My first real introduction to the female reproductive herb, shatavari, known as the “Women with a Hundred Husbands,” was in the back waters of Kerala—in the south of India—during the late 80s.
I was visiting one of the last remaining Nampoothiri tribes still living in their traditional pre-colonial ways.
The Ayurvedic clinic in the village was famous throughout the region, and all of the writings, herbal formulas, and knowledge were inscribed on palm leaves.
Their village was impossible to get to without a boat and many miles from any civilization. We were told we rented the only motorboat in the region. Without it, the journey would have taken days to row.
In the Nampoothiri village, a handful of elders still lived in tiny wooden huts. The elders had become severely kyphotic (hunched over) from going in and out of such small huts. The elder women of the tribe were still dressed in traditional pre-colonial garb, which was topless. This was a shocking scene in India—a culture that greatly values modesty.
The Nampoothiri were unwilling to conform to British rule, finding safe haven in the mostly inaccessible back waters of Kerala. What a rare and special treat it was to visit this Ayurvedic village!
When the Ayurvedic vaidyas and nurses found out that my wife was pregnant, they enthusiastically made sure I had enough shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) to bring back to her. They gave it to me in powder form, the root, and pressed pills. They even gave me a wine made from shatavari root and kept forcing me to drink more!
They were emphatic that shatavari was the one herb that would carry a women throughout their entire reproductive life. They suggested I give it to my daughters at the onset of puberty to help them start menstruating without any problems. They suggested the use of it before, during, and after pregnancies, as well as before, during, and after menopause. It was suggested to be used at the first sign of any menses-related concerns.
Note: While this was the traditional use for shatavari, I always suggest that women stop taking all herbs once they become pregnant. It is always best to let the pregnancy itself restore health and well-being first, before administering additional supplements—prenatal vitamins excluded.
Shatavari translates to “100 Spouses,” denoting its ability to increase fertility and vitality. It is considered both a general tonic and a female reproductive tonic In Ayurveda. This amazing herb is known as the “Queen of Herbs,” because it promotes love and devotion.
Shatavari is also considered a rasayana or longevity tonic against aging. As a rasayana, it was traditionally used to lessen the effects of aging, increase longevity, impart immunity, boost mental function, add vigor and vitality to the body, support reproductive strength, and it is also used to support nervous system, digestive, liver, and respiratory concerns. (3)
Studies on shatavari show it boosts sex drive in both men and women, while also combating vaginal dryness and balancing menstrual concerns. (2)
In one study, shatavari was shown to enhance physical stamina and endurance, as well as increase the weight of fatigued adrenal glands after exercise stress, suggesting its adaptogenic support for adrenal health. Taking the stress off of the adrenals allows shatavari to effectively play its role as a reproductive tonic. (3)
Depleted adrenals will classically usurp the reproductive hormone, progesterone, to help the adrenals manufacture more stress hormones. Progesterone is a direct precursor to cortisol, which is commonly depleted as a result of long-term stress. Shatavari also precursors the replenishment and production of progesterone.
This herb balances the production of adrenal cortisol, making it a natural adaptogen. (4) Shatavari contains steroid saponins such as sarsaponin, protodioscin, and diosgenin, which are the most likely estrogenic components extracted from asparagus roots. These compounds in particular, diosgenin also act as a precursor of progesterone and increase secretion of this hormone.
In one study, shatavari as a reproductive tonic boosted the production of Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), estrogen, and progesterone hormones. (4)
Shatavari has been over-simplified to be only estrogenic, but clearly, it acts as Ayurveda predicted—as a powerful reproductive tonic.