Shatavari is the most popular Ayurvedic herb used for the menopausal transition. Ayurvedic medicine is possibly the oldest treatment system in the world, originating from India. The first recorded use of Shatavari dates back to 1500BC in the Rig Veda. The fact that it still remains today is evident in its success. Although it is lacking in large-scale double-blind placebo trials, the gold standard for medical research. There are some smaller-scale studies that have been rather promising.
Shatavari is most famous for its libido-enhancing effects. In fact, the word Shatavari in Sanskrit translates to be “she who has 100 husbands”. So if you are looking for a herb with aphrodisiac effects this may be the one for you.
Shatavari is a wild variety of asparagus, but instead of using the fresh green shoots, the active constituents are found in the roots.
Phytoestrogens are just one example of actives found in Shatavari. Phytoestrogens have a hormone-balancing effect. They are good in peri-menopause when the ratio of hormones can be towards higher estrogen levels and also for post-menopause with lower estrogen levels. This hormone balancing effect is just one of the reasons why it can help reduce menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, and mood swings.
Its adaptogen effect is another reason. Adaptogenic herbs help you adapt to your environment in other words they improve your stress response. We know that stress is a major trigger for vasomotor symptoms such as hot flushes. Being less stressed is a major health benefit in itself. Stressed-out women are more likely to be fatigued, worn out, and moody and we don’t want that.
It has 2 other benefits specific to the peri-menopausal woman, 1 is its spasmolytic action, helping to reduce uterine cramps and the second is its hemostatic ability to contract blood vessels and reduce heavy bleeding.
In ayurvedic medicine, they classify herbs as being heating or cooling. Cooling herbs as you would expect cool the body, they also release irritability, improve digestion and headaches. Shatavari is a cooling herb, as is Saffron, chamomile, coriander/cilantro for my US listeners, cardamon, mint, dill, and chamomile.
Another therapeutic action is due to its mucilaginous constituents. This helps relieve mucous membrane irritation by providing a protective layer. In terms of menopausal symptoms, it may help provide relief from a dry, inflamed vagina. Other mucous membranes that can dry up at this stage of life include your respiratory system and digestive lining. Shatavari may protect these as well. Mucilage also acts like dietary fiber and can help regulate bowel movements, help heal ulcers and provide relief from heartburn. Shatavari also has antimicrobial effects, providing protection against e-coli, salmonella, candida, and even more bad bugs.
Are you looking for more endurance and strength? I found a preprint article, this research is so new it hasn’t even been published yet! Looking at using Shatavari in post-menopausal women to improve strength and reduce sarcopenia - which is muscle loss. It was a randomized double-blind placebo trial But it is small, only 20 women and short only 6 weeks. Still, the Shatavari group had shown promising improvements in muscle function, evaluated using handgrip strength, tissue biopsy, and blood work.
In animal studies, it improved heart health by increasing the force and rate of heart contractions. It may also help reduce elevated blood pressure via its diuretic action.
Shatavari has immune-modulating benefits which mean it can help to increase immune function and fight infections and it can also reduce an overactive immune system and help reduce allergy and autoimmune antibodies.
It also has anti-inflammatory actions without the digestive side effects that most pharmaceutical anti-inflammatories have.
It is thought to boost cognition, learning, and memory while protecting the aging brain via enhancement of BDNF brain-derived neurotrophic factor and up-regulation of estrogen receptors.
So if you are looking for herbal support to help improve your menopausal transition, Shatavari may help improve your hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, brain fog, stress response, moods, muscle strength, heart health, digestive health, immune health, cognition, libido and more
Warning - it has fertility-enhancing effects so if you are peri-menopausal and do not want a new family member make sure you use contraception. It's also worth checking for medication interactions but your health care practitioner can help you with this.