When our artisan essential oil distiller in Croatia told us he had distilled vitex (Vitex agnus-castus) , I decided that I wanted to work with it. Knowing the plant and its medicinal properties, I was very interested to see what it had to say in terms of inner work and the psyche. It appears to help us balance our inner masculine and feminine.
The plant is native to central Europe, the Mediterranean and central Asia.
The word “vitex” comes from the Latin “vieo”, which means to weave, bend, tie together or twine. It was given this name because the shrub’s thin branches were used in Classical Greece for making baskets. Its species name, agnus-castus is a composite. ‘Agnus’ means lamb in Latin, although the very similar sounding name Agnes comes from the Greek for pure, holy or sacred. Castus means clean or pure.
The plant has apparently been used since ancient Greek and Roman times for its anaphrodisiac virtues as well as its use for problems related to the female reproductive system. The oils of temples and other sacred places were covered with vitex seeds to prevent corporal desires. Priestesses, for the same reason slept on mattresses filled with vitex. In the middle ages, monks chewed on their slightly peppery tasting fruits and used them in cooking to lower their natural libidos. This is how it got the plant got one of its common names, “Monk’s pepper.”
Studies have shown that Vitex is effective in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome including headaches, anger, irritability, depression, breast fullness etc. I found this very interesting as it tied in with the way the essential oil seemed to work on the psyche.
I suffered from severe PMS myself when I was younger and gradually through my work, I began to see a correlation in myself and other women between PMS symptoms and an inner imbalance between the feminine and the relationship with the inner masculine. It seems that women who have internalized a narcissistic, critical inner masculine aspect to their animus (inner masculine) through upbringing and ancestry have a hard time dropping into the ‘darker’ pre-menstruation period during their cycle. What manifests as psychological conflict and difficulties and is often attributed to PMS such as rage, anger, depression, lack of motivation, sadness, lack of self-worth, suicidal thoughts seem to be triggered and at least worsened by an internalized critical and tyrannical inner voice.
Due to my age, I no longer have a menstrual cycle. However, when working with vitex I noticed a couple of things linked up with the above. First, unlike the way I work with most of the new oils we receive, I couldn’t rush the work with vitex. It asked me to stay with it and only slowly did it reveal where it wanted to take me and what it wanted to show me. It took me on an inner journey where I was able to identify and feel the limiting and disharmonious inner relationship I had internalized with the inner colonizer.
My mixed-race ancestry on my motherline has its roots in India and the father line in Europe. Within the Anglo-Indian culture, the motherline was hidden and diminished and the fatherline valued and placed on a pedestal. Over the generations, the descendants internalized this imbalance of masculine domination and colonization externally but also internally.
I noticed in my life this inner force that fought with and criticized me. When I was young it intensified before menstruation triggering many of the symptoms I mentioned above.
Vitex helped me to identify this part of me and undo the enmeshment with it that had controlled me for so many years. It began the first night I used vitex. I had a dream of a man that I had dreamt of regularly during the last five or six years. He represented a part of my inner masculine, which is why he came up so often in my dreams. In real life, he was slightly on the autism spectrum, work-obsessed and hated anything to do with feelings, intuition, soulfulness, rejecting them vehemently, always leaning on the side of science and only science. In the dream he died. I was shocked, I couldn’t believe it. When I woke up, I knew this part of me had died. It no longer had any power over me.
Vitex helps women to differentiate between different parts of themselves and to remain ‘chaste’ when faced with the wounded, tyrannical, patriarchal inner masculine. It gives women a calm, inner strength with which to ‘hold their own’ with these inherited ancestral, internalized relationships. This way she stops projecting them outwards onto men in her life. By taking responsibility and dealing with them within her, she can have mature, healthy external relationships. For this reason, it doesn’t surprise me that vitex was used in ancient marriage rituals and connected to the Greek goddess Hera, the protectress of marriages.
I like to use a drop of vitex essential oil rubbed into the skin on the back of my hand, I much prefer its smell when it blends with the natural oils in my skin. If you prefer not to use it neat, do the same thing but in a carrier oil. Otherwise, just smell it on a scent stick or from the bottle.
Use it before going to bed and notice the men in your dreams. Ask yourself what part of yourself any man that appears in your dreams represents. How do you feel about them? What is their relationship to you in the dream, etc?
If you are struggling with a lot of negative self-beliefs or if you self-sabotage your creative projects and relationships or you continually find yourself in difficult relationships you may want to start looking at your relationship with your inner masculine. Smelling vitex, journal on the following questions? What did you inherit and internalize from your relationship with your father? What type of relationships with men did the women in your maternal bloodline experience and in what ways do you see similar patterns playing out in your own relationships?