal imbalances, especially in women. According to herbologists Joe and Terry Graedon, the chasteberry contains almost 1% flavonoids, including casticin, kaempferol, isovitexin, orientin and quercatagetin. Along with these, the berries also contain iridoid glycosides, such as aucubin and agnuside. However its use in the treatment of hormonal imbalances lies in the fact that the leaves and flowers of the chasteberry tree are rich sources of hormones like progesterone and testosterone besides others like androstenedione, epitestosterone and hydroxyprogesterone.
How does it work as an aphrodisiac for women? Among the hormones found in the plant parts of chasteberry tree are testosterone and androstenedione, both male hormones which are believed to be crucial components for inducing sexual desire. Substances which contain these hormones can thus be regarded as having aphrodisiacs which help to stimulate sexual desire.
However the popularity of chasteberry as an aphrodisiac for women primarily lies in its ability to regulate the level of hormones in the body. Because of its child-bearing function, a woman’s reproductive system goes through several changes over time. These changes may bring about uncomfortable and even painful symptoms among women which are hardly conducive to sexual pleasure. Use of chasteberry helps to alleviate many uncomfortable aspects of the female reproductive system and herein lies the key to its aphrodisiacal properties. The following are some of the ways in which the use of chasteberry works to bring relief to problems of reproductive system among women and consequently promote greater sexual pleasure.
Chasteberry helps manage Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS)
One of the most common complaints among women related to the reproductive system is the occurrence of PMS or Pre-Menstrual Syndrome which can include a variety of uncomfortable symptoms ranging from mood swings, to fatigue and hot flashes. Similar symptoms may again strike women with the onset of menopause. While women experience these difficult conditions, sex can hardly be a pleasurable experience. Modern science has several kinds of medications to minimize the effect of PMS or menopausal discomforts which are thought to be caused by the lack of the hormone progesterone in the body. Hormone Replacement Therapy or HRT is a popular treatment for symptoms associated with menopause but it is known to induce several types of undesirable side effects. Chasteberry on the other hand is known to be rich in progesterone and its use can work to ease out the bloating effects of pre-menstrual syndrome as well as menopause by reducing swelling and inflammation.
Chasteberry is also considered an effective and natural way of balancing prolactin levels in the body. The imbalance of prolactin can lead to various complications among women – too much of it may induce amenorrhea or absence of periods and breast tenderness while too little of it can restrict milk production among lactating mothers. The use of chasteberry supplements may not only help restore the right balance of prolactin in women but also ease out menstrual irregularities which if left untreated can prevent women from having a wholesome sexual experience.
Chasteberry and the female reproductive system
Among other conditions of female reproductive system which may benefit from treatment by chasteberry are fibroid cysts especially of the smooth muscle. Along with this, the herb may help in reducing heavy bleeding associated with perimenopause.
Chasteberry extract, herbal tea, tincture and capsules
Chasteberry may be taken as a tincture, a herbal tea, an extract or in the form of capsules. Tinctures and extracts are mixed with water or juice, usually 10-30 drops per drink. Chasteberry tea is made by steeping 1 teaspoon berries in a cup of boiling water for 10-15 minutes while capsules are available in doses from 40 to 400 mg. In most cases, the herb whether in tincture, extract, tea or capsule form is taken three times a day. While the usual dosage of chasteberry extract is 175 to 225 mg on a daily basis, the correct dosage can only be decided by considering the nature and extent of the ailment which is why it is essential that chasteberry extract be taken under the supervision of a qualified naturopathic physician.
Side-effects of Chasteberry
On the whole, chasteberry is well tolerated but a few side effects like nausea, minor headache and changes in menstrual pattern have been noted in some people. More importantly however, one must not take chasteberry in combination with synthetic hormonal products like those present in birth-control pills and hormone replacement therapy. Because of it hormonal properties, some practitioners of alternative medicine believe that chasteberry should be avoided by pregnant women, especially after three months of pregnancy as it may start the flow of milk prematurely. Women suffering from breast cancer, uterine cancer or pituitary tumors are also advised not to take chasteberry as the hormonal properties of the herb may worsen the tumor or interfere with necessary medication. Some studies have found that drugs that act on a neurotransmitter in the brain known as dopamine may affect or in turn be affected by use of chasteberry.
Ever since ancient Greek and Roman times, chasteberry has figured prominently in the natural treatment of hormonal imbalances. So rather than directly inducing sexual desire, chasteberry acts as an aphrodisiac more by treating underlying hormonal problems in women and thereby bringing about overall sexual wellbeing.