Posted to Subscribers on 25 March 2012

Dear Subscribers,

This post will focus mainly on Ayurveda's #1 herb for women: shatavari. It is also called wild asparagus, but unlike the vegetables we eat, it is the root that is used medicinally.

There are various stories about what the word "shatavari" means. In some accounts, the name translates in a way to mean "curer of a 100 diseases" and its reputation is that it can bring definitive results even in cases of supposedly incurable diseases. Another interpretation of the name is that shatavari means "the one who possesses a hundred husbands" — clearly a reference to its effect on libido as well as fertility. As I scratch my head a bit, I wonder if this is the only herb that would appear to confer the same benefits for women that some men seek for themselves?

As a tonic herb for women, shatavari is considered an aid to viscosity of the reproductive system. In more graphic terms, this means that there is moisture and lubrication that enhances pleasure as well as providing comfort for a fetus in the event of pregnancy. It also means that once the baby is born, there will be proper milk production and that the quality of the milk will be improved, but these benefits carry right on through to menopause and beyond. Shatavari contains a huge array of chemical constituents, some of which are plant precursors to estrogen. This allows a woman to remain comfortable even when she is beyond her expected child-bearing years.

One study involving 70 women with uterine bleeding showed excellent results. The women were aged 20-45, and 63 of the 70 had normal menstrual cycles by the end of the study. The results were attributed to the power of this plant in repairing the endometrium. What is perhaps most interesting is that shatavari seems to bind to estrogen receptors so that circulating hormones are not changed by localized use of the plant.

So much has been written about shatavari that I have been personally remiss in discussing it, more or less on the assumption that this is often one the first herbs one studies when approaching the huge curriculum of Ayurveda and its phenomenal applications in life.

My curiosity was however rekindled when discovering that shatavari, along with other rasayana herbs, was found to be effective in reducing gastric ulcers and mycotoxicity. This raised shatavari to a new level of interest since, as you know, I have been personally involved in my own struggles with the residuals of mold exposure when first moving to the Pacific Northwest. Ochatoxin A can be ingested via contaminants in the food chain, such as grains, coffee, and milk, or it can be a by-product of mold infection. It is not destroyed by cooking and is, in fact, very hardy. Both shatavari and the equivalent male herb, ashwagandha, were found to offer significant benefits to those suffering from this carcinogenic toxin. Shatavari is also protective against gastric ulcers.

Some comments may be helpful because modern research on plants is engaged in testing the premises stated in ancient literature. Sometimes this is done by deliberately exposing laboratory animals to carcinogens and toxins. If the plant material protects the animal(s) from the expected consequences, the plant would not only live up to its reputation but be classified as an anticarcinogen. Shatavari has demonstrated this in experiments that used the extract form (alcohol). For the same reason, shatavari mitigates the harmful side effects of chemotherapy. This is proved by inducing damage and measuring recovery from abhorrent substances such as cisplatin.

Then, my interest crescendoed when reading that shatavari has shown benefit for those exposed to excitotoxins. In preparing for kaya kalpa, I have been trying to eliminate all contaminants from my diet and was horrified to learn that nutritional yeast, a popular source of B vitamins and protein for vegetarians, often has excitotoxic constituents. I stopped using it and have enjoyed a level of peacefulness I would not have known is possible. Now, however, there are countless reasons for taking shatavari, including that it happens also to be an excellent eye tonic.

Then, as I was preparing to draft this essay, I found yet more uses that tipped the scales. Again, this is contextual, but my eye problems began with a contaminated smallpox vaccine and shatavari is useful in ridding the body of smallpox and boils. Prior to reading about this, I had been relying heavily on thuja, both in homeopathic and extract form (Algonquin Drops). I have been taking these sporadically for over 25 years, meaning that small doses now and then serve as reminders and nudge the body to eliminate whatever morbidity remains from the use of vaccines that are derived from attenuated microorganisms.

Like all rasayana herbs, shatavari is an antioxidant. It is also an adaptogen, meaning it helps us to cope with stress. Since we express our stress in a multitude of ways, it ought not come as a surprise that an herb that improves our coping capacity would have psychological, neurological, and physiological actions. Shatavari has proved useful in dealing with depression, insomnia, and conditions attributed to "wild" hormones, such as PMS.

Every herb has a unique way of supporting those who use the herbs and shatavari works mainly by improving moisture and thereby eliminating irritation due to dryness. In this manner, it supports the lungs nearly as completely as the reproductive system. It can be taken in many forms. I have often recommended use of the powder by those who are preparing for conception. If planning a family, shatavari powder can be added to oatmeal or other porridges and consumed daily for six months prior to conception.

Based on its mode of action, I would also suggest similar uses by women who suffer from hot flashes or dryness following a hysterectomy or menopause. Shatavari also seems to reduce the discomfort of adhesions as well as to protect from the harmful effect of irradiation. The powdered form offers more bang for the buck, but for those who prefer intermittent use, other supplement forms are available.

Women who are estrogen-sensitive or who find that they gain weight when using shatavari might want to limit use. Like most rejuvenative herbs, shatavari is anabolic. This action is attributed to steroidal saponins that closely resemble mammalian estrogen.

Though regarded primarily as a gynecological herb, shatavari confers similar benefits on male users as it does for children and women. It can be used by people of all ages; and, being a rasayana herb, is regarded as supportive of longevity.

Many blessings,



Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2012


Ayurvedic Herbs





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