A common herb in Ayurvedic medicine, shatavari, is believed to have several different health benefits. It is most commonly used in promoting female reproductive health, though studies show some conflicting results. The herb, a relative of asparagus, may additionally promote healthy digestive health, act as an anti-inflammatory, and have a calming, de-stressing effect. Most of these benefits, however, require further scientific evidence.
Shatavari belongs to the same family as common asparagus. Its Latin name is asparagus racemosus. In some countries, it is referred to as "100 husbands," due to its perceived ability to increase female reproductive health and libido. The herb is most commonly found in Asia, particularly India and lower China, but may also be found in some parts of Africa.
The Indian Journal of Medical Science promotes the usefulness of asparagus racemosus in treating nervous disorders, inflammation, liver disease, and certain types of infection. This journal offers no scientific evidence, however, to uphold such claims. Additionally, the American Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated asparagus racemosus. The herb is commonly used by Ayurvedic doctors, who practice a holistic and spiritual approach to medicine and health. Shatavari is often available in capsule form, though is sometimes also available as a powder to be mixed with milk.
Some studies have been conducted in order to test the herb's supposed benefits in female reproductive health. These studies have shown evidence that asparagus racemosus may increase milk production in both rats and buffaloes. Rats were also found to have an increase in the weight of mammary tissue after the herb was administered.
Conflicting results have been found in human studies regarding shatavari's ability to increase milk production. Some studies have suggested no such significant effect. One study involving an alcoholic extract derived from the herb, however, showed an increase in the serum prolactin levels of participants. This may indicate a positive effect in human milk production as a result of taking shatavari.
The herb may be capable of treating some ailments involving the female reproductive system as well. As it has been shown to have certain anti-inflammatory effects, asparagus racemosus could possibly decrease the inflammation of sexual organs, particularly during the menstrual cycle. The herb may aid in relieving menstrual pain, minimizing PMS symptoms, and controlling blood loss during menstruation. Some sources suggest that shatavari also relieves morning sickness and pregnancy-related lethargy, though conflicting data exists regarding whether it is safe to take during pregnancy. Those sources which promote the use of the herb during pregnancy also claim that it may aid against premature labor or miscarriage by blocking oxytocin receptors in the uterus.
In addition to female reproductive health benefits, shatavari may relieve digestive ailments as well. The herb is proven as a diuretic, and may be useful in combating gastroparesis, a condition that causes slow emptying of the stomach into the gastrointestinal tract. Asparagus racemosus may be efficient in treating gastric ulcers as well. A study involving a 15-day treatment with the herb, administered orally, indicated a significant decreased ulcer index in rats. This study suggests that asparagus racemosus may inhibit the release of excess gastric hydrochloric acid.