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Shatavari (Asparagus Racemosus) Benefits,

Uses & Side Effects


Shatavari (Asparagus Racemosus) is a powerful therapeutic agent, which is of great importance
in Ayurveda. It promotes overall well-being and good health. It is one solution to many health
conditions. Shatavari means ‘acceptable to many’.

Shatavari is a special female tonic because it helps women of all age groups to transit through
natural phases of life very gracefully. Shatavari roots are very helpful during menstruation
because it relieves abdominal cramps and spasms. It strengthens the uterus. During lactation, it
stimulates the production of breast milk. The last but not the least it also helps women during
menopause.

Besides this, Shatavari roots are have been found to be very useful in the treatment and control of
diabetes mellitus, high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, cancer, bacterial and fungal infections,
oedema, infertility and depression.

Botanical Description
Botanically, Shatavari is Asparagus Racemosus.

Common Names

English Name Asparagus, Asparagus Root, Indian Asparagus


Hindi Name Shatavari
SHATAVARI, SHATMULI, ATIRASA,
Sanskrit Name
SHATVIRYA
SATAWARI, SATMULI, CHATAVALI,
Also Spelled As SITAWARI, SATAWAR, SATVAR,
SATMOOLI

Botanical Classification (Plant Taxonomy)

Kingdom PLANTAE
Sub-Kingdom VIRIDIPLANTAE
Infra Kingdom STREPTOPHYTA (land plants)
Super Division EMBRYOPHYTA
TRACHEOPHYTA (TRACHEOPHYTES or
Division
Vascular Plants)
SPERMATOPHYTINA
Sub Division
(SPERMATOPHYTES or Seed Plants)
Class MAGNOLIOPSIDA
Super Order LILIANAE (monocots, monocotyledons)
Order ASPARAGALES
Family ASPARAGACEAE
Genus ASPARAGUS
Species A. RACEMOSUS

Plant Description

Native Range Shatavari is widely grown across different tropical parts of the world
(Geographic Distribution) such as Asia, India, Australia and Africa.
Shatavari is a tall, climbing, thorny under shrub and it grows one to
Height (grows up to)
two meters tall.
Habitat (type of It is usually grown at low altitudes in shade and in tropical climates
environment) throughout Asia, Australia and Africa.
Shatavari roots are light pale to brown in color and they are soft and
Roots
pliable.
Shatavari leaves are pine needles, uniform and small. These leaves
Leaves
are linear with a stout conical spiny spur.
Flowers Shatavari flowers are white in color and have small spikes.
Fruits Its fruits are round berries, which are purple to black in color.
Soil Shatavari prefers to take root in rocky and gravelly soils.

Medicinal Parts
Shatavari roots are mainly used for therapeutic purposes. Shatavari Churna (Asparagus root
powder) is generally used in ayurvedic medicines.

Phytochemistry (Active Constituents)


Shatavari is a great source of phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are plant chemicals that promote
good health. It is found that phytochemicals present in Shatavari play an important role in
strengthening immune system and, fighting oxidative stress. These active principles also possess
anti-cancer activity. Different phytochemicals present in Shatavari include:

1. Steroidal saponins knows as SHATAVARINS


2. Alkaloids
3. Oligosaccharides
4. Mucilage
5. Isoflavones
6. Flavonoids such as QUERCETIN and RUTIN present in Shatavari fruits and flowers
7. STEROLS such as SITOSTEROL present in Shatavari roots
Nutrients in Shatavari

Various minerals are abundantly present in Shatavari roots such as copper, manganese, zinc and
cobalt. Other minerals present in good quantity include calcium, magnesium, selenium and
potassium. Besides minerals, Shatavari also contain vitamins such as vitamin A and ascorbic
acid. Essential fatty acid such as gamma linolenic acid is also present in Shatavari. Gamma
linolenic acid is very beneficial for the treatment of arthritis, diabetes mellitus, high cholesterol
levels, heart disease and depression. (1)

Medicinal Properties
Shatavari roots and leaves possess various medicinal properties such as:

 Immunomodulatory activity
 Anti-ulcerogenic
 Antioxidant activity
 Anti-cancer
 Anti-diabetic
 Anti-Candida
 Anti-inflammatory
 Antidiarrheal
 Antimicrobial
 Antidepressant
 Aphrodisiac
 Adaptogenic

Ayurvedic Properties
Taste – RASA MADHURA (Sweet), TIKTA (Bitter)
GURU (Heavy),SNIGADH or SNEHA
Main Quality – GUNA
(Unctuous or Oily)
Potency – VIRYA SHEETA (Cold)
Resultant – VIPAKA MADHURA (Sweet)
Therapeutic Effect – PRABHAVA Rejuvenation, Supplement & Tonic
DOSHA KARMA (Effect on Humors) Pacifies VATA & PITTA
Dhatu (Tissue) Effect RASA, RAKTA, & SHUKRA
All organs especially Stomach, Heart, Brain,
Beneficial for Organs
Uterus, Ovaries, Testes

