Vitex negundo

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© Carl Dennis, Auburn University,
Flowers and foliage
© Carl Dennis, Auburn University,

Local names:
English (five-leaved chaste tree), Hindi (sambhalu,nisinda)

Vitex negundo is a much branched shrub with quadrangular tomentose, densely whitish tomentose branchlets, up to 5 m tall or sometimes a small, slender tree. Bark thin, grey.

Leaves palmately compound, 3-5 foliolate; leaflets lanceolate, entire or rarely crenate, terminal leaflets 5-10 cm x 1-3 cm, lateral leaflets smaller, all nearly glabrous above, whitish tomentose beneath.

Flowers bluish-purple, small, in peduncled cymes, forming large, terminal, often compound, pyramidal panicles.

Fruit a succulent drupe, black when ripe, 5-6 mm in diameter.

Seed 5-6 mm in diameter invested at the base with enlarged calyx.


Found throughout the greater part of India, often occurring gregariously; it is abundant along river banks, in moist situations, open wastelands and near deciduous forests. Ascending to an altitude of 1 500 m in the outer Himalayas.

Native range
India, Philippines

Tree management

Sambhalu grows moderately to fairly fast and can be managed by coppicing with a rotation of 2 years. It yields about 0.3 tons/ha of air-dry fuelwood when planted on contours 5 m apart.

Seeds are recalcitrant and lose viability in about 3 weeks.

Found throughout the greater part of India, often occurring gregariously; it is abundant along river banks, in moist situations, open wastelands and near deciduous forests. Ascending to an altitude of 1 500 m in the outer Himalayas.

Propagation is generally by stem cuttings that are first planted in polythene tubes or nursery beds in May-June and transplanted 2 months later. Cuttings have been planted directly in the field successfully.

Poison:  Leaves have insecticidal properties and are laid over stored grain to ward off insects.

The shrub can be used for afforestation, especially for reclamation of forestlands which are affected by floods, and in arid areas.

Erosion control:  V. negundo roots are strong and deep and suckers profusely. It can be used as a contour hedge in sandy arid areas for soil retention and moisture conservation. 

  Seeds are reported to be eaten after boiling, for instance in the Philippines.

Stems are used as firewood.

Fibre: Branches and twigs are used in basket making.

Shade or shelter:  It has been found suitable for shelterbelts and windbreaks.

Medicine: All parts of the plant are commonly used in Indian medicine. Leaves possess discutient properties and are applied to rheumatic swellings of the joints and in sprains. They are aromatic and are smoked for relief of headache and catarrh and a decoction is employed in smoke baths for the treatment of febrile, catarrhal and rheumatic affections. The juice of the leaves is used for the treatment of foetid discharges. They show anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anti-fungal activity. Roots are used in local medicine for dysentery and are anthelmintic, flowers are astringent and fruits are considered vermifuge.

Ornamental:  Some forms are ornamental.

It is used as a live fence.

Essential oil:  Leaves yield an essential oil.