Safety and efficacy of chastetree (Vitex agnus-castus) during pregnancy and lactation

Can J Clin Pharmacol. 2008 Winter;15(1):e74-9. Epub 2008 Jan 18.


Background: There is a lack of basic knowledge on the part of both clinicians and patients as to the indications for use and safety of herbs used during pregnancy and lactation. This is one article in a series that systematically reviews the evidence for herbs commonly used during pregnancy and lactation.

Objectives: To systematically review the literature for evidence on the use, safety and pharmacology of chastetree, focusing on issues pertaining to pregnancy and lactation.

Methods: We searched 7 electronic databases and compiled data according to the grade of evidence found. RESULTS In pregnancy, there is poor evidence based on theoretical and expert opinion and in vitro studies that chastetree may have estrogenic and progesteronic activity, uterine stimulant activity, emmenagogue activity and prevent miscarriages. In lactation, theoretical and expert opinion conflict as to whether chastetree increases or decreases lactation.

Conclusions: Given its relatively common use amongst women of childbearing age, it is likely that some women may consume chastetree while unknowingly pregnant. Complementary and alternative medicine, midwifery and medical practitioners should be aware of this fact when prescribing chastetree to women of childbearing age, particularly when the patient is planning a family. Key words: Chastetree, vitex agnus-castus, pregnancy, lactation, breastfeeding, systematic review.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Spontaneous / prevention & control
  • Animals
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Fruit
  • Herb-Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Lactation / drug effects*
  • Menstruation / drug effects
  • Menstruation-Inducing Agents / adverse effects*
  • Menstruation-Inducing Agents / chemistry
  • Menstruation-Inducing Agents / toxicity
  • Oxytocics / adverse effects*
  • Oxytocics / chemistry
  • Oxytocics / toxicity
  • Phytoestrogens / adverse effects*
  • Phytoestrogens / chemistry
  • Phytoestrogens / toxicity
  • Plant Preparations / adverse effects*
  • Plant Preparations / chemistry
  • Plant Preparations / toxicity
  • Pregnancy
  • Receptors, Estrogen / drug effects
  • Receptors, Progesterone / drug effects
  • Risk Assessment
  • Uterine Contraction / drug effects
  • Vitex* / chemistry


  • Menstruation-Inducing Agents
  • Oxytocics
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Plant Preparations
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Progesterone