The medicinal power of monk’s pepper

The name monk’s pepper was given to this plant because it was said to be used by monks. The plant is a known anaphrodisiac; it reduces sex drive. Monkweed originates from Southern Europe and has spread from there with the help of humans to the rest of the Mediterranean, the warmer parts of Asia and America. Monk’s pepper is a plant that affects hormone balance. It can cure many conditions related to hormone imbalance. NB! This article is written from the personal view of the author and may contain information that is not scientifically substantiated and/or in line with the general view.

Monk’s pepper / Source: H. Zell, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)


  • Naming monk’s pepper
  • Monk’s pepper from the ancient Greeks
  • Monk’s pepper among the Romans
  • Monk’s pepper from the Middle Ages to the present
  • Active ingredients: monk’s pepper
  • Monk’s pepper for hormone balance
  • Other medicinal effects of monk’s pepper
  • Consult a herbal therapist


Naming monk’s pepper

Scientists use official Latin names among themselves when they use plants. The reason for this is that every language has a different name for a plant. By using Latin names one can be sure that they are talking about the same plant. The Latin name for monk’s pepper is Vitex Agnus-Castus . Vitex is a derivative form of the Latin word ‘vitilium’ which means ‘braid’. The flexible branches were previously used to weave fences. ‘Agnus’ is the Latin name for ‘lamb’ and ‘castus’ means ‘pure, pure or chaste’. ‘Chaste lamb’ refers to the property that monk’s pepper reduces sexual drive. Dutch has some alternative names for this plant: Monk’s pepper, Chaste tree, Chaste lamb, Abraham’s tree, Agnus castus.

Monk’s pepper from the ancient Greeks

In ancient Greece, women covered their benches with garlands of monk’s pepper during the spring rites of Demeter. The plant is said to protect virginity. A Greek woman who no longer wanted children gave their husband seeds of monk’s pepper. Hippocrates, founder of modern medicine, recommended the plant after childbirth to cleanse the uterus. He also used the plant for swelling of the spleen, inflammation and injuries.

Flowers and leaves monk paper / Source: Sten Porse, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

Monk’s pepper among the Romans

Dioscorides, pioneer of medicine and herbal science, recommended that women take a sitz bath with monk’s pepper to prevent uterine inflammation and promote menstruation. Pliny prescribed the plant for the same reasons, noting that it significantly reduces sexual drive. He also saw that this plant increases the milk production of mothers. The Vestal Virgins of the ancient Romans carried sprigs of monk’s pepper to signify their virginity.

Monk’s pepper from the Middle Ages to the present

In the monastery, monks used the herb as a spice in their food so that they were not plagued by excessive sexual desire. It is not known when they abandoned this good practice. The plant was the European symbol for chastity and virtue. There were other beneficial effects. In the Middle Ages, the berries of the plant were used against rheumatic pains and paralysis. The positive effect on breast milk production was also used. During the Second World War there was a lot of science being done. German scientists confirmed the breast milk production-stimulating effect of monk’s pepper. To this day, monk’s pepper flowers are strewn on the ground in some Italian monasteries when a new monk is appointed. Unfortunately for the church, this rarely happens. In modern times, double-blind scientific research has shown that monk’s pepper can indeed tackle PMS. It also appears to help with swollen breasts, headaches and cramps.

Active ingredients: monk’s pepper

Only the berries of this plant are used for medicinal purposes. The berries contain seven different types of iridoid glycosides. There are at least eight types of essential oils in large quantities in the plant. Furthermore, it contains a large number of flavonoids such as: orientin, iso-orientin, vitexin, isovitexin, isovitexin xyloside, casticin, penduletin and dysoplenol D. To a lesser extent, the fruit contains bicyclic diterpene derivatives, bitter substances, the fatty acids oleic acid, linoleic acid, palmitic acid and stearic acid, delta -3-ketosteroids and the alkaline viticin.

Monk’s pepper for hormone balance

Monk’s pepper contains phytoestrogen, a bioidentical hormone that restores the balance between estrogen and progesterone when taken for a long time. It inhibits the abnormal pituitary production of prolactin. Furthermore, it stimulates the secretion of LH or luteinizing hormone and mildly inhibits FSH or follicle-stimulating hormone. This ultimately releases more progesterone than estrogen in the body. All these effects make it a menstrual enhancer. It can be prescribed by herbal therapists for these medicinal properties for:

Monk’s pepper flower / Source: H. Zell, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

  • Too high prolactin level,
  • Corpus luteum insufficiency with hypoprogesteronemia,
  • PreMenstrual Syndrome or PMS,
  • Mastodynia, sore breasts,
  • Premenstrual pains in the mammary gland,
  • Painful menstruation,
  • Cycle disorders due to corpus luteum insufficiency,
  • Too frequent menstruation
  • Intermittent blood loss, spotting.
  • Cycles without ovulation,
  • Absence of menstruation,
  • Irregular menstruation,
  • Infertility due to corpus luteum insufficiency,
  • Excessive menstrual bleeding,
  • Menopausal complaints due to the preponderance of estrogen over progesterone,
  • Polycystic ovaries,
  • fibrocystic breast disease,
  • Mild cases of endiometrosis,
  • Absence of menstruation after stopping pill use,


Other medicinal effects of monk’s pepper

  • Monk’s pepper has a lactating effect and stimulates breast milk production during nursing.
  • It is an anaphrodisiac; it reduces sex drive and libido and is given for excessive male sex drive due to high testosterone levels and for premature ejaculation.
  • It is a sedative and is used for mild sleep disorders.
  • It has an antispasmodic and analgesic effect and is therefore given for pain in the right side, colic and nausea.
  • Because it is carminative, it is given for flatulence.


Consult a herbal therapist

Anyone who wants to use monk’s pepper as a medicinal remedy is recommended to consult a herbal therapist. Monk pepper extracts and medicines in the form of mother tincture, powder, dried herb, liquid extract and decoction should only be used on the prescription of authorized persons. A herbal therapist can tell you more about this, as well as about possible side effects and interactions with other medicines or herbs. There are also beneficial combinations with herbs. Some herbs can enhance each other’s effects; that’s called synergy. All medicinal effects of this medicinal herb mentioned in this article are based on scientific research and come from Geert Verhelst’s Large Handbook of Medicinal Plants, a standard work in the field of healing plants. The book is used in phytotherapy.

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