Properties of Vitex negundo as a medicinal plant include antihistamine, antioxidant, and anticonvulsant uses. It also produces pain relief similar to aspirin and morphine in animal tests. This plant has been used for hundred of years in India and in the Philippines, where the health department endorsed its use as an herbal medicine.
Scientific studies examined the leaves, roots, fruits, and flowers of the plant, and found possible medicinal uses in animal studies. The leaves, root, and fruit showed antihistamine benefits that might relax bronchial muscles and reduce asthma symptoms. The studies also found anti-inflammatory properties that may treat arthritis and rheumatism. Researchers discovered extracts of this plant did not cause stomach damage in rats even when toxic doses were administered.
Another study tested the anticonvulsant benefits of Vitex negundo in laboratory animals. Rats were dosed with leaf extract before chemicals to induce seizures were administered. These experiments found Vitex negundo provided protection against seizures similar to anticonvulsant drugs approved for human use. The scientists concluded the medicinal uses of the plant for seizures might produce fewer side effects than typical medications.
The leaves produce a cooling effect that eases pain and swelling. The juice of Vitex negundo leaves commonly serves as a treatment for sprained ankles, arthritis pain, and injuries. At high doses in animal studies, pain relief similar to morphine was attained by researchers. At low doses, the plant provides relief equal to aspirin, but without upsetting the stomach.
Fruit from Vitex negundo serves as an aphrodisiac in some regions. It also promotes fertility and might regulate menstrual cycles. The flowers act as an astringent and digestive aid, and are promoted to treat heart disease in some areas.
Filipinos burn leaves of the plant to repel mosquitoes and house flies. Oil from the leaves is also used to deter pests in grain storage facilities. Tests show the oil might also be an effective pesticide on insects that damage tobacco leaves.
More than 200 species of the plant exist, with 14 found in India, where it is considered a common herbal remedy. Vitex negundo is also known as the five-leafed chaste tree or monk’s pepper. Its most striking feature centers on a cluster of five pointed leaves resembling a hand. This plant grows as a shrub or small tree from a single trunk.