19 Jun 2024

Shatavari: Benefits, uses, and side effects

author Ashley Owen
A potent adaptogen, shatavari is a beloved Ayurvedic herb celebrated for its power to support women’s wellbeing and ease stress. But what does the science say? In this article, we discuss potential ways in which shatavari benefits our health and wellness. And if you like what you read, we’ve also got tips on how to incorporate the herb into your diet.

What is shatavari?

Before we dive into the details about how shatavari benefits wellbeing, let’s talk more about the herb itself. Although not yet a household name in the west, shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) is part of the more familiar asparagus family. Unlike the asparagus shoots we usually find on our plates, we get our shatavari benefits from the plant’s roots. Long, thin and brown, they may not look like much – but they’re bursting with goodness.

Shatavari is a key herb in Ayurveda, a traditional medicine system that originated in India over 3,000 years ago. The word itself has a number of potential translations. These include “curer of a hundred diseases” and “she who has a hundred husbands”. The latter alludes to some of the specific shatavari benefits for women that we’ll discuss below!

Practitioners have been harnessing the power of this potent plant to boost wellness for generations. And now, scientific research is finding evidence to support this ancient wisdom about how shatavari benefits our health. So, exactly what is shatavari good for? Time to find out.

What is shatavari used for?

Proponents of traditional Ayurvedic medicine believe that shatavari benefits wellbeing in all sorts of ways. These include supporting immunity, improving vitality, and helping us to cope with stress more effectively. However, practitioners particularly value the herb for its ability to enhance female reproductive health. And results from modern studies are starting to uncover the reasons why shatavari benefits these different aspects of wellness. Let’s turn to women’s health first.

Shatavari benefits for women

Many of the most common traditional uses of shatavari relate specifically to women’s health. Long considered a fertility aid, evidence is emerging to suggest that shatavari benefits certain reproductive disorders that affect women. For example, it may be useful in improving polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), infertility, and hormonal imbalances.(1)

One potential explanation for these shatavari benefits for women is the herb’s potent antioxidant properties.(2) Antioxidants defend our cells against the harm caused by free radicals. Known as oxidative stress, this damage increases our risk of several chronic diseases – including disorders that affect reproductive health.

There are also ways in which shatavari benefits women going through the menopause. Studies show the herb can help to reduce unpleasant symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, dryness, and insomnia.(3) Plus, you have the added advantage of avoiding the side effects commonly caused by pharmaceutical medication prescribed for such issues.

The fact that the herb contains phytoestrogens is the likely reason why shatavari benefits menopausal women. Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that mimic the hormone oestrogen, which declines during the menopause. This decrease causes many of the uncomfortable symptoms associated with menopause, so consuming phytoestrogens can help keep them at bay.(4) Similarly, its phytoestrogen content may ease menstrual problems like cramps, although further research is necessary to confirm this.

Interestingly, Ayurveda also recommends taking shatavari to boost milk production when breastfeeding. The herb does so by increasing levels of a hormone called prolactin, which stimulates the production of breast milk.(5) However, it’s worth noting that there’s not yet sufficient research into the safety of taking shatavari while pregnant or breastfeeding. If it’s something you’re considering, we recommend seeking advice from a medical professional first.

Shatavari benefits for stress and anxiety

In addition to antioxidant flavonoids and phytoestrogens, shatavari contains potent steroidal saponins which possess adaptogenic qualities. And as an adaptogen, there are shatavari benefits for men and women alike when it comes to dealing with stress. Adaptogens help the mind and body to cope with both short-term and long-term stress more effectively. That includes not only mental stress but also physical, emotional, and environmental.

Chronic stress can have many detrimental impacts, from weakening the immune system to increasing the risk of heart attacks. It can trigger headaches, cause difficulties sleeping, increase blood sugar levels and blood pressure, and result in digestive problems. All of which means that this could be one of the most important ways in which shatavari benefits our wellbeing.

And it’s not just stress. Evidence suggests that shatavari benefits mental health conditions like depression and anxiety too. Studies on animals have found that the herb has antidepressant effects and increases levels of serotonin.(6) This is a hormone which helps to regulate feelings like happiness. Such research also indicates that shatavari could have an influence on gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This is a neurotransmitter that has a calming effect, helping to decrease anxiety.

We need more results from human studies to clarify exactly how much shatavari benefits people with depression and anxiety. However, early evidence shows it could be a useful tool in addition to other proven techniques for supporting mental health. These include eating well, staying active, prioritising your sleep, mindfulness, socialising, professional therapy, and journaling.


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