Nirgundi or Five-Leaved Chaste Tree (Vitex negundo) is evergreen medicinal deciduous shrub. It is native to India and also found growing in Bangladesh, China, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Japan. It is usually grown as a fencing for agriculture lands as well as house. The leaves are used as biopesticide and insecticide. The leaves are dried and kept with woolen clothes to repel insects. The smoke from the leaves is used as mosquito repellent.
The Sanskrit name Nirgundi literally means ‘that which protects the body from diseases’. In English, it is named as Five-leaved Chaste tree as it used to diminish sexual desire. Roman wives whose husbands were abroad with the legions spread the leaves of Vitex negundo on their beds for this purpose. Later, it became known as the chaste (meaning innocent or faithful) berry tree.
Various parts of the tree such as leaves, leaf oil, roots, fruits, and seeds are used in Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, Homeopathy, and Allopathy for therapeutic purpose. It is used in treatment of diseases that occur due to vitiation of Vata and Kapha, headache, skin affections, wounds, swelling, asthmatic pains, male and female sexual and reproductive problems.
Leaves are prescribed on inflammatory swellings of joints from acute rheumatism and of testes from gonorrheal epididymitis (inflammation of the epididymis, a tube near the testicles that stores and carries sperm) and orchitis (inflammation of one or both of the testicles). The hot poultice of leaves is applied to affected parts.
Paste of leaves is applied to temples during headache. Juice of leaves was applied topically for removing foetid discharge from wounds and ulcers. A decoction of leaves with long pepper (Piper longum) was prescribed in catarrhal fever.
Nirgundi Taila is used as a massage oil, for cervical adenitis, dressing for venereal sores, chronic ulcers and skin diseases.
Every part of this plant is used in form of powder, decoction, oil, leaves paste for its medicinal qualities. It is used both internally and externally. Vitex reduces sex drive and fertility. Nirgundi is a very good muscle relaxant, pain relieving, anti-anxiety, anti-asthma and phlegm reducing.
General Information of Nirgundi
Plant Description: Vitex negundo is a much-branched shrub up to 5 m tall or sometimes a small, slender tree with thin, gray bark.
Leaves: Palmately compound petiole 2:5: 3.8 cm long; mostly trifoliate, occasionally pentafoliate; in trifoliate leaf, leaflet lanceolate or narrowly lanceolate, middle leaflet 5- 10 cm long and 1.6:3.2 cm broad, with 1- 1.3 cm long petiolule, remaining two sub-sessile; in pentafoliate leaf inner three leaflets have petiolule and remaining two sub-sessile; surface glabrous above and tomentose beneath; texture leathery.
Roots: Cylindrical, hard, tough with irregular fractures; external surface rough due to longitudinal, narrow, cracks and small rootlets; cut surface shows cork region greyishbrown, middle region greyish-white, and xylem region cream coloured; bark thin, easily separates from wood; wood hard, forming major part of root.
Flowers: Bluish-purple, small, in peduncled cymes, forming large, terminal, often compound, pyramidal panicles.
Fruit: The fruit is a rounded drupe, 1 to 3 mm in diameter, 1/3 rd to 3/4 th of its size surrounded by a dull grey cup like, persistent calyx alongwith pedicel; calyx cup may show one or two vertical splits; fruit colour light brown to black; locules two, each containing two seeds; texture smooth, taste and odour not characteristic.
- Seeds: 5-6 mm in diameter.
- Flowering and Fruiting: Between June and December and from September to February.
- Part(s) used for medicinal purpose: Roots, root, flowers, leaves, bark
- Plant type / Growth Habit: Shrub / Tree
- Duration: Perennial
- Distribution: Throughout the greater part of India, ascending to an altitude of approx. 1500 m in the outer Himalayas. Philippines, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam
- Habitat: Warm regions, common in waste places around villages, river banks, moist localities and in the deciduous forests.
