A few days ago I was telling an herbalist friend how blown away I was at the way maca had so quickly disappeared my hot flashes.
This friend, Sylvester (Sly), loves to taste any herb he comes across. He is a true herbalist that way – walking through the woods picking all sorts of leaves and chewing them up to see if it’s really what he thinks it is.
When I mentioned the maca he nodded sagely and said, “Ah yes, maca is good stuff. But have you tried shatavari? Ruby and I have been using it for a few months now, we like it even better than maca. It tastes better too.”
Now, remember – maca has many more uses than simply soothing menopausal woes, and the guys get plenty of benefit from this pulverized Peruvian turnip-like plant too. Turns out Sly and his girlfriend mix it into their yogurt every morning, along with the Indian Ayurvedic herb known as shatavari.
I’m not so familiar with shatavari (yet), but my sister Lisa – who recently completed her Ayurvedic Practitioner certification – had recommended it to me a while back (not in relation to menopause, though.) But I’d forgotten all about it.
I decided to talk to Lisa again, and do some research on this plant – it got me excited!
Like maca, shatavari is a overall ‘feel good’ herb – boosting libido, supporting the adrenal glands, gently pumping energy levels while nourishing the nervous system.
Who couldn’t use more of that?
Today I’m going to take a look specifically at what this plant can do for perimenopausal (and menopausal women).
Like maca, shatavari is a food rather than an ‘herb’ (although the distinction is blurry) – it’s actually a wild asparagus (Asparagus racemosus). But unlike its Peruvian counterpart, I didn’t see any reports of it being cooked up and eaten for dinner by the locals.
It grows wild in low jungle regions of India, where it has been revered for centuries as a premier Ayurvedic herb for women. Long before hot flashes arrive, women use shatavari to enhance their fertility and to ‘get in the mood.’
The word ‘shatavari’ means ‘a hundred spouses’ in Sanskrit. So this stuff isn’t fooling around!
And after it helps out on the fertility front, this herb can prevent threatened miscarriage, relieve morning sickness and tiredness, and increase the flow of breast milk. Women in India also use it to balance hormones and treat menstrual problems during their fertility years.
A Menopausal Ally
Since shatavari is cooling and soothing in nature, as well as being a sweet and nourishing herb, Ayurvedic practitioners often recommend it for hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, anxiety and memory loss.
It also can moisturize and cool other parts of the body (for those of you who feel like you are shriveling up, or that your hair is starting to break off.)
It’s so celebrated for its lubricating properties that Eastern and Western herbalists often include it in formulas meant to combat the waning sex drive that can occur around the menopausal years.
I mean after all, who feels like making love when everything down there is dry as a doornail? (I know, ‘dry as a doornail’ is a stupid expression. What the heck is a doornail anyway? But for some reason I like it.)
If this intrigues you, scroll down for a recipe for Libido Tea.
Shatavari contains natural phytoestrogens and so can be used as an alternative to synthetic HRT, gently and naturally rebalancing estrogen levels.
(Obviously those levels will still drop during the menopausal change, but shatavari help make the decrease less precipitous and uncomfortable, and – who knows? – perhaps encourage the estrogen to not drop quite so low.)
In India they call it the supreme women’s tonic. Because of its potent hormone balancing abilities, it’s often prescribed post hysterectomy.
In Ayurvedic talk, they say that the phytoestrogens in shatavari increase ojas – the word for life energies or vitality.
I also read that along with this, it enhances feelings of spiritual love. I don’t know about you – but I say give me all the ojas I can get!
I’m definitely planning to add shatavari to my menopause herbal protocol, which currently includes daily doses of maca and vitex. If I was braver I’d eliminate the maca for a while and see if shatavari was equally effective – but I don’t want to risk going back to hot flash-land. I love my maca!
For now I will incorporate this new herb into my daily routine, since it has so many other revitalizing and lubricating properties. I like that it has the potential to relax the body when it’s stressed, but to energize it when fatigued. I could sure use both of these!
And the fact that it acts as an adaptogen also appeals to me. Adaptogens are particularly important in our modern stressful world, they are nontoxic herbs that gently help the body adapt to the various stresses it encounters – whether that is pollutants, constantly changing situations, or odd additives in our foods.
And then, Sly pointed out that some preliminary studies have indicated that it may act as a preventative to breast cancer, a fact I saw noted in my research as well. Another big plus for women of any age, but particularly at midlife when breast cancer strikes most often.
