Chaste Tree Berry for Horses

The herb, chaste tree berry (vitex agnus-castus), is one that many horse people may have heard about.  It’s often fed to horses with Cushing’s or other conditions affecting the pituitary gland.

If you read online about chaste tree berry, you will likely encounter stories proclaiming the positive effects of the herb, but you may also come across stories saying that it has had very little effect on some horses.  I suppose this could depend on several different factors including the severity of the horse’s condition, the amount fed, and the length of time the horse was fed the herb.

Personally, I have had great success feeding this herb to my oldest mare, Kady, who has recently been showing signs of early Cushing’s disease.   I wanted to share her story as well as some general information about chaste tree berry.

Kady’s symptoms began to appear about a year and a half ago and worsened this past winter.  They included excessive thirst and urination, insatiable appetite, and depression.  She’d also lost muscle mass, especially along the topline, and the spring before this year, she was slow to shed.

When I took her in to the vet for a sinus infection (chronic infections are also a symptom of Cushing’s) in the spring of 2013, I spoke with him about getting her tested for Cushing’s.  This particular vet uses the dexamethasone-suppression test though, and I did not want to use that test with Kady (due to her insulin resistance).  So I opted not to test her at that time.

This past winter, her symptoms worsened so I knew I needed to do something.  After researching chaste tree berry, I decided to give it a try.  I purchased the herb from Amazon (it’s also available from several different equine supplement companies–just more expensive usually).

vitex_berries

I began feeding Kady 1 teaspoon of the  powder twice a day for three weeks on and one week off, as this is the feeding regimen I’d read was often used by others who’d seen success with the herb.

Within about a month, I began to see a dramatic difference in Kady.  The excessive thirst and urination disappeared, as did most of the signs of depression.   She was still the last horse to shed out completely this spring, but she did so just fine.  Here she is today.

DSC05235

About Chaste Tree Berry

Chaste tree berry has long been used by women to help with menstrual cycle irregularities, PMS, acne, menopause, and infertility, among other things and has verifiable effects on hormonal issues.

According to Dr. Mark DePaolo (of Depaolo Equine Concepts), chaste tree berry supports normal functioning of the pituitary gland by naturally balancing and maintaining the dopamine levels produced by the gland.  Dysfunction of this gland is connected with not only Cushing’s disease, but also insulin resistance and hypothyroidism.

This study supports that a chaste tree berry supplement (Corticosal, in this case) is, indeed, effective in treating Cushing’s disease in some horses.

Another great thing about this herb is that it’s known for being a very safe, with no known side effects.

Chaste tree berry can be purchased as a whole berry which will need to be ground (in a coffee grinder), or you can buy it as a powder–this is what I feed.  From what I’ve read, about a teaspoon of the powder twice a day is appropriate for a 1000 lb. horse.  If you’re feeding the ground chaste berry, then you’ll probably want to feed a little more.  You can play around with the dosages a little and see what works best for your horse though.

 

(Note: I have since had a full blood panel performed on Kady and evaluated by a TCM practitioner.  Most of the blood work was normal (chloride was low), but he suspected an error with the lab testing of the insulin (it was surprisingly low).  However, she had been on the chaste tree berry for at least a month before the blood work was performed, so this may have had an effect as well.  I will hold off on other testing as long as she seems to be doing well.)

 

Ta-ta,

Casie

 

Sources

Chaste Tree Berry Powder

Vitus Agnes–Castus

 

This post is not intended to diagnose or treat any horse–it is written solely for informational purposes.

Casie

Hi! My name is Casie Bazay. I'm a mom, a freelance writer, and a certified equine acupressure practitioner.

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42 Responses

  1. judy says:

    my 22 year old mare is getting a lot worse with Cushings. This summer she never shed out at all. Her hair was so very long one of my young friends clipped her all but a strip along the bottom of her belly. I didn’t notice with all the stuff to get done to go camping and then people starting stopping at our camp site and asking if my horse was ok… kids! I took a scissors and cut if off. It was so very long! Now she is refusing to eat the Chaste berry to boot. She has been on it for several years. It helped my mule a few years ago but doesn’t seem to help the horse. She was up to 1 TB. I don’t want to put her on the meds either. MSU was doing testing for Pergolide and my mule met all the criteria for it and many vets including the ones at MSU wanted her in it but the USDA or what ever they are called refused to let her in the study but hey if I paid for the medication….. anyway really don’t want to use it but Mikey seems to be doing a lot worse. She is holding her weight good and is on dry lot so no grass just to make sure on founder with all the rain we have been getting as she never has and I don’t want to start now… Any suggestions on how to get her to start eating it again? I feed her a low starch feed that is a pellet. She only gets 1# 2 times a day and that will be dropping down even more as in the summer she doesn’t seem to need it. IN the winter she seems to need a bit more. She is getting about 4 flakes of hay 2 in the morning and 2 at night of a grass mix 1st cutting hay. IN the winter she gets more too. If I feed her anymore now she will get to fat. I hardly ride due to my health problems and no one to ride with. If I can find a used harness I may try to drive if hubby would help me. Anyone have any suggestions on how to get her to start eating the Chaste berry again? Oh, she is on a supplement for arthritis… too as she has that.