Common names of Nirgundi
Scientific Name: Vitex Negundo
Sanskrit: Nirgundi, Sindhuvara, Indrasursa, Indranika, Sinduka, Nisinda, Shephali, Indrani, Nirgundika, Renuka, Sindhuvaram, Sinduya, Sugandhika, Surasa, Vrikshaha, Nirgunda, Shveta Sephalika, Suvaha, Nirgundi, Nilika (Kali Newri), Nilapushpi, Nilanirgundi, Shvetasurasa, Bhootveshi (Whitefl Owered Newri), Svetapuspa
- Assamese: Pasutia, Aggla-Chita, Pochatia,Aslok
- Bengali: Nisinda, Samalu, Nirgundi,Sinduari, Beguna, Nishinda, Nishinde
- English: Five-Leaved Chaste Tree, Chinese Chaste Tree, Indian Privet
- Gujarati: Nagoda, Nagaol, Nirgari
- Hindi: Samhalu, Saubhalu, Nirgandi
- Kannada: Bile-Nekki
- Malayalam: Indrani
- Siddha: Noohi
- Tamil: Nirkunnchi, Nallanochi
- Telugu: Nallavalli, Vavilli, Tellavavilli
- Urdu: Sambhalu, Panjangusht
- Arabic: Uslaq
- Persian: Panchaguskt, Sisban
Scientific Classification of Vitex Negundo
All plants are scientifically classified into main 7 levels. These levels are Kingdom, Division, Class, Order, Family, Genus and Species. A genus comprise of many species and botanical name consists of Genus (uppercase) followed by Species (lowercase). Genus consists of many species which are closely related and have lots of similarities. Species is the lowest level and represents the group of same plant.
The botanical name of Nirgundi is Vitex negundo. It belongs to plant family Verbenaceae. The word Vitex is derived from the Latin ‘vieo’ (meaning to tie or bind) because of the flexible nature of its stems and twigs. Below is given taxonomical classification of plant.
- Kingdom: Plantae (comprising all living or extinct plants)
- Subkingdom: Tracheobionta (have lignified tissues or xylem for conducting water and minerals)
- Superdivision: Spermatophyta (produce seeds)
- Division: Magnoliophyta (flowering plants)
- Class: Magnoliopsida (flowering plant producing an embryo with paired cotyledons)
- Subclass: Asteridae
- Order: Lamiales
- Family: Verbenaceae – Verbena family
- Genus: Vitex L. – Chastetree
- Species: Vitex negundo L. – Chinese chastetree
About 6 varieties of Vitex genus show nearly same phytochemicals and properties.
Vitex agnus castus (Chasteberry) is a popular treatment for the management of female reproductive disorders including corpus luteum insufficiency, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menopausal symptoms, and insufficient milk production. The German Commission E, recommends it for following gynecological problems:
- Breast Pain
- Hyperprolactinemia (elevated serum prolactin)
- Luteal phase deficiency
- Menopausal symptoms (hot flashes, night sweats, pain during intercourse, increased anxiety or irritability, and the need to urinate more often)
- Menstrual irregularities
- PMS and Migraine Headaches
- Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
- Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
In ancient India two varieties of Nirgundi are described, one bearing pale blue flowers (Shweta pushpi), called Sindhuvar, and the other having blue flowers (Pushpa nilika) designated as Nirgundi in Sanskrit.
Constituents of Vitex Negundo
All parts of Nirgundi possess a massive amount of phytochemical secondary metabolites that impart an unparalleled variety of medicinal uses of the plant.
Leaves contain Aucubin aginuside, Alkaloids: Nishindine, Hydrocotylene, Glyoflavonoids, Orientin, Isoorientin, 5-Hydroxy, 3,6,7,31,4 1 pentamethoxy flavone.
Seeds contain hydrocarbons such as n-tritriacontane, n-hentriacontane, n-pentatriacontane and nonacosane. Other constituents of the seeds include ß- sitosterol, phydroxybenzoic acid and 5 oxyisophthalic acid.
Essential oil of fresh leaves, flowers and dried fruits δ-guaiene contain guaia-3,7-dienecaryophyllene epoxide; ethyl-hexadecenoate; α-selinene; germacren-4-ol; caryophyllene epoxide; (E)-nerolidol; β-selinene; α-cedrene; germacrene D; hexadecanoic acid; p-cymene and valencene
Ayurvedic Properties and Action of Vitex Negundo
Vitex negundo is known as Indrani, Nirgundi, Nilanirgundi, Surasa, Svetasurasa, Shephali, Sinduvara, Shephalika and Nila in Sanskrit. The white-flowered variety is known as Sindhuvaara and the blue-flowered as Nirgundi or Shephaali.
Nirgundi belongs to the Surasaadi group of herbs of Ayurvedic medicine, considered specific for cough, rhinitis, asthma. This group helps in the cleansing of ulcers.
Leaf is considered astringent, bitter and pungent in taste (Rasa), pungent after digestion (Vipaka), and is hot in effect (Virya). It is pungent in both the initial and post-digestive tastes (Rasa and Vipaka) and gives relief in Vata and Kapha and increases pitta. It is carminative, antiemetic and thermogenic. It is useful in indigestion, low appetite, nausea and piles.
