Shatavari – Asparagus racemosus
Shatavari has different names in the different Indian languages, such as Shatuli, Vrishya and other terms. The name Shatawari means “curer of a hundred diseases” (shat: “hundred”; vari: “curer”), also sometimes transalated as “she who possesses 100 husbands”. It has been traditionally used for infertility problems and to promote lactation.
In Ayurveda, Asparagus racemosus has been described as a rasayana herb and has been used extensively as an adaptogen to increase the non-specific resistance of organisms against a variety of stresses. Besides use in the treatment of diarrhoea and dysentery, the plant also has potent antioxidant, immunostimulant, anti-dyspepsia and antitussive effects. The roots are used in Ayurvedic medicine and it is well known for it effects on the female reproductive system and hormonal balance. Shatavari contains 8-9% steroidal saponins, known as shatavarin I, immunoside, asparagin A, shatavarins IV-X 1. The high level of steroidal saponins may be responsible for the oestrogenic effect of shatavari and explain its traditional use as a reproductive tonic .
Also, recommended as a galactogogue (to improve breast milk supply),
although the results from Human studies are not conclusive, but in animal studies use of Shatavari has increased the size of Mammary Glands and milk production in Diary Cows, Buffaloes & Rats 2,3. Animal research has shown some problems in fetal development, hence it is not recommended to take Shatavari during pregnancy.
A. racemosus in combination with other herbal substances in the form of ‘Ricalex’ tablets (Aphali pharmaceutical Ltd. Ahmednagar) has been shown to increase milk production in females complaining of deficient milk secretion. Gradual decrease in milk secretion, on withdrawl of the drug suggested that the increase in milk secretion was due to drug therapy only and not due to any psychological effect.11
Lactare is a commercial galactogogue product mainly containing Shatavari among other herbs and marketed by TTK Healthcare, It claims to improve lactation5. In an another study, lactare is reported to enhance milk output in women complaining of scanty breast milk, on 5th day after delivery12. Himalaya Herbals also commercially markets Shatavari capsules in India6.
Care should be taken when buying traditional preparation of Shatavari, as it might contain heavy metals in it. Outside India Shatavari is available in the US and in some European countries8,9,10.
More information about the Shatavari can be found in the following links.
3. Sabnis P, Gaitonde B, Jethmalani M. Effects of alcoholic extracts of Asparagus racemosus on mammary glands of rats. Indian J Exp Biol. 1966;6(1):55–7.
7. The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk ISBN: 007159857X, McGraw-Hill
11. Goyal RK, Singh J, Lal H. Asparagus racemosus–an update. Indian Pediatr. Indian J Med Sci. 2003 Sep;57(9):408-14.
Joglekar GV, Ahuja RH, Balwani JH. Galactogogue effect of Asparagus racemosus. Indian Med J 1967;61:165.
12. Sholapurkar ML. Lactare-for improving lactation. Indian Practitioner 1986;39:1023-6