‘Rasayana’ is a specialized section of Ayurveda, which mainly deals with the preservation and promotion of health. In Ayurveda the word ‘Rasayana’ literally means the path that ‘Rasa’ takes (‘Rasa’: plasma; Ayana: path). Hence any medicine that improves the quality of ‘Rasa’ (‘Rasayana’) should strengthen or promote the health of all tissues of the body.
One of the key rasayana we work with at Nature’s Laboratory is ‘Shatavari’ (Asparagus racemosus).
Asparagus racemosus which is also called Shatavari, is a widely occurring medicinal plant belonging to the family of Liliaceae.
Background and uses of Shatavari
Shatavari is a well- known and valuable female-revitalising herb, whose name may be translated as “100 spouses”, implying its ability to increase fertility and vitality in women. In Ayurveda, this amazing herb is known as the “Queen of herbs”, because it is said to promote love and devotion. It is very effective in boosting female fertility and is traditionally used by women for overall health and vitality, to promote lactation, and as an aphrodisiac. Shatavari’s beneficial effect on women during their reproductive life is well established. It is widely used as a drug for conception and during lactation.
This wonderful healer has long-standing history and can also be found recommended in Ayurvedic texts for the prevention and treatment of gastric ulcers and dyspepsia.
This herb is found abundantly in subtropical and tropical zones such as Asia, Australia, and Africa.
A. racemosus is a woody climber growing to 1-2 m in height. The leaves are small like pine needles, flowers are white and have small spikes. The flowers are arranged in clusters from an axil. There are 2-6, short, simple, few or many flowered racemes (flower clusters), 2.5 –8cm long which are either solitary or more often in crowded bundles of 3 or more. Root stock is stout and short, bears numerous considerably long, spindle- shaped succulent tuberous roots. The roots are perennial, fascicled (growing in a bundle), smooth, and the colour varies from creamish white to dark brown. The stem is scandent (having a climbing habit) twining, armed with strong straight or recurved spines at the nodes and woody when mature. Branchlets are angular.
The major bioactive constituents of Asparagus are a group of steroidal saponins known as shatavarins (a saponin is a bitter tasting organic chemical).
Shatavarin I to IV and sarsapogenins (a sarsapogenin is a steroidal sapogenin) are present in roots, leaves, and fruits of Asparagus species.
Shatavarin I is the major glycoside with 3-glucose and rhamnose moieties (parts of molecules) attached to sarsapogenin. This plant also contains vitamins A, B1, B2, E, folic acid and traces of minerals such as calcium, magnesium and cobalt. Other primary chemical constituents of Asparagus are essential oils, asparagine, arginine, tyrosine, flavonoids (kaempferol, quercetin, and rutin), resin, and tannin.
Medicinal Uses of Shatavari
There are several reports suggesting the potential of Shatavari to promote milk secretion in lactating mothers who have symptoms of deficient lactation, with positive effects on the hormone prolactin. A probable reason for this galactogogue effect could be the presence of steroidal saponins in this plant.
The powdered dried root of Shatavariis used in Ayurveda for dyspepsia. Oral administration of powdered dried root of Shatavari has been found to promote gastric emptying in healthy volunteers. Its action is reported to be comparable with that of the synthetic dopamine antagonist metoclopramide
In Ayurveda, Shatavari has also been mentioned for the treatment of ulcerative disorders of the stomach and Parinama Sula, a clinical entity akin to duodenal ulcer diseases. The juice of fresh root of A. racemosus has been shown to have definite curative effect in patients who have duodenal ulcers.
It has been suggested that Shatavari may heal ulcers by potentiating defensive factors. Plausible mechanisms for this may be that it may prolong the life span of mucosal cells, increase the secretion and viscosity of mucus, and strengthen the mucosal barrier and thus reduces H+ ion back diffusion into the mucosa. Shatavari may form a complex with mucus or other substances at the base of the ulcer which may protect the ulcer from the corrosive and proteolytic effects of acid-pepsin. It may have cytoprotective action like that of prostaglandins. It might also act to deactivate and bind pepsin or bile salts.
Diarrhoea has long been recognized as one of the most important health problems faced globally particularly by the population of developing countries. Each year millions of deaths are reported globally due to this sickness. Many studies have reported that ethanol and aqueous extracts of Shatavari roots exhibited significant anti-diarrhoeal activity against castor oil induced diarrhoea, referenced in Ayurvedic texts such as Sushruta Samhita and Sharangdhar Samhita.
Additional beneficial properties of Shatavari
This mother healer herb also possesses anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antidiabetic, antioxidant potential. It has also been reported for its antidepressant, cardioprotective, hepatoprotective and insulin secretory potential.
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