    • Casie says:

      Hi Judy–If the chaste berry isn’t working or if she won’t eat it, pergolide is probably the best option. (I would try it if the chaste berry or other natural treatments weren’t working.) You could also check out this website with Chinese herbal products though: http://www.forloveofthehorse.com/products.php. Kind of expensive but I’ve heard good things about them.

    • penny barker says:

      I have an insulin resistant cushings horse also. A vet told me to get sugar free pancake syrup to put on his feed so he would get his herbs/meds when I couldn’t get him to eat them. worked like a charm. It really helped with the chasteberry because the powder stuck to it .

  2. Patty says:

    I have a Half linger mare that may have a thyroid issue and it was recommended that I give her Chaste Tree Berry, I’m not certain about it or it’s benefits. My girl isn’t really that only 16 and she is continuing to stay in limonitic state as well. She appears to be very lame and I have her on a good natural diet. What do you think about trying this herbal product?

    • Casie says:

      Hi Patty, Chaste tree berry is most commonly used for symptoms of Cushing’s, and from what I know, it’s a very safe herb to give. It may benefit thyroid issues as well. May I ask what you mean by a ‘good natural diet’? Grass is considered natural by many but many laminitis prone horses can’t handle it. Low NSC grass hay is usually best for these horses. I wouldn’t count on chaste berry being a cure-all for laminitis, but it could help with some of the symptoms.

  3. Alyssa says:

    Has anyone found that the chaste tree berry powder makes your horses urine a little red? Since I started giving to it to my 22 yr old in the last week her urine is red. I started the powder about 3 weeks ago.

    • Casie says:

      Hi Alyssa, I haven’t heard of this occurring, but maybe someone else will comment. Wondering if your horse might have some kidney issues going on. Have you done any blood work?

  4. janna says:

    What do you think of the product evitex

  5. Anita says:

    Hello, I also have a 16 year old mare, Icelandic horse. She is insulin resistant cushings horse. Since Dec. 2015 she is on Prascend. Until now there is no improvements. What do you think, can I fed her chaste tree berry powder.

    • Casie says:

      Hi Anita,

      It certainly couldn’t hurt. I don’t know much about Prascend, but I know that sometimes the dosage needs to be adjusted to see improvement. You might talk to your vet about that as well.

      • Anita says:

        Thanks for your answer. I discussed with our vet. She decided that for a month not change the dose of Prascend. If our girl will not be shed out, then the dosage of medicines will be increased. But also she recommends to fed chaste tree berry. So, I will inform you about results.

  6. Wendy says:

    Anita prascend normally shows fairly rapid improvement , if it is going to work , it didn’t help my cushings horse at all I treat him with chaste berry along with a total overhaul of his diet and homeopathic remedy for cushings. I would definitely be pushing your vet to look at his doseage or stop it, the side effects are quite bad it made my boy very depressed x

    • Anita says:

      Wendy thank you for your answer. On April 6 the dosage of Prascend was changed from 0,75 mg on 1 mg. She to shed out fine, not completely but fine. She still has some long hair on her body but the hair go out when you pull it, very gently of course. I see my horse every day and I can´t see the changes but the farrier saw the positive changes on her behavior and on her look. On April 21, the vet said to me that most of Icelandic horses still has some winter coat at this time at this year, even the most healthly horses and that is normaly. She is not depressed. For now the positive changes are: no excessive thirst, no increased urination, it is normaly and the sawing is not wet, no more sweating only when the air humidity is high, often in the evening. Yesterday I started feeding her with Chaste Tree Berry powder. Let’s see what will happen in the next few weeks.

  7. Joanne says:

    Can you feed them the whole dried berry..or does it have to ground?

  8. Katie Chamberlain says:

    If my horse has not been 100% diagnosed with Cushing’s will it do anything bad if I try the product on him? He got some blood work done and the vet said it was a little higher, but she is also comfortable waiting and watching for anymore symptoms. His only symptoms so far are random fat dispersal over his butt. Chasteberry does look like it’s natural enough that even is he doesn’t have Cushing’s it will act like more of an everyday vitamin. I’m wondering if there are any side affects if it’s given and he doesn’t have Cushing’s. Thanks x

    • Casie says:

      Hi Katie,

      I know of no side effects for chaste tree berry. I don’t think it should be a problem but if you have concerns, I would ask your vet.