- Rasa (taste on tongue): Kashaya (Astringent), Katu (Pungent), Tikta (Bitter)
- Guna (Pharmacological Action): Laghu (Light), Ruksha (Dry)
- Virya (Action): Ushna (Leaf Heating); Sheet (Fruit, Flowers, Seeds Cooling)
- Vipaka (transformed state after digestion): Katu (Pungent)
- Effect on Dosha: Reduces Vata and Kapha Dosha but increases Pitta (in excess).
- Preparations: Infusion, Decoction, Oil
- System: Digestive, Circulatory
- Tissues: Plasma, Blood, Muscles, Nerves and Marrow, Reproductive
It is an Ushna Virya herb. Ushna Virya or hot potency herb, subdues Vata (Wind) and Kapha (Mucus) and increases Pitta (Bile). It has property of digestion, vomiting and purging, and gives feeling of lightness. It is considered bad for sperms and fetus.
It is a Katu Vipak herb. Vipak refers to post-digestive (effect after digestion / cooking of Rasa) effect of tastes after its mixing with digestive juices. It is the long-term effect of herb. Katu Viapk herb, increases dryness in body. Such foods reduce fertility and Kapha. Excess intake of such foods aggravates Vata and gas in body. Katu Vipak has catabolic effect on body.
Seeds are considered bitter and pungent in taste (Rasa), pungent after digestion (Vipaka), and is cool in effect (Virya). It is pungent in both the initial and post-digestive tastes (Rasa and Vipaka) and gives relief in Vata and Kapha and increases pitta. Seeds are Pittakara, Vatahara, Kaphahara, Dipana, Medhya, Pachana, Garbhapatini, Mukhavaimalyakara and Vishaghna.
Nirgundi Leaves are used therapeutically in Shula, Shopha, Vatavyadhi, Amavata, Kushtha, Kandu, Kasa, Pradara, Adhmana, Pliha Roga, Gulma, Aruci, Krimi, Vrana, Nadi Vrana, Karnashula, Sutika Jvara.
Nirgundi Seeds are used therapeutically in Trishna, Kandu, Daha, Kasa, Netraroga, Daurbalya, Dadru, Klaibya and Gulma.
IMPORTANT FORMULATIONS of seeds are Chandanadi Taila, Pramehamihira Taila, Dashamularishta, Sarasvatarishta, Mahayogaraja Guggulu, Anutaila, Balashvagandhalakshadi Taila, Vasacandanadi Taila.
- Chandanadi tailam for body massage
- Dashmularishta for Vitality Strength
- Saraswatarishta for insomnia and nervous system
- Mahayograj Guggulu For Osteoarthritis
Ayurvedic Action / Karma
- Kaphahara: Pacifies Kapha Dosha.
- Kapha-Vatahar: Remover of the Humor of Kapha-Vata.
- Kasa-shvashar: Gives relief in cough and Asthma.
- Krimighna: Destroys worms.
- Shothhar: reduces inflammation.
- Vatahara: Pacifies Vata Dosha.
- Vishaghna: Poison-destroying.
- Vranashodhana: Wound cleaning.
Important Medicinal Properties
Vitex negundo is rich in medicinal properties. The understanding of these properties will help us to better utilize this herb. These also indicate the conditions in which we should avoid it. Below is given medicinal properties along with the meaning.
- Analgesic: Acting to relieve pain.
- Anthelmintic: Antiparasitic, expel parasitic worms (helminths) and other internal parasites from the body.
- Antiandrogenic: Androgen antagonists or testosterone blocker drug, counteract the effects of the male sex hormones, testosterone and dihydrotestosterone.
- Anti-asthmatic: Treat or prevent asthma attacks.
- Anticatarrhal: Remove excess mucous from the body.
- Anti-inflammatory: Reducing inflammation by acting on body mechanisms.
- Antimicrobial: Active against microbes.
- Appetizer: Improves appetite.
- Carminative: Preventing the formation or causing the expulsion of flatulence.
- Discutient: Agent or process that disperses a tumour or lesion.
- Emmenagogue: Stimulates or increases menstrual flow.
- Hepatoprotective: Prevent damage to the liver.
- Larvicidal: Kills mosquito larva.
- Muscle relaxant: Relax or reduce tension in muscle.
Health Benefits of Nirundi
- The leaves have warming action.
- It stimulates circulation.
- It gives relief in pain and inflammation of muscles and joints.
- It is used both internally and externally for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, sprains and pain in muscles.
- It can be combined with Trikatu to reduce Ama Dosha.
