Shatavari, scientifically known as Asparagus racemosus, has been used for generations as a natural medicine. Shatavari is commonly used in Ayurveda, an Indian holistic healing discipline, but increasingly the medicinal properties of the plant are being researched by modern medical experts. The plant grows in India in jungles and is also grown in many Indian homes and gardens.
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Shatavari is valued in Ayurvedic medicine for its roots and leaves, and is the main ingredient in many treatments, such as shatavari gulam and shatavari ghrtam. Shatavari is rich in protein, fat and carbohydrates and has small amounts of vitamins B, C and A.
Shatavari has been traditionally used for a wide range of conditions and diseases, including nervous disorders, diarrhea, chest problems, tumors, inflammation and hypertension. According to Elizabeth M. Williamson in her book "Major Herbs of Ayurveda," the roots are most commonly used to treat lactation problems in women. It is also used to treat sexual health complaints, such as impotence, menopause, infertility and abortion.
Shatavari has not been used oficially in modern medicine as of November 2010. While the USDA's Germplasm Resources Information Network lists a number of uses for shatavari, it does not indicate that any of these are proven.
There have been many studies into the use of shatavari for modern medical use. A study published in the "Journal of Endocrinology" in 2007 found that Asparagus racemosus root when used on rats was a useful stimulator for insulin secretion. The authors suggested that it may prove useful as a diabetes treatment in the future.
Another study on rats, published in "Brain and Cognition" in October 2010, found that shatavari improved the memory of the rats studied and protected against amnesia. This study also points out that shatavari has been found to have antidepressant qualities.
More study is required to determine the exact effects of shatavari on humans. Studies tracing its use in prompting lactation in women have yielded varying results, with one study showing a decrease in milk production when shatavari intake was ceased, but another showing no difference between those who took shatavari and those who took a placebo, according to H. Panda in "Medicinal Plants Cultivation and Their Uses."
Exercise caution if you plan on taking shatavari. Shatavari may have a negative effect on pregnant women. A study published in the "Indian Journal of Experimental Biology" in 2006 found that shatavari root had a negative effect on pregnant rats. The rats that were given shatavari had a greater chance of fetal reabsorption, smaller litter size and smaller offspring. The herb's effect on pregnant humans requires further study.