      Casie

  9. Carri E Smith says:

    Hi there. My 22 year old mare foundered three months ago. She has tested positive for Cushings…although her only symptom is an insatiable appetite. We’ve now lost 140 lbs and are working at a jog 4-5 days a week for 20 to 30 minutes each time. She’s been on pergolide for 2.5 months now and I don’t see any changes. My vet wanted to up her dose from one pill a day to 1.5 pills a day…but honestly I can’t afford $120 a month for meds. If she was my only dependent it wouldn’t be an issue. I just purchased powdered chase tree berry and am hoping it works. As of now she weighs 860 lbs. How much and how often do I give it her? Thank you for your time!

    • Casie says:

      Hi Carri, I would also share your concerns about the cost and effectiveness of the pergolide. For some horses, it works great (or so I hear), but for others, it doesn’t seem to make a difference (or might even make things worse). I would definitely go with the chaste berry. I would start out around 1/2 tsp twice a day and the maybe increase to 3/4 to 1 tsp twice a day after a few weeks. Also, I recommend reading this article by Jessica Lynn: http://www.earthsongranch.com/resources/CushingsDisease_NaturalTreatment_CaseHistory_NaturalHorse_EarthSongRanch.pdf Best of luck to you and your horse!

      • Carri E Smith says:

        Hi Casie! Thank you so much for your response. I’m weaning Lissie off of her pergolide and have been giving her the Chase Tree Berry for just over a week now. I actually started her on 1 tsp 2x a day before I read your response. The change in my girl’s demeanor is amazing…I had no idea how depressed she was!!! She is a different horse!! I’ve owned her for 2 years now…and I’m realizing she’s been depressed the whole time. I am also going to look into Earth Song Ranch’s protocol for Cushings horses. Question…for now, should she be 3 weeks on and one week off with the Chase Tree Berry? Thank you again!!

        • Casie says:

          Hi Carri–so glad to hear she’s doing better! I’ve always heard that with herbs, you should do 6 on, 1 off. That can either be days or weeks. (I do 6 days on, 1 day off per week). Hope things continue to improve for her.

  10. Ann says:

    I have a Shetland pony with mild Cushing’s & I wasn’t sure how much chase tree Berries to give her as at the moment she is leaving her feed with it in , she weighs 129kg so quite small . When I asked for a sample it came whole Berries by mistake , which she ate so I bought 2kg tub and it was a mix of whole Berries and powder , which she doesn’t seem to like .

    • Casie says:

      Hi Ann, I would start her at around 1/4 teaspoon twice per day and see if that makes a difference. I feed my small horse (around 900 lbs) 1 tsp twice per day and she does well on that amount. I’ve heard of people feeding ponies 1 tsp twice daily as well though, so I think you can play around with the dosage a bit.

  11. Amy says:

    Casie,
    Have you heard of any results for a “gelding” benefitting from it’s calming properties?

  12. Celeste says:

    Would love to know if this would be beneficial for my mare’s attitude, particularly during her season and if so, would doseage be reduced since no indication of Cushings present.

    • Casie says:

      Hi Celeste, I don’t know if it would be beneficial for what you’re wanting, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to try it. You might also consider raspberry leaves as they are known for restoring ‘balance’ for moody mares.

  13. Lesia says:

    Hi, I have a 15 yr old mare that was diagnosed with cushings. She was on pergolide for a year with no real change. Pergolide is very expensive and can have side effects. I heard about chastetree and thought I would try it, hopefully with a better result. I am waiting for my order to come in. Does anyone know how long it takes before you can see results if this is in fact going to work for her?

    • Casie says:

      Hi Lesia–I would give it at least a month before you make a decision as to whether it’s helping or not. I believe it can be given in conjunction with pergolide as well.

  14. Claudia says:

    I have a 28 year old gelding who has had many of the symptoms of Cushings and was tested 2 years ago. I have kept him on chaste tree berry powder ( 1 rounded tsp twice a day) and Remission ( one level scoop daily) and other than shedding very slowly and looking like a wooly mastodon during the winter, he is doing well. I tried Prascend and he went off food and water almost immediately. So, I’m quite a believer in the powder and Remission supplement.

  15. Cindie says:

    Could you please tell me how much chaste berry to feed my mini pony please she has been diagnosed with Cushings and I would like to keep her meds natural

    • Casie says:

      Hi Cindie–I feed 1 tsp. twice daily to my 900 lb horse so depending on how big your mini is, I would start with 1/4 or 1/3 tsp. It seems to be tolerated well by most horses.

  16. I have a 22 year old Irish Draught X that has been showing signs of Cushings over the a last year or so. We regularly use herbal supplements for general health but haven’t specifically tried chasteberry yet. Going to look more into this after reading your post. Thanks.

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