- The poultice prepared from the leaves applied externally gives relief in pain in joints, muscles, nerves and headaches.
- It is insecticide, pesticide and germicide.
Medicinal Uses of Vitex negundo
Vitex negundo is a medicinal tree. It is used in treatment of Vata and Kapha. The Roots are tonic, febrifuge, expectorant, diuretic; Fruit is nervine, cephalic, emmenagogue and Dried fruit is vermifuge. Vitex negundo is indicated in Joint Disorder, Low Back Pain, Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis (Amavata), Sciatica, Spondylosis and Vata Vyadhi. It is especially useful in rheumatism, rheumatic swellings of the joints and in sprains.
The leaves are generally used as a fomentation in sprains, rheumatism, swelled testicles, contusions. The root is used as tonic, febrifuge, and expectorant, and the fruit nervine, cephalic, and emmenagogue. The leaves are often placed between the leaves of books to preserve them from insects. The leaves are also used to preserve rice and clothes from insects and to drive them away and the extract from it used as a carminative and emmenagogue. Pillows stuffed with leaves are slept on to remove catarrh and headache (they are also smoked for relief).
Nirgundi Oil is good for sexually transmitted diseases, syphilis, venereal diseases, and other syphilitic skin disorders.
Roots are used for fever, cough, urinary problems, dyspepsia, rheumatism, and also for boils. The powdered root is consumed as an anthelmintic. Flowers are used in fever, diarrhea and liver complaints; fruits in headache, catarrh and coryza.
Nirgundi leaf powder is dried and ground and taken in dose of one table spoon, twice a day.
Abdominal gas and pain
Make decoction of its leaves and drink.
After Delivery Care
Leaf decoction is used as a bath after delivery.
Take 1/4th decoction three times a day (same as prepared for fever).
Boils and pimples
Grind neem, Karanja and Nirgundi (Vitex negundo) and apply topically.
Leaf ground with salt and pepper seeds into a paste is applied for bone fracture.
Burning urination and kidney stone
About two spoon root extract dissolved in tender coconut water is used twice a day for a week.
Chronic fever, intestinal parasites
Root decoction is given.
Common colds (runny nose, watery eyes, etc.)
Pound the leaves. Put 6 tablespoons of the leaves in 2 glasses of boiling water. Boil further for 15 minutes. Cool and strain the mixture, collecting the juice.
Cold, cough, headache, fever
Leaves are boiled in water and the vapour is inhaled twice a day.
Cyclic mastalgia (Cyclic breast pain, usually most severe before a menstrual period)
Dosage range for liquid alcohol-based tincture or encapsulated tinctures, 4:1 extract is usually around 1 ml for typical dosing, 3 – 4 times a day.
Dried fruits powder is orally taken with honey in a dose of 5 -10 gm.
Take Nirgundi leaves (6 tablespoon) in water (2 glasses) and boil for 15 minutes. Filter the decoction and divide in three parts. Take thrice a day on gap of 4 hours.
General PMS and related symptoms relief
The liquid alcohol-based tincture or encapsulated tinctures, 4:1 extract is usually given in dose of 1 ml for typical dosing, 3 – 4 times a day.
For dried fruit, 0.5 – 1.0 gram taken three times daily has been used, and 3.5-4.5mg/day of dried extract has been used.
Intake of root decoction for a period of 2 weeks is effective against gout and calculus.
The ointment made from leaf juice is applied as a hair tonic.
Take Nirgundi leaves and grind with water to make paste. Apply this paste on forehead.
Hormone replacement therapy
The ethanolic extracts showed estrogen-like activity and propounded its use in hormone replacement therapy.
In strengthening hair, reduce swelling and nausea, curing swollen joints and its pain
Nirgundi leaf powder is taken in dose of half teaspoon, twice a day.
Hyperprolactinemia (abnormally high levels of prolactin in the blood)
High levels of prolactin can produce unwanted effects. It may cause oligomenorrhea, amenorrhea, discharge from the breasts, vaginal dryness, or Acne and excessive body and facial hair growth (hirsutism).
The dosage range varies in research literature, from 20 mg daily to 160 mg of chaste tree berry extract up to 3 times daily.
Menstrual disorders, urinary disorders, indigestion
Dried fruits powder is orally taken in a dose of 5 -10 gm with roasted common salt and warmed water.
Leaf juice is extracted and taken in dose of one spoonful.
Leaf paste along with a paste of pepper is used to treat orchitis.
Pain in ears
Leaves are cooked in mustard oil and filtered. This oil is used as ear drop.
