Monks pepper also called chasteberry or Vitex agnus-castus is a deciduous shrub, from the Verbenaceae family reaching up to 2.5m, with pleasingly aromatic foliage. Its leaves have a distinctive shape with 5-7 splayed leaflets. Upright panicles of fragrant lavender flowers in autumn. It produces dark gray globular seeds which look reminiscent of peppercorns and develop from the blossoms. The chaste tree is also called "Monk's pepper" because the seeds are said in folk medicine, to calm the libido. It is said that in medieval times, they were used as an anaphrodisiac, i.e. the opposite of an aphrodisiac. Monks are said to have eaten the monk’s pepper fruits to suppress the “sins of the flesh”. In fact, depending on where we research, it seems to depend on the dose because for some people, chasteberry is an aphrodisiac on one side of the Mediterranean and anaphrodisiac on the other :). Extracts from the dried fruit of the medicinal plant are used by herbalists for herbal remedies to regulate the female cycle, fertility disorders (sterility). The chasteberry tree is commonly used in basketry. Highly ornamental, it is loved by pollinators. Please always consult a health professional or a qualified herbalist before using this herb/tree medicinally.
Scientific Name: Vitex agnus-castus
Plant Life Cycle: annual
Sunlight: Full sun
Soil requirement: Well-drained, dry ormoist
Sowing and cultivation: Chasteberry seeds are sown in the spring. Soaking the seeds in hot water for 24 hours will promote germination, as well as a temperature maintained constantly around 20°C. Cold and wet weather will result in dieback to the ground, and usually comes back. As it flowers on new wood, flowering is not affected on vigorous growth in the following season.