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