In recent years shatavari has become a popular herb world-wide. Women in the West have been using it ever since studies showed that it contains phyto-estrogens, the precursors of estrogen. This finding made it popular all over the world. Two types of Shatavari are widely used, Asparagus racemosus wild, the herb, called shatavari, and the food vegetable, Asparagas officinalis linn. In this article, we will discuss the herb.
Shatavari is widely recommended in Ayurveda. Ayurvedic texts like the Charak Samhita, Susruta Samhita, and Astanga Samgraha, show its ancient use as early as Vedic Time (4000 years ago.) Shatavari is highly appreciated in Ayurveda, due to its potential to maintain health, not only menopausal health, but health during all stages of a female’s life. Ayurvedic texts literally claim that shatavari strengthens a woman to the point where she is capable of producing thousands of healthy ova. Long before current studies were published, the great commentator Pandit Hem Raj Sharma, in the Kashyap Samhita, clearly states that shatavari promotes maternal health. In particular, he noted the use of shatavari as a galactagogue (enhancing breast milk secretion in lactating mothers). As such, it indirectly promotes the infant’s health. Shatavari aptly exemplifies a central principal of Ayurveda; the use of herbs as both food and medicine.
Shatavari has its highest use among menopausal women who suffer from low natural estrogen levels. Menopausal symptoms are relieved with the herb Shatavari. A study performed in several Ayurvedic centers in the United States and in Nepal by Shrestha et. al. in 2003, showed the effect of estrogenic activity of Shatavari. Shatavari helped in managing menopausal syndrome symptoms like hot flashes, insomnia, night sweats and dry vagina through its phytoestrogen component. In this study more than 80% of the participants reported positive effects such as better sleep, less hotness, and minimizing of hot flashes.
The herb shatavari is used to prepare the female organs for pregnancy and throughout gestation for a healthy pregnancy (in both humans and animals). It is effective during threatened abortion (where the risk of habitual abortion is high). In this condition it helps by both stopping bleeding, and by nourishing the mother and the fetus. This fact has been verified along with the establishment of its anti-oxytotin activity. A clinical study performed in the Dept. of Gynecology & Obstetrics, Ayurveda Hospital, Nepal on The Effect of Shatavari in Threatened Abortion and High Risk Pregnancy, showed 90% of the mothers had successful, healthy pregnancies and deliveries when using shatavari
The pharmacological investigations of certain medicinal plants performed in 1994 established the anti-oxytotic activity of shatavari. This study of a crude extract of shatavari showed an increase in the uterine weight of an estrogen-primed group. The saponin fraction of the extract exhibited anti-oxytotic activity producing a specific block of pitocin-induced uterine contractility. Similar findings had already been established by Arch Int. Pharmacodynamics, 1996, Jet Malani, et. al. 1967. Another study found that shatavari, due to its saponin content, acts as a uterine muscle relaxant. It again exerted anti-oxytotic activity, thereby blocking the spontaneous contractility of the uterus in vitro and in vivo studies.
Shatavari is used to treat many diseases in a typically multidimensional Ayurvedic approach in which the Rasa (Taste) Guna (Quality) Virya (Potency) Karma (Action) and Pravab (Specific Action) are considered. Shatavari has a sweet and bitter taste, and has a cooling effect. Shatavari enriches the body’s nutrition, leading to an increase in plasma and the white blood count. Higher white blood counts generally indicate a stronger immune system. Shatavari also contains bioflavinoids, essential vitamin B components, and the essential elements of calcium and zinc
Shatavari’s cold and heavy qualities allow it to retain its nutritional qualities in the body for a longer time. The cold potency of shatavari causes an extreme cooling effect, which is why it is used as a great haemostatic. It helps in controlling both systemic and local bleeding by constricting the blood vessels. It is widely used in bleeding disorders such as gastric ulcers, peptic ulcers and menorrhagia (excessive bleeding during menstruation.)
Besides its use in female health, Shatavari is used to maintain the health of all family members. It can be effective in increasing male fertility. This was shown in a comparative study, between Clomiphene” (a medicine which helps in male infertility) and shatavari. With shatavari, spermatogenesis increased greater than with Clomiphene, and, with shatavari, a higher percentage of healthy sperm were seen.
Shatavari has shown an anti-fungal (anti-candida) function due to its macrophage-stimulating activity in a study published in J.Post Grand Med, by Reg.N.N. et. al 1993, A comparable study, using candida as the subject organism, was done with metronidazole and standard immunomodulatory peptide therapy. This showed increased dose dependent phagocytic and killing capacity by shatavari-strengthened macrophages.
Another study performed by the Department of Microbiology, Nepal, showed antimicrobial activity against the following bacteria that are frequently present in urinary tract infections: E. coli, Enterococcus fecalis, Proteus unisatriles, and Pseudomonas species. The same study showed antimicrobial activity against the bacteria S. dysenterecea, which is responsible for acute dysentery, colic pain, blood in the stool as well as bacteria found in typhoid fever, S. Typhi, and the Staph bacteria, Staphylococus aureus.
Published with the kind permission of Dr. Sarita Shrestha
Dr. Sarita Shrestha, MD Ayurveda, OB/GYN, Benares Hindu University, India
Dr. Sarita Shrestha is a classically trained Ayurvedic physician, well versed in modern medicine with 20 years clinical experience.
She has received numerous prestigious awards for outstanding service and is renowned as Nepal’s first Ayurvedic OB/GYN, specializing in Ayurvedic women’s healthcare.
She teaches in international institutes and hospitals, presents Ayurveda workshops worldwide and is fast becoming recognized as the “Mother” of Ayurveda in the West.
Please visit her website at http://www.saritashrestha.org
Copyright © 2006 Dr. Sarita Shrestha. All rights reserved.