Pharmacological activities of Vitex agnus-castus extracts in vitro

Phytomedicine. 2000 Oct;7(5):373-81. doi: 10.1016/S0944-7113(00)80058-6.


The pharmacological effects of ethanolic Vitex agnus-castus fruit-extracts (especially Ze 440) and various extract fractions of different polarities were evaluated both by radioligand binding studies and by superfusion experiments. A relative potent binding inhibition was observed for dopamine D2 and opioid (micro and kappa subtype) receptors with IC50 values of the native extract between 20 and 70 mg/mL. Binding, neither to the histamine H1, benzodiazepine and OFQ receptor, nor to the binding-site of the serotonin (5-HT) transporter, was significantly inhibited. The lipophilic fractions contained the diterpenes rotun-difuran and 6beta,7beta-diacetoxy-13-hydroxy-labda-8,14-dien . They exhibited inhibitory actions on dopamine D2 receptor binding. While binding inhibition to mu and kappa opioid receptors was most pronounced in lipophilic fractions, binding to delta opioid receptors was inhibited mainly by a aqueous fraction. Standardised Ze 440 extracts of different batches were of constant pharmacological quality according to their potential to inhibit the binding to D2 receptors. In superfusion experiments, the aqueous fraction of a methanolic extract inhibited the release of acetylcholine in a concentration-dependent manner. In addition, the potent D2 receptor antagonist spiperone antagonised the effect of the extract suggesting a dopaminergic action mediated by D2 receptor activation. Our results indicate a dopaminergic effect of Vitex agnus-castus extracts and suggest additional pharmacological actions via opioid receptors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Male
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Plants, Medicinal*
  • Radioligand Assay
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Receptors, Opioid / drug effects*
  • Vitex*


  • Plant Extracts
  • Receptors, Opioid