A hardy deciduous shrub or small tree, up to 5 m (16 ft.) tall, it has palmate leaves, dull-green on the upper surfaces, downy and greyish beneath, with long spikes of fragrant lilac flowers in summer, followed by small black fruits.
History and traditions
The association of this tree with chastity probably stems from its former use as a pepper substitute (made from the dried, powdered fruits) said to have been served in monasteries to suppress libido. The herb has, in fact, been established in recent times to have an effect on the hormonal balance of the body. It was also used in earlier times to relieve aches and pains, and other popular names for it are “Abraham’s balm” and “hemp tree”, because the leaves are similar in shape to those of Cannabis sativa.
Grows in most soils and tolerates dry conditions well. Propagated by seed, sown in spring or autumn, or by semi-ripe cuttings taken in summer.
A relaxant herb with pain-relieving properties, sometimes used by herbalists for hormonal complaints and imbalances.