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The Benefits of Shatavari

Shatavari, or Asparagus racemosus, has been used for centuries in Ayurveda to support the reproductive system, particularly for females, and as a support for the digestive system, especially in cases of excess pitta. Translated as “having one hundred roots” and also referred to as meaning “having one hundred husbands”,1, 2 Shatavari’s name gives reference to its traditional use as a rejuvenative tonic for the female reproductive system. This support is not only for the young woman, but also for women in their middle and elder years, to help them gracefully transition through the natural phases of life, including menopause.3

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Benefits of Shatavari

The nourishing properties of Shatavari are used traditionally to support a number of systems and functions in the body:1

  • A healthy female reproductive system*
  • Healthy levels of breast milk production*
  • Supports already balanced female hormones*
  • Supportive of male reproductive system as well*4
  • Soothing effect on the digestive tract*
  • Healthy peristalsis of bowels*6
  • Moisturizing support of the respiratory tract*
  • Promotes healthy energy levels and strength*
  • Supports the immune system*
  • Natural antioxidant properties*7

 

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Shatavari and Ayurveda: Traditional Uses

Shatavari is used in Ayurveda to balance pitta and vata, but can increase kapha due to its heavy nature.  Its bitter and sweet taste has a cooling effect on the system, and its unctuous (oily), building nature makes it a great support for anyone looking for a nourishing, grounding effect.1 These combined qualities make it a rasayana (rejuvenative) for the reproductive system (particularly female), the digestive system (particularly when pitta is involved), and for the blood.3 

How to Use Shatavari

Shatavari can be taken as a powder, in a tablet form, or as a liquid extract. Ayurveda prefers the powder form of herbs because tasting the herb starts the digestive process and sends signals to the body to initiate the body’s own supportive mechanisms. Shatavari powder (about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon for starters) is traditionally taken mixed in a glass of warm milk, with honey, or sugar (sucanat) if desired. It can also be mixed with ghee, or actually cooked into an herbalized ghee, to reap its building and nourishing benefits.4 Shatavari tablets can be easier to use for those who desire the convenience of a tablet (traveling, on the go, at the office), or do not like the taste of the powder. You can still follow the tablets with a glass of warm milk if desired, or take with warm water. Liquid extract is also available and provides an alternative method of taking ashwagandha. It's convenient, easy to assimilate, and has a long shelf life. Banyan Botanicals prefers tablets over capsules as there is still some mild tasting of the herb that occurs. Taste starts the digestive process, and sends signals to the body as to what to expect, already initiating your body’s own inner pharmacy.

Modern Research

While there are not a lot of recent studies done in the West with Asparagus racemosus, a good review of available studies can be found at the following links:

Side Effects

Shatavari is well tolerated in traditional use, and no significant adverse effects have been reported.

Contraindications

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Shatavari, as part of the asparagus family, should be avoided by anyone with an allergy to asparagus. Some say that asparagus can have a diuretic effect, and therefore, shatavari should be used with caution in people taking diuretic drugs.5 From an Ayurvedic perspective, one should avoid shatavari in cases of excess kapha, congestion and ama.2, 3 In the West, as the exact role of phytoestrogens is still unknown, people with estrogen sensitivities, including estrogen sensitive tumors, are advised to use caution with foods and herbs containing phytoestrogens, which would include shatavari.8, 9 Always consult your health care practitioner if you have questions related to your particular condition.

Buying Shatavari

Shatavari is most commonly purchased as a bulk powder or as a tablet. The advantage of buying it in bulk is that it is significantly cheaper on a per use basis and it allows one to take the herbs in the most traditional way. Tablets are considered by many to be a quicker, more convenient method of taking the herbs along with providing the option of not having to taste the herbs. Many Ayurvedic practitioners feel that their clients are more likely to take the herbs if they are provided in tablet form. In addition to powdertablets, and liquid extract of shatavari, Banyan Botanicals also uses organic shatavari in several of its products:

 

When choosing a supplier of shatavari there are a variety of questions to consider relating to quality of the herbs, the values of the company, the impact on the environment, and the price of the product in relation to these standards of quality.

 

  • Is the supplier able to trace the herbs back to the field they were grown in?
    Traceability of the herbs from field to shelf allows the supplier to know where and how the herbs were grown and when they were harvested. Banyan works with suppliers that keep a record of the journey of the herb, tracing it back right to the actual farm.
     
  • Are the plants sustainably harvested?
    The Shatavari plant is a thorny climbing vine, with white fragrant flowers and red berries; it is relatively abundant in many parts of India. The part of the plant used as both food and as an herbal supplement is the root, which has a long white tuber.1, 2 All herbal companies have a choice in gathering Shatavari, like most other herbs: they can be harvested on private farms where sustainability can be managed, or they may be wild-harvested legally from their natural habitats, and sometimes they are taken illegally, threatening long-term sustainability. To ensure sustainability, Banyan sources Shatavari that has been cultivated on privately owned farms.
     
  • Are the farmers looked after for their labor?
    Banyan strongly believes in making sure the farmers are cared for as a part of the supply chain. The farms we source from are inspected to make sure they are following fair-trade principles.
     
  • Are the herbs organic?
    As Banyan sources from private farms, it is able to ensure that organic farming methods are followed, and you can therefore rest assured that your herbs have not been treated with pesticides or other harmful chemicals. Banyan’s Shatavari is USDA certified organic.

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References

1 Pole, Sebastian. Ayurvedic Medicine: The Principles of Traditional Practice. Churchill Livingston; 2006. 271-272.

2 Simon, David and Deepak Chopra. The Chopra Center Herbal Handbook. Three Rivers Press, New York; 2000. 73-75.

3 Frawley, David, and Vasant Lad. The Yoga of Herbs. Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin; 2001. 183-184.

4 Acharya Balkrishna. Secrets of Indian Herbs for Good Health. Divya Prakshan, Hardwar; 2008. 383-386.

5 http://www.naturalstandard.com/databases/herbssupplements/asparagus.asp#

6 Dalvi S. S., P. M. Nadkarni and K. C. Gupta. 1990. Effect of Asparagus racemosus (Shatavari) on gastric emptying time in normal healthy volunteers. Journal Postgrad Med, 36:91-4.

7 Wiboonpun, N. et al. Identification of antioxidant compound from Asparagus racemosus. Phytother Res. 2004 Sept; 18(9):771-3.

8 http://envirocancer.cornell.edu/factsheet/diet/fs1.phyto.cfm

9 http://www.doaj.org/doaj?func=abstract&id=541704

10 Williamson, Elizabeth. Major Herbs of Ayurveda. Churchhill Livingstone; 2002. 51-54.