Therapeutic Indications
Shatavari is helpful in the following conditions:
 High blood glucose levels or uncontrolled diabetes mellitus
 High cholesterol and triglyceride levels
 Bacterial and fungal infections
 Diarrhea and dysentery
 Edema or excess fluid accumulation
 Infertility
 Menstruation and menopause
 Lactation
 Excess stress and depression
 Gastric ulcers
 Cancer
 Liver diseases

Shatavari Benefits & Uses


Research has found that Shatavari is a traditional healer and it possesses a wide range of
biological activities which includes antifungal, antitumor, diuretic and immunostimulatory
effects (stimulates the immune system and fights against infections). Besides this, Shatavari is
also commonly used in the treatment of nervous breakdown, diarrhea, dysentery and
rheumatism. It is considered a galactagogue that is it increases the production of breast milk in
lactating mothers. Such beneficial effects of Shatavari is attributed to the presence of various
health promoting compounds present in it such as saponins, amino acids, sulphur containing
acids, flavonoids and oligosaccharides. (2)

Let’s have a look at how Shatavari helps in the treatment, prevention and management of various
diseases:

Diabetes Mellitus

Roots of Shatavari possess anti-diabetic properties and they are very effective in lowering high
blood glucose levels. Shatavari works by stimulating the secretion of insulin from the pancreas.
This helps in controlling high blood glucose levels. Such action contributes to the anti-
hyperglycemic action of Shatavari. Shatavari roots slow down or inhibit the absorption of
carbohydrate in the gut. It also enhances the activity of glucose transporters so that more of
glucose is transported to the muscle and cells and less remains in the blood. Thus, more glucose
will be used as a source of energy rather than staying in the blood and raising the blood glucose
levels post meal.

A rat study showed that daily administration of Shatavari to rats with type 2 diabetes for 28 days
reduced blood glucose levels, increased secretion of insulin from the pancreas and increased the
total antioxidant status. Thus, Shatavari can be used as a source of anti-diabetic compound for
the management of blood glucose level. (3)
Besides this, roots of Shatavari have great antioxidant potential that inhibit the production and
action of free radicals and protects the pancreas against oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is also
the major cause of hyperglycemia or high blood glucose levels. High levels of oxidative stress
cause death of pancreatic beta cells, the main producer of insulin. This causes drop in the
secretion of insulin and blood glucose level rises. Thus, by controlling the levels of oxidative
stress one can control the rise in blood glucose levels. (4)

High Cholesterol

It is very well known that high cholesterol levels and oxidative stress increases the risk of
atherosclerosis and other heart diseases. Therefore, it is very important to keep cholesterol levels
under normal range. A study observed that administration of dried Shatavari powder to rats with
altered lipid profile lowered the level of total and LDL- low-density lipoprotein cholesterol
(unhealthy) by 29% and 33% respectively. Furthermore, a drop in the triglyceride levels by 39%
was also observed. Shatavari had also shown to increase the level of HDL- high density
lipoprotein cholesterol (protects the heart) by 11%. Shatavari powder also increased the
excretion of cholesterol metabolites and bile acid.

Dried Shatavari powder improved the altered lipid profile by decreasing the absorption of
cholesterol and by increasing the conversion of cholesterol to bile acids. These bile acids were
then excreted in the feces, which lowered the overall cholesterol levels. (5)

Another study showed that such a beneficial role of Shatavari powder in lowering high
cholesterol levels is due to the presence of various health promoting compounds such as
phytosterols, saponins, flavonoids, polyphenols and ascorbic acid that increases the excretion of
cholesterol and increases the level of antioxidants in the body. Thus, dried Shatavari powder can
be a great remedy for individuals with high cholesterol and high triglyceride level. (6)

Lactation

In Ayurvedic literature, Shatavari is considered as a galactagogue (milk enhancing substance)


that is it increases the production of breast milk in lactating mothers. A hormone called
‘prolactin’ is responsible for promotion of milk secretion in lactating mothers. Lactogenic effect
of Shatavari is attributed to the presence of two important constituents present in SHATAVARI-
STEROIDAL SAPONINS and SAPOGENINS.