Pain in muscles
Leaves are smeared with mustard oil, heated and applied on affected area.
About 100-150 ml juice is given orally on an empty stomach for 15 days.
The leaf decoction for washing pox wounds to avoid scars.
- Oil prepared from leaves is applied.
- Heated leaf is pressed and tied for rheumatoid arthritis pain and sprains.
Paste of leaves is applied locally as an ointment.
Sprain (Moch in hindi)
Heat fresh leaves. Apply poultice of it on sprained area.
Leaf paste with garlic is applied for stammering.
To get rid of mosquitoes
The leaves are also used for fumigating houses to get rid of mosquitoes.
Throat pain, oral ulcers
A decoction of leaf is used for gargling.
Ulcers, boils, wounds
Boil Nirgundi leaves in water and make decoction. Wash affected area with this decoction. or
The leaf juice is used to clean infected ulcers.
The methanolic root extract possessed potent snake venom neutralizing effect.
Dosage of Vitex negundo
- The recommended dosage for therapeutic purpose is given below:
- Dried fruit extract daily: 40 mg
- Dry leaves extract: 300-600 mg, twice a day.
- Fluid extract ([1:1] g/mL): 0.5-1.0 mL daily.
- Fruits: 3-9 fruit in decoction.
- Leaf decoction: 50-100ml, twice a day.
- Leaf juice: 10-20 ml, twice a day.
- Leaf powder: 1.5-3g, twice a day.
- Root Bark Powder: 3-6 grams, twice a day.
- Seeds Powder: 1-3 grams, twice a day.
- Tincture: 40 drops
The decoction is prepared by boiling 10-20 grams of coarse powder in one glass water till water reduces to half cup. The decoction is ready, filter this and drink.
Contraindications, Interactions, Side-effects and Warnings Vitex negundo
Patients with known allergy/hypersensitivity to the Vitex (Verbenaceae) family or any chaste tree berry constituents, or to members of the Verbenaceae family, should avoid use of this plant.
Caution is recommended with dopamine agonists and hormone replacement therapy due to current understanding of the mechanisms of action. It has been suggested that chaste tree might potentiate the actions of dopaminergic agonists such as bromocriptine (Parlodel), pergolide (Permax), and others due to dopaminergic effects of chaste tree. It also might interfere with the action of dopamine antagonists such as antipsychotics, such as metoclopramide (Reglan).
People with schizophrenia or where dopamine levels are affected should use Vitex under supervision of health professionals.
Experimental data on animals and human studies have reported that phytocomponents of Vitex exhibit hormonal activities and may affect the pharmacological effects of hormonal medications.
With potential or adverse cardiac activity due to cardiac glycosides, Nirgundi should be used with caution in patients with heart problems.
It should be taken cautiously by women of child bearing age. Vitex promotes production of progesterone in the second half of the cycle. Also known as a contraceptive, it should not be taken before ovulation, as it may delay or prevent ovulation.
Because chaste tree seems to have hormonal effects and might affect estrogen levels, women with hormone sensitive conditions should avoid chaste tree. Some of these conditions include breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer, and endometriosis and uterine fibroids.
Due to hormone regulating activity it has also been suggested that chaste tree can interfere with the efficacy of oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy.
There is some evidence that using chaste tree during in vitro fertilization procedures might prevent an ensuing pregnancy despite having a viable embryo.
The leaves intake reduces sexual libido.
Vitex may decrease the effect/effectiveness of oral contraceptives or female hormone replacement therapy.
People with hormone dependent conditions as endometriosis, fibroids or cancers of the breast, uterus, and prostrate should not take Vitex nigundo.
Changes in menstrual flow can also occur when chaste tree is first started. Allergic reactions can occur in some people but typically resolve spontaneously when chaste tree is stopped.
It must not be taken during pregnancy.
The use of Vitex is contraindicated in pregnancy and lactation due to unknown effects in early pregnancy and possible hormonal effects through breast milk. Chaste tree can have uterine stimulant properties and should be avoided during all stages of pregnancy.
Chaste tree is thought to be a dopamine agonist and inhibit prolactin secretion. This might result in decreased breast milk production. However, this is controversial. Some clinicians actually use low doses of chaste tree to increase milk production with some reports of success. Small doses may increase milk production in females and high doses may decrease it.
Used with the standard dosing range, Chaste tree berry appears to be safe. The side effects associated with Vitex extracts are mild, reversible, and infrequent. They include gastrointestinal upset, urticaria, fatigue, headache, dry mouth, tachycardia, nausea, and agitation in less than two percent of patients.