Herb Feature

Shatavari

Asparagus Racemosa, or Shatavari is a powerful adaptogen for women traditionally used in Ayurveda, the Ancient system of medicine practiced in India. An adaptogen, as we’ve discussed in previous herb of the month articles, is a herbal medicine that improves resistance to stressors of all kinds, helps to improve energy, stamina and the ability to cope with physical, mental and emotional challenges. Like many other adaptogens, Shatavari likes to grow in harsh environments, making its home in rocky, gravelly hillsides in Northern India, the Himalayas and even in the north of Australia. The history of this plant as a medicine is long and interesting: it has been used for many purposes, but I find it particularly valuable as a tonic for women.

If Ashwaganda (Withania Somnifera) is considered the primary male tonic in traditional Indian medicine, Asparagus Racemosa is the major female tonic. Shatavari can apparently be translated to mean “woman with 100 husbands”! This refers to its reputation to pacify vata (wind) and pitta (fire), and to increase kapha (the earth element). This could be considered the equivalent of being a Yin tonic, or a herb that enhances female energy. In ayurvedic medicine, it has been used to promote milk production and flow in breastfeeding mothers, and to prevent threatened miscarriages. It is also often used to prevent diarrhoea, heal ulcers, and reduce inflammation. Shatavari is considered to be anti-aging, probably due to its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Containing four different steroidal saponins (Shatavarins), the wonderful plant helps to balance hormones in women who are deficient and it is effecting their menstrual cycles and fertility. It is one of the herbal medicines I use to help promote fertility, reduce fatigue and help regulate women’s cycles. It is also very helpful to reduce menopausal symptoms due to its hormone supporting properties. Women often experience symptoms such as hot flushes, tiredness, brain fog, aches and pains, insomnia due to their ovaries ceasing production of oestradiol. The average age of menopause is 51 years, but ladies can suffer the symptoms anywhere from their late 20s until after 60!

The presence of astringent molecules (tannins) helps to heal ulcers, relieve diarrhoeal symptoms and reduce excess menstrual bleeding (which is also common in menopause). Shatavari also has been used to reduce anxiety, poor concentration, and lack of motivation. These effects are probably due to the wonderful adaptogenic properties of the plant. Plants that survive and thrive is difficult conditions such as extreme weather, lack of water or nutrients are often tough and hardy, and produce phytochemicals that allow them to adapt to these extremes. Our bodies are so incredible, they have evolved to detect when plants are producing these “stress molecules” and allow our genetic expression to adapt to the actual or perceived threat. How amazing is that?

Shatavari is just one of many herbal medicines that I find invaluable for our lovely female patients. It combines well with Wild Yam, Rehmannia, Chaste Tree, and Hypericum, depending on the stage of life that the lady is in. It’s best avoided when girls first get their cycle, as their body needs to establish its natural rhythm. It is always essential to contact a qualified Naturopath/ Herbalist when you are dealing with hormones: they are very powerful substances and you want to know that you are working with an experienced practitioner. Just remember Shatavari- you don’t need to have 100 husbands to experience the benefits of this marvellous herb! Have a lovely day.

David is a practicing Naturopath/ Herbalist.

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