A very interesting research showed that Shatavari root powder in the form of capsules was given
to women with deficient breast milk production. These capsules were given 3 times a day with
milk and this was continued for 30 days. The results showed that Shatavari root capsules had a
positive effect on prolactin hormone levels in lactating mothers. The increase in the prolactin
hormone level was 3 times higher in lactating mothers who were given Shatavari root capsules as
compared to those who were not on Shatavari. In addition to this, no side effects or toxic effects
were observed in lactating mothers who were on Shatavari capsules. (7)

Infertility
These days infertility has become a common problem that affects approximately 10-15%
couples. Research has shown that Shatavari is a very effective tonic for both males and females
that helps to overcome sexual disorders. Besides this, Shatavari is also very effective in
enhancing male sexual activity and treats various sexual disorders such as ejaculatory
incompetence, erectile failure, and lack of desire. The presence of various phytochemicals,
mucilages, glycosides, saponins and carbohydrate in Shatavari possess aphrodisiac activity.
Furthermore, no known adverse effects of shatavari were observed. (8)

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Female Tonic

Shatavari is very commonly known as a female tonic. Shatavari increases female libido,
moistens dry tissues of sexual organs, reduces and cures inflammation of sexual organs, and
enhances ovulation. Thus, shatavari is very beneficial for female infertility. It also prevents
female miscarriages and prepares womb for conception. Furthermore, post-birth delivery it
normalizes uterus and hormone levels in women and also increases lactation. Shatavari is also
very useful in the treatment of problems related to menstruation such as irregular bleeding,
premenstrual syndrome and dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation). Thus, it reduces abdominal
cramps and spasms that usually take place during menstruation. (9)

Stress & Depression

Shatavari is an adaptogen, a substance that improves the body’s ability to adapt to stress. It has
further shown to possess anti-depressant activity and thus acts as a useful anti-stress agent.
Oxidative stress and overload of free radicals is a common cause of stress and depression.
Research showed that treatment with shatavari improved antioxidant defenses, increased
antioxidant enzymes and reduced the damage cause by free radicals. Furthermore, shatavari
improved the production of chemicals in the brain that have anti-anxiety, anti-stress and anti-
depressant effect. The anti-stress properties of shatavari are due to the presence of flavonoids,
polyphenols and saponins. They reduce the production of stress hormones and increase the
production of hormones or chemicals that makes one feel calm and happy. Hence, shatavari can
be used for the management of mental depression and stress. (10, 11)

Diarrhea & Dysentery

Research has found that shatavari can be used as an herbal remedy in the treatment of diarrhea
and dysentery. Shatavari works similar to LOPERAMIDE, a drug used in the treatment of
diarrhea. It reduced the frequency of stools and reduced gastrointestinal motility. It further
slowed down the transit of intestinal contents. It also reduced the frequency and volume of
stools. Such an effect was attributed to the presence of flavonoids because they inhibit the
intestinal motility. It further reduced the secretion of fluid and electrolytes in the stools. Thus,
shatavari can be very useful in the treatment of diarrhea and dysentery. (12)
Gastric Ulcers

Various studies have found that shatavari plays a very important role in the treatment of gastric
ulcers. Stomach ulcers are formed on the inner lining of the stomach. Excess exposure of these
ulcers to gastric acid aggravates the formation of more ulcers and causes symptoms such as
vomiting, diarrhea, pain, cramps and spasms. Research has shown that shatavari reduces the
exposure of these ulcers to acid by reducing the total volume of gastric secretion and total
acidity.

Shatavari also increases the antioxidant enzymes that protects against the harmful action of free
radicals. Free radicals attack the inner lining of the gastric region and thus cause the formation of
ulcers. Different antioxidant enzymes such as ascorbic acid, superoxide dismutase and catalase
increased significantly after shatavari was administered.

Another research found that shatavari inhibits the release of gastric hydrochloric acid and
protects the mucosal lining against irritation and damage. It also increases mucus production, a
viscous substance that forms a layer and protects the inner lining of the stomach. Such effects of
shatavari were similar to the protective effects of ranitidine, a drug used in the treatment of
gastric ulcers. (13, 14)

Cancer

Research has showed that many natural products have anti-cancer properties and shatavari is one
of them. Shatavari contains saponins, flavonoids, Terpenes and glycosides that possess anti-
cancer activity. All these anti-cancer compounds are majorly present in shatavari roots. Scientific
studies have shown that treatment with shatavari roots reduced the volume of tumor and tumor
cell count. This clearly indicates that shatavari roots work by killing cancer cells and further
prevents the spread of tumors to other parts of the body. Furthermore, shatavari roots elevate the
antioxidant activity, antioxidant enzymes and antioxidant defense that fight oxidative stress and
reduce the load of free radicals. Shatavari has further shown to boost immune system that
prevents the onset of infections. (15)

Stimulates Immune System

Research has found that shatavari root and root extracts play a very important role in stimulating
immune cells. They also stimulate the cells that fight infection and thus, reduce the overall
population of infection-causing cells. During infection or diseased condition, the immunity is
suppressed. Shatavari roots stimulate the immune system, help the body to fight against diseases,
and finally speeds up the recovery.

