This Chaste Tree wild flowers of Crete page is from the Completely Crete website Flora and Fauna section.
With over 1700 plants and wild flowers of Crete growing all over this wonderful Greek island it is a colourful and aromatic place to spend some time.
Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus castus)
The Chaste Tree also known as Vitex agnus castus, Chaste Berry and Chaste Plant is said to be an aphrodisiac for women – and just the opposite for men! It is one of the many wild flowers of Crete.
The Chaste plant is a small deciduous tree or large shrub with leaves similar to hemp. The Chaste Tree belongs to the Verbena family and grows all around the Mediterranean. It is seen all over Crete at roadsides and in ravines and gorges. The deep purple or violet flowers develop into whorls and form beautiful clusters of colour during the summer months.
It is aromatic and very attracting to bees and butterflies. After flowering hard brown to black fruits containing 4 seeds are produced.
The fruit is used medicinally and in its ground form is called Agnus castus. The branches are strong and pliable and were used in the past for making baskets.
Its Latin name Agnus castus means chaste from the Greek agnus and also the same meaning from the Latin castus. For women it is said to have the opposite effect and is used as an aphrodisiac. It is said to stabilize female hormones and is used to treat PMS and the symptoms of the menopause and the peri menopause. The Greek physician Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.) recommended that women drink dark wine in which the leaves of the Chaste plant had been steeped to treat many menstrual related ailments.
Today the leaves, flowers and ripening seeds, are harvested for medicinal purposes and can help to balance estrogen and progesterone production in women increasing sexual desire!
It is also commonly referred to as Monks Pepper because of its an-aphrodisiac (the opposite of aphrodisiac) properties in men.
The Chaste Berry and leaves were originally chewed by the monks or used in tinctures as a medicine to decrease the sexual urges of monks and lower libido to aid their attempts to remain celibate.
In ancient Greek mythology the Chaste Tree was associated with the Greek goddess Hera who had domain over marital chastity. It is said she was born and nursed beneath a Chaste Tree on the Greek island of Samos.
Another Greek goddess Demeter, the goddess of agriculture and fertility was honoured at ancient Greek festivals. Women were to remain "chaste" during the Thesmophoria festival to honour this goddess and used flowers and stems strewn across their beds to quell the ardour of potential suitors.
Odysseus is said to have used the strong and supple branches of the plant to bind his comrades to the bellies of sheep to enable them to escape from the cave of the Cyclops Polyphemus.
We can highly recommend the excellent and informative hand book named Wild Flowers of Crete in which Chaste Tree features. It is expertly written and photographed by Vangelis Papiomitoglou and is available from our Cretan Village Shop.
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