The Mediterranean Chastity Plant
Mediterranean plants have long been attributed with having medicinal,
healing properties, from the skin softening oil of the olive tree, the
calming effects of the chamomile plant or even to the flatulence reducing
fennel. However, rarely do we hear of a Mediterranean plant that can
assist one with maintaining a period of chastity.
Curiously, Vitex agnus castus actually takes it’s common name “The
chaste (or chastity) plant” directly from a number of compounds which
have a similar structure to certain sexual hormones in the human body.
In ancient Greece Vitex agnus castus was considered to be an anaphrodisiac
and even Christian monks took the dried fruits of the plant to subdue
“desires of the flesh”.
A powder derived from the dried fruits soon
became known As ‘Monks pepper’ throughout Europe and in fact there are
substances within the plant that subdue the actions of certain male
hormones, named androgens which, in turn, causes a decrease in male
Vitex has probably been most researched for it’s effect on pre-menstrual
tension in women. A recent study of 178 women by the British medical
association showed that 50% of the women tested showed major signs of
improvement regarding PMT and many other pre-menstrual symptoms
For the garden designer in Italy however, the chaste plant offers
a fantastic plant that is both easy to grow and aesthetically valid
within the Italian garden context. Growing to a maximum height of around
3 to 5m, with leaves rather like hemp and displaying lilac-shaped blue
or white flowers it is an easy to grow stunner that is not very common.
With an annual prune in late winter/spring the plant can be maintained
to a compact 1-1.50m and will produce a myriad of flowers from early
summer to October.
These flowers will attract butterflies and bees and the flowers are
particularly enjoyed by bumble bees. When planted in a mixed, informal
hedge with buddleia, lilac and lavender the butterflies will gather
in their hundreds. Plant in full sun, in poor soil on a sunny bank or
against a wall and enjoy this easy Mediterranean plant in your Italian
By Jonathan Radford