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SAPOGENIN, a compound present in shatavari is a potent immune-stimulator. It enhances the


body’s resistance during normal and immune-suppressed conditions. Thus, shatavari roots help
to boost immunity during immune-suppressed conditions, helps in recovery of immune profile
and this is the reason as to why shatavari roots are used as a therapeutic agent. (16, 17)

Gut Health

It is said that all the diseases begin in the gut, therefore, it is very important to keep the gut clean
and healthy. Research has found that shatavari roots are very useful in cleansing the gut. It
improves digestion by increasing the activity of digestive enzyme lipase and amylase. Lipase
helps in fat digestion whereas, amylase help in the digestion of carbohydrates. In addition to this,
shatavari roots promote gastric emptying and normalize the motility of intestine. It also helps in
the treatment and management of gastric ulcers. Thus, shatavari roots are considered to be
‘healthy gut food’. (18)

Hepatoprotective Activity

Research has found that shatavari plays a very important role in protecting liver against damage
caused by drugs, toxins and free radicals. Shatavari inhibits the formation of lipid peroxides
(products formed by degradation of lipids) in the liver. Liver damage caused by toxins, drugs or
due to any other reason raises the level of liver enzymes in the blood. Increased level of liver
enzymes is a clear indicator that the liver is damaged.

Furthermore, level of oxidants was also raised in liver damage. Treatment with shatavari roots
increased the levels of antioxidant enzymes such as superoxide dismutase, reduced glutathione
and catalase. Such an increase reduced the population of oxidants and free radicals and improved
the overall health of liver.

In addition to this, shatavari roots also improved the activity of enzymes that scavenge reactive
oxygen species. Treatment with shatavari roots also restored the normal structure and function of
the liver. Elevated liver enzyme levels also returned back to normal range. These parameters
strongly suggest that treatment with shatavari roots helped in the liver regeneration process.
However, human studies are required to confirm the positive effects of shatavari roots on liver
damage. (19)

Antimicrobial Activity

It is found that root extract of shatavari has considerable antibacterial efficacy against-

 ESCHERICHIA COLI
 SHIGELLA DYSENTERIAE
 SHIGELLA SONNER
 SHIGELLA FLEXNERI
 SALMONELLA TYPHI
 VIBRIO CHOLERA
 PSEUDOMONAS PUTIDA
 SALMONELLA TYPHIMURIUM
 STAPHYLOCOCCUS AURES
 BACILLUS SUBTILIS

Such beneficial effects of shatavari root extract were similar to that of CHLORAMPHENICOL,
a drug used against serious infections.

Research has found that besides shatavari roots, its leaves have also shown to possess anti-fungal
and anti-bacterial activity. It was found that shatavari leaf extract indicates presence of anti-
bacterial substances that fight against gram positive and gram-negative bacteria. Furthermore,
shatavari leaf extract has anti-microbial activity against the following:

 PSEUDOMONAS AERUGINOSA
 CANDIDA UTILIS

Thus, shatavari leaf and root can be effectively used for curing bacterial diseases. (20, 21)

Diuretic Activity

Research has found that shatavari roots possess diuretic activity. Diuretic is a class of drug that
increases the excretion of urine. It is usually recommended when fluid gets accumulated in the
body (edema). In a rat study, shatavari root was administered to rats at three different doses- 800
milligrams/kilogram, 1600 milligrams/kilogram and 3200 milligram/kilogram for its diuretic
activity. At all 3 doses shatavari roots increased the excretion of urine and reduced the
accumulation of fluid in the body. Such an effect of shatavari root was similar to that of
FUROSEMIDE, a standard diuretic drug. In addition to this, no side effects or toxicity was
observed at high dose of shatavari root (3200 milligram/kilogram). However, more human trails
are required to understand the role of shatavari roots as a diuretic agent. (22)

Safety Profile
Shatavari Churna (Asparagus root powder), leaves, stems or raw roots are considerably safe.

Pregnancy

Scientific studies have shown that shatavari should be used cautiously during pregnancy because
it may cause damage to the offspring. One such rat study observed that administration of
shatavari root extract during pregnancy showed teratological disorders in terms of
malformations. For example- intrauterine growth retardation, small placental size and swelling in
the legs. In addition to this, decrease in the body weight and length was observed after birth. A
delay was observed in various developmental parameters as compared to the group who was not
treated with shatavari roots. (23)