The Health Benefits of Shatavari

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Shatavari is a natural remedy long used in Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India. Sourced from the roots of the Asparagus racemosus plant, it is available in dietary supplement form usually as a pill or powder. Shatavari is said to offer a variety of health benefits.

Health Benefits

According to practitioners of Ayurveda, shatavari possesses cooling, calming properties that can help to soothe and balance Vata and Pitta (two of the three doshas). Often used to enhance reproductive and digestive health, shatavari is also said to have rejuvenating and nourishing effects.

To date, few scientific studies have tested the health effects of shatavari. But some preliminary animal studies suggest that shatavari may provide advantages, although more human studies are needed to confirm these benefits.

Diabetes

Shatavari shows promise in the treatment of diabetic nephropathy, a type of kidney damage thought to result in part from poor control of diabetes and blood pressure.

In a study published in the Indian Journal of Experimental Biology in 2012, tests on rats revealed that treatment with shatavari helped protect abnormal changes in kidney tissue. In addition, shatavari significantly decreased cholesterol and blood sugar levels and reduced oxidative stress.

Ulcers

Several preliminary animal studies indicate that shatavari may help treat gastric ulcers, a condition that occurs when the protective lining of the stomach breaks down and fails to fight off irritating acids.

In a rat-based study published in the Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy in 2006, for example, scientists determined that shatavari may help treat gastric ulcers by curbing the release of hydrochloric acid.

A small study investigated the role of shatavari in humans. Thirty-two patients consumed 12 grams per day of the root powder in four doses over six weeks. Shatavari was found to relive most of the symptoms in the majority of the patients.

Other Benefits

Shatavari is touted as a treatment for additional health problems, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Bronchitis
  • Constipation 
  • Diabetes
  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Indigestion
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Menopausal symptoms
  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Alcohol withdrawal
  • Pain relief

In addition, shatavari is said to sharpen memory, boost the immune system, and protect against cancer. The supplement is also thought to act as an aphrodisiac, as well as stimulate the production of breast milk in nursing mothers. 

There is insufficient evidence to support the use of shatavari for these benefits.

Selection, Preparation & Storage

Widely available for purchase online, shatavari can be found in some natural-foods stores and stores specializing in dietary supplements. 

When looking for shatavari, you may see products labeled as "asparagus extract." Keep in mind that shatavari is made from the root of Asparagus racemosus which is different than Asparagus officinalis, the type of asparagus that is commonly eaten as a vegetable.

Most shatavari is sold in powder or pill form. You may see doses ranging from 500 milligrams to 1000 milligrams. The safe and effective dose for you may depend on your age, health, and other factors. At this time, there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses.

It's important to keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. 

While consumers face such risks when purchasing any dietary supplement, these risks may be of greater magnitude in the purchase of Ayurvedic products (particularly those containing a variety of herbs). To stay on the safe side, it's best to look for products that have been certified by ConsumerLabs, The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention, or NSF International. These organizations don't guarantee that a product is safe or effective, but they do provide a certain level of testing for quality.

Possible Side Effects

Due to a lack of research, little is known about the safety of long-term or prolonged use of shatavari.

Since shatavari is related to asparagus, it should be avoided by individuals with an allergy to asparagus.

Those taking lithium may want to be cautious when taking shatavari because it has a diuretic effect and might decrease how well the body gets rid of lithium. This could increase how much lithium is in the body and result in serious side effects.

Shatavari is thought to contain phytoestrogens (a class of compounds with estrogen-like effects). Therefore, anyone with hormone-sensitive conditions (such as breast cancer, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids) should avoid the use of shatavari.

Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.

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