We are constantly bombarded with advertorials, tips and advice about health and nutrition. As a young woman it can be hard to be sure what to eat, what products to avoid, how often to exercise, and what else to do to protect your health. Women face a number of issues that are unique to their sex, and navigating those challenges can be tricky if you don’t have knowledgeable people to help you.1 Which supplements are worth the money? What is ‘normal’ for your monthly cycle?
The Wisdom of Ayurvedic Medicine
Traditional Indian medicine, or ‘Ayurvedic’ medicine, is enjoying a resurgence in popularity at the moment and it is easy to understand why. Ayurvedic medicine is one of the oldest forms of medicine that is still in use today.2 Modern trials that examine the effectiveness of Ayurvedic medicine have produced conflicting results, suggesting that there is wisdom to some, but not all, of the treatments that they use. One herb that is popular in Ayurvedic medicine is Shatavari.
What is Shatavari?
Shatavari is the Ayurvedic name for the herb Asparagus racemosus (which should not be confused with the asparagus plant that is more commonly used for culinary purposes). It is known as an ‘adaptogenic’ herb, which means that it is thought to help the body to cope with both emotional and physical stress.3
What Can Shatavari Help With?
Shatavari is thought to have numerous beneficial properties. It is promoted as being helpful for digestive issues, water retention, anxiety, low libido, premenstrual syndrome, and even to help boost breast milk production.4
Does Shatavari Really Work?
Shatavari contains a number of important micronutrients, including Vitamin C, Zic, Iron and Manganese. It also contains Shatavarin (which is a steroidal saponin), and Shatavarosides. It is these compounds which are considered to be the most important ‘bioactive’ parts of the plant.5
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There have been numerous studies conducted into the effectiveness of Shatavari for treating various medical conditions, and some of those studies have been quite promising.6 There is evidence to suggest that Shatavari extract can have an antioxidant effect, and even that it can act as an antidepressant, as well as helping to combat stress.7,8
Studies into the use of Shatavari for women’s health, in particular, are limited, although there is some evidence to suggest that it can help to balance female hormones, and even potentially alleviate some of the symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.9
Using Shatavari and Other Natural Remedies
If you are thinking of taking Shatavari, then you should, first of all, consult your doctor, especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition or you are taking medication. Do not turn to Ayurvedic medicine in the place of traditional medicine. It can be a complementary therapy in many cases, but modern medicine has more screening options and ways of ruling out underlying, potentially very serious conditions so it is important that you see a doctor if you have ongoing concerns with your health.
There is no ‘recommended dose’ for Shatavari in humans, but rat studies use 100mg to 200mg per kg of body weight. This means no more than 2,200mg for a person who weighs 150lbs.10 If you are thinking of taking Shatavari, be sure to read the label carefully and to avoid going over the recommended dose for that product. More is not always better.
Does Shatavari Have Side Effects?
Shatavari is a popular supplement, and it is often used as a herbal tea. While most people tolerate it well, it is known to affect the supply of milk in lactating women and it is also considered a teratogen, so it should be avoided during pregnancy and if you are breastfeeding.11 It is also a good idea to speak to your doctor before taking Shatavari if you are taking lithium, because Shatavari is a diuretic, and may affect how well your body processes the drug.12
Shatavari During Menopause
In Ayurvedic medicine, Shatavari is considered to be a beneficial tonic for women going through the menopause.13 While there is some evidence to suggest that it can help to alleviate many of the symptoms of the menopause, there are numerous other options that could also be beneficial. For example, many women use lavender and other essential oils to help with relaxation. Lavender is even thought to help reduce hot flushes.14 Aromatherapy massages can be helpful for many of the other symptoms of the menopause, including improving mood and reducing pain-related symptoms.15
Yoga is a key component of ayurvedic medicine and is another option for those who are looking to improve their quality of life during the menopause. In many parts of India it is not uncommon for senior pharmacy students to incorporate such Ayurvedic practices into their own lives, because they feel that they are an effective non-pharmaceutical option.16
A lot of issues that women experience can be managed through rest, hydration and a healthy diet. If you are struggling with period pains, mood fluctuations, or the menopause, then starting with basic lifestyle changes could be a good idea. Use essential oils to help yourself fall asleep at night. Try meditation if you are stressed. Get a massage or go for a walk as a form of self-care instead of turning to Netflix binges. Our bodies were made to move, and they were made to fuel themselves from some rather different foods to what we are used to these days. Taking a step back towards a more natural lifestyle could really help us to feel better every day.
Are supplements worth the money? There is no easy answer to that. There is some evidence to back up the idea that Shatavari works, however it is not a wonder drug. Try it if you’re intrigued, but remember that there are other, potentially bigger gains to be had from simply living a healthy lifestyle. Beyond just Shatavari, there are other products to promote a sense of well-being. MONQ blends, like MONQ Vibrant R, make many people feel better through aromatherapy. The combination of shatavari and aromatherapy will create a stronger sense of health for their users.
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