Vitex trifolia, also known as simpleleaf chastetree or Man Jing Zi in Pinyin, is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine and described by “Shen Nong’s Herbal Classic” as one of the supreme Chinese herbs. Traditionally it is considered an herb that is good at alleviating fever, helping mucus for easier expulsion, lowering blood pressure, inhibiting the reproduction of viruses, and so on. That’s to say, it treats a wide range of diseases, including common cold, prosopalgia, chronic tracheitis, sinusitis, periodontitis, rheumatism, and more.
Vitex trifolia description
Traditionally the medicinal part of vitex is the fruit. Therefore, medicinally it often refers to the dried ripe fruits of Vitex trifolia L. var. simplicifolia Cham. or Vitex trifolia L. Both of them are members in the family Verbenaceae. And other names of this herb include Vitex Fruit Seed, Fructus Viticis, Vitex Fruit, etc. In China the former species is mainly produced in Shandong, Jiangxi, Zhejiang, and Fujian while the latter mainly comes from Guangdong and Guangxi. It is normally collected in fall when the fruits become mature enough. Before used raw or fried, it still needs to go through the process of removing impurities and drying in the sun.
Vitex trifolia plants are deciduous shrub or small tree, which is about 3 meters in height and with aroma. Young shoots are square and densely pubescent. Old branches turn round and all the hairs gradually fall off. Single leaf is with petiole that is 5 to 18cm in length; leaf blade is ovate or obovate, 2.5 to 5cm long, and 1.5 to 3cm wide. Panicle is acrogenous and 2 to 12cm long; calyx looks like a bell; corolla is lilac and 5-lobed; stamens are 4; ovary is spherical and with dense glandular dots. Berry is spherical and 5 to 7mm in diameter. Most of the berry is wrapped by the enlarged persistent calyx. Its flowering time is in July and fruit time is in September. Habitats include seaside, beach, lakeside, etc.
The fruits and leaves of Vitex trifolia L. var. simplicifolia Cham. contain volatile oils, a trace of alkaloids, and vitamin A. In addition, its fruits contain vitexicarpin or casticin.
Fruits of Vitex trifolia L. contain a small amount of vitricin (0.01%), 2.60% fatty oil, p-hydroxy benzoic acid, p-anisic acid, and vanillin. And main ingredients of fatty oil are myristic acid, palmitic acid, stearic acid, palmitoleic acid, oleic acid, linoleic acid, paraffin, γ-tocopherol, and β-sitosterol. The vitex leaf contains volatile oil, which are mainly α-pinene, β-pinene, phenol, 1,8-cineole and α-terpineol.
Vitex trifolia health benefits
As mentioned previously, its medicinal uses were discovered thousands of years ago in China, where traditionally uses it to cure a range of ailments. Today more health benefits about it are being found. For instance, it has significant antihypertensive effect, which is believed to relate to the parasympathetic nervous system. Experimental results show that its water extract can lower the blood pressure in rabbits. And this effect could be resisted by atropine and chlorisondamine, enhanced by physostigmine, and slightly strengthened by betanidine. However, it is not affected by propranolol or cyproheptadine. Though hypertension is not a concept in TCM, it is never a problem for ancient people to come up with many amazing inventions to treat this condition. And pillow filled with vitex fruit seeds is one of them. More than that, pillow like that can help feel refreshed and full of energy, cure stiff neck, and relieved muscular soreness.
Modern pharmacological actions of simpleleaf chastetree
1. Fructus viticis has certain degree of sedative, analgesic, and antipyretic effects;
2. Vitexicarpin contained has antibacterial and antiviral activity;
3. Distillation from its leaves can enhance peripheral and splanchnic microcirculation.
Selected fructus viticis herbal remedies
The Chinese Materia Medica believes that it is acrid and bitter in flavor and slightly cold in nature. And it goes to meridians of liver, stomach, and bladder. Vital functions are dispelling wind and heat and clearing head and eyes. Main vitex trifolia uses and indications include wind-heat type cold, dizziness, headache, migraine, swollen and aching gums, swollen red eyes, excessive tearing, pain in eyes, dim vision, arthritis with fixed pain caused by dampness, and spasm. Recommended dosage is from 6 to 10 grams in decoction, soaked wine, pills, or powder.
1. Yi Qi Cong Ming Tang from Zheng Zhi Zhun Sheng (The Level-line of Patterns and Treatment). It works with Huang Qi (Astragalus Root), Ren Shen (Ginseng), Sheng Ma (Cohosh), Ge Gen (Kudzu Root), etc. to treat insufficiency of middle-warmer energy, lucid yang failing to rise, tinnitus, and deafness.
2. Qiang Huo Sheng Shi Tang from Nei Wai Shang Bian Huo Lun (Clarifying Doubts about Damage from Internal and External Causes). It joins Qiang Huo (Notopterygium), Du Huo (Radix Angelicae Pubescentis), Chuan Xiong (Ligusticum), Fang Feng (Radix Saposhnikoviae), etc. to cure rheumatism;
3. Man Jing Zi from Lan Shi Mi Cang (Secret Library of the Orchid Room). It combines with Astragalus, Ginseng, Zhi Gan Cao (Honey Fried Licorice Root), Huang Bai (Amur Cork Tree Bark), and Bai Shao (White Peony Root) to treat overstrain, improper diet, and cataracta.
Vitex trifolia side effects and contraindications
Vitex trifolia has no known severe side effects. Only a minority of patients will suffer from some adverse reactions like stomach discomfort, dry mouth, diarrhea, mild facial swelling and others. And rash would occur on some individuals too. But the above-mentioned symptoms are generally so mild that it won’t affect the treatment at all. TCM wise, use it with care in the cases of stomach deficiency and headache and dizziness due to blood deficiency accompanied with stomach fire.