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Vitex agnus-castus var. latifolia
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Vitex agnus-castus var. latifolia
Vitex agnus-castus L. Lamiaceae var. latifolia Distribution: Sicily. This buddleia-like shrub comes from Sicily but is hardy in much of the British Isles. It was known as the chaste plant, and reported by Woodville (1790) that, being ‘especially useful to those living a monastic life these seeds have been called Monks’ Pepper’ and were sprinkled on food to prevent carnal thoughts'. Lyte (1578) says it is ‘a singular remedy for such as would live chaste, for it withstandeth all uncleanliness and the filthy desire to lechery’. Nuns carried the leaves in their pockets to keep their minds pure, believing that its virtuous properties could be absorbed – like the copper in the bangles for arthritis worn to this day. Visitors to the garden of the Royal College of Physicians in London report that it is still found growing outside the monasteries of France. It continues to be used in herbal medicine for premenstrual syndromes although clinical effectiveness is not supported by controlled trials. It does have dopaminergic activity and may lower serum prolactin levels. It is licensed as a herbal medicine for minor symptoms of the premenstrual syndrome. Severe allergic reactions have been reported. No assessment of sexual activity or interest was made. (European Medicines Agency report, November 2010). No assessment of sexual activity or interest was made, but it should be noted that raised levels of prolactin (the reverse of the effect of Vitex agnus-castus) are associated with loss of libido in both men and women. It is licensed for use in Traditional Herbal Medicines in the UK (UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)). Photographed in the Medicinal Garden of the Royal College of Physicians, London.
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