Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus): A Boon to Women
In recent years Shatavari has become a popular herb worldwide. Particularly in the West, women have been using it more than ever since studies have shown that Shatavari contains phyto-estrogens, the precursors of estrogen. This find has made its use highest amongst menopausal women who suffer from low natural estrogen levels as a result of menopause.
Shatavari is widely recommended in Ayurveda. There is hardly any chapter in Ayurvedic literature that does not mention its use. Pandit Hem Raj Sharma, the commentator of Kashyap Samhita, dedicated an entire chapter to the herb, entitled Shatavari Kalpa or Preparations of Shatavari. Ayurveda speaks highly of Shatavari particularly in the context of women’s health. Ayurvedic texts claim that Shatavari literally strengthens a woman to the point where she is capable of producing thousands of healthy ova. It is also commonly used to increase milk in lactating mothers.
It is difficult to pinpoint the exact time Shatavari began to be used for medicinal purposes, but Ayurvedic texts such as Charaka Samhita, Susruta Samhita, Astanga Samgraha and Kashyap Samhita mention its ancient usage in Vedic time, nearly 5000 years ago. Modern Botanical Society explains that it is native of Asia minor, where it grows wild in saline areas. Around 1670, it became naturalized in the wetlands and sand dunes of England. At that time, Shatavari was a popular vegetable throughout London, Greece and Rome.
Today, the majority of the cultivation of Shatavari is found in India. Interest continues to grow as Shatavari becomes known an invaluable medicinal herb and also a nutritious vegetable. The shoot contains more protein than any other leafy green vegetable and it is also a good source of Vitamin A, B1 and B2. The root contains phytoestrogen which is the precursor of estrogen, helping to regulate estrogen from the ovaries and the skin.
A research study of the pharmacological investigations of certain medicinal plants established the anti-oxytocic activity of Shatavari. This study of crude extract of Shatavari increased the uterine weight in an estrogen-primed group of experimental subjects. The saponin fraction of the extract exhibited anti-oxytocic activity producing a specific block of the pitocin uterine mobility. A similar fact had been disclosed in 1971 which found that Shatavari, due to its saponin content, acts as an uterine relaxant. It exerted anti-oxytocic activity thereby blocking the spontaneous mobility of the uterus in in-vitro studies and in-vivo studies.
Another study demonstrated Shatavari’s hormone regulating effect with the presence of phytoconstituents which may mimic or act as precursors to sex hormones. Findings demonstrated the anti-fungal and anti-candidal function of shatavari due to its macrophagic activity. A comparable study with metronidazole and standard immuno-modulatory muramyl peptide using candida special as a testing organism resulted in increased phagocytic and killing capacity of macrophages in a dose dependent manner.
Shatavari also contains bioflavonoids, essential vitamin B components and essential elements of calcium and zinc to help fulfill nutritional requirements. A study performed by the Department of Microbiology at TU showed antimicrobial activity against bacterium, Enterococcus feicalis, E.coli, Proteus unisatriles, Psudomonus, S.typhi, S. dysenterece, Staphylococus aureus, in which both zones of inhibition (ZOI) and minimum bactericidal (MSC) values were determinant.
In Ayurveda, Shatavari has been used for many diseases with a multi-dimensional approach as per Ayurvedic pharmacodynamic expressed in Rasa (taste), Guna (quality), Virya (potency), Karma (Action) and Prabav (specific action). Shatavari has a sweet and bitter taste and a cooling effect which help to enrich nutrition, increasing plasma and white blood cell count in the blood. With its qualities of cold and heavy, the cooling nature helps to retain nutritional benefits in the body for a longer period of time. Cold potency of Shatavari causes an extremely cooling effect making it a great hemostatic. It helps control both systemic and local bleeding through contraction of the blood vessels. Shatavari has widespread use in bleeding disorders such as gastric ulcers, peptic ulcers and menorrhagea.
Shatavari is also used throughout pregnancy. It is useful in the condition of threatened abortion helping to both stop bleeding and provide nourishment to the mother and the fetus. In addition, it is a galactagogue, enhancing milk production in lactating mothers.
In a study conducted by Dr. Sarita Srestha in 2003, the use of Shatavari in menopausal women helped to manage symptoms such as hot flashes, insomnia and vaginal dryness through the balancing action of phytoestrogen.
Besides the use of Shatavari in women’s health, it has also shown to increase spermatogenesis in men, providing higher sperm counts and a larger percentage of healthy sperm. Not only is Shatavari a boon to women but it can also help to counter male infertility and support family health and harmony.
Please note: Articles appearing in the Banyan Vine do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Banyan Botanicals. This information is intended to apprise qualified health practitioners of possible Ayurvedic approaches. It is not intended as medical advice.