Good For The Guys – And Even The Young Girls
If you share this power herb with your man, he might just thank you for it! In addition to the energizing and nerve tonic properties discussed above, it treats impotence and general sexual debility. (So, maybe once your own libido is lifted, you’ll be the one doing the thanking!)
In fact, get the whole family in on it (well, at least your teenaged daughters). Lisa told me that in India, parents often feed shatavari to young girls when they reach puberty. They consider it a tonic that acts as a preventative for hormonal imbalances and other menstrual irregularities.
Wow, wish I’d had some of that as a youngster – or known about it to give to my girls. But…wait a minute – on second thought maybe not. Not too interested in that ‘hundred husband’ thing. Increased fertility might not be so awesome until at least one is involved.
I know this is supposed to be about menopause, but I can’t help mentioning a couple of other awesome benefits I found out about shatavari.
Apparently it’s super effective in treating stomach ulcers, hyperacidity, and even diarrhea. And because of it’s lubricating properties it’s nice for soothing dry and irritated membranes in upper respiratory tract during colds, flus and allergies. Many practitioners use it for bronchitis and dry coughs.
Although there have been relatively few scientific studies about shatavari (most of this knowledge is anecdotal and based on centuries of Ayurvedic use in India), there are a few studies examining its effect on the immune system.
Scientists have concluded that it enhances the functions of those immune cells – called macrophages – that are responsible for digesting destructive organisms and cancer cells.
A miracle plant with so much to offer – and best of all it won’t break the bank! You can order a pound of the powder for far less than you’d spend on dinner for two in a nice restaurant. That’s the cheapest way to go, but a tincture or bottle of capsules won’t set you back that much either.
How To Take Shatavari
In India the most common way to take this herb is to mix the powder into warm milk, hot water, or ghee (clarified butter). It may be a bit easier to digest when consumed with milk (or a milk substitute such as almond, rice or soy milk.)
Recommended dosage is ½ to 2 teaspoons daily mixed into liquid or substance of choice. I also saw suggestions to mix it with juice, and of course Sly stirs it into his morning yogurt. I’m going to try it in a smoothie and I’ll report back.
(Unfortunately my attempt to score some shatavari this week failed as they were out of stock. Because of this I’m not able to give you a personal taste report. Sly claims it’s tastier than maca, but Lisa likes the flavor of maca better. Obviously it’s a personal call.) You can mix in some raw honey if you’re not crazy about the flavor.
If you’re going the tincture route, take 5-10 ml (about 3 droppers full) spread over the course of the day. And with capsules, you’ll need to look at how much each capsule contains. You want to aim for about 3 to 10 grams per day.
You can also brew shatavari as a tea, and in that case it’s best to use the dried roots, but powder will do. It’s not as easy to measure your dosage when taking it this way, though you’ll still derive some benefit from regular use of the tea.
And, as promised, here’s the recipe for Libido Tea. It’s a long-term libido lifting remedy for menopausal women – not a “tonight’s the night” formula, like damiana cordial, for instance.
4 oz. shatavari
4 oz maca root
2 oz oatstraw
1 oz damiana leaf
1 oz licorice root or sarsaparilla root
1 oz organic rose petals (don’t use if you can’t find organic!)
Mix herbs together and store the mixture in a tightly covered glass jar.
Place about a half ounce of the mixture in a teapot or mason jar and pour 3 ½ cups of boiling water over it. Let steep, covered for 15 minutes. Strain. Drink a cup either hot or cold up to three times a day.
Recipe adapted from The Natural Menopause Handbook, by Amanda McQuade Crawford.
Are you psyched to try out shatavari for yourself? You can order it from Mountain Rose Herbs, or check to see if your local herb shop or health food store carries it.
So, what do you think? Have you tried shatavari? What did you think of it? If not, does this information make you want to give it a go?
Share your thoughts in the comments, it will add even more value to this discussion.
Till next time,
Note: You’ll want to pass on shatavari if you are allergic to asparagus or have a sensitivity to it. It is also not advised for people with edema due to a kidney disorder, impaired heart conditions, fibrocystic breasts, or other estrogen-induced diseases.
This article is #4 is the Holistic Hot Sauce Menopause Series. If you’re looking for more, here’s the rest of the series: