Botanical name: Asparagus racemosus, Liliaceae
Other names: Ābhīru, Bahusutā, Śatāvīryā (S), Satavar, Satmuli (H), Kilavari, Satavali (T), Wild Asparagus (E), Tian Men Dong (C)
Botany: Śatāvarī is a climbing shrub attaining a height of between one and three meters, with a stout and creeping root stock, annual woody cylindrical stems with recurved or straight spines, and succulent tuberous roots that grow in clusters at the base of the stem. The young stems are quite brittle and delicate, and the leaves are actually flattened lateral shoots or scales called cladodes, arranged in tufts of two to six at each node. The flowers are white and fragrant, solitary or in fascicles, simple or branched racemes, giving rise to a globular fruit that is purplish-black when ripe containing seeds with a hard, brittle covering. Śatāvarī is found throughout tropical India into the Himalayan range up to 1400 m in elevation, extending into SE Asia, Australia and Africa (Kirtikar & Basu 1935, Warrier et al 1994).
Part used: Roots.
• Rasa: tikta, madhura
• Vipāka: guru
• Vīrya: śīta, snigdha
• Karma: śulapraśamana , stambhana, mūtravirecana, śotahara, stanyajanana, prajāsthāpana, hyrdaya, vedanāsthāpana, cakṣuṣya, medhya, vajīkaraṇa, balya, rasāyana, vātapittahara (Srikanthamurthy 2001, Warrier et al 1994).
Constituents: Śatāvarī has been found to contain steroidal glycosides including shatavarins I-IV, as well as diosgenin and various sterols. Other constituents include the alkaloid asparagamine A, flavonoids such as quercitin, rutin and hyperoside, an isoflavone, and a mucilage (Saxena & Chourasia 2001, Williamson 2002).
• In vitro: positively ionotropic/chronotropic (Roy et al 1971); anti-oxidant (Kamat et al 2000); antimicrobial (Mandal et al 2000b)
• In vivo: anti-ulcerogenic (Sairam et al 2003; Datta et al 2002); antitussive (Mandal et al 2000a); bronchodilatory (Roy 1971); galactagogue (Sabins et al 1968); dopaminergic antagonist (Dalvi et al 1990); hypotensive (Roy et al 1971); anti-adhesion (Rege et al 1989); hepatoprotective (Muruganadan et al 2000); antitumor (Rao 1981); immunostimulant (Dahanukar et al 1986, Thatte et al 1987)
• Human trials: Śatāvarī root powder was found to significantly reduce the half-time of gastric emptying in healthy human volunteers, comparable with metoclopramide (Dalvi et al 1990); Śatāvarī root powder relieved the symptoms of duodenal ulceration in the majority of the patients studied (Singh and Singh 1986); a combination remedy containing Śatāvarī (Ricalex tablets) was shown to increase milk production in human females complaining of deficient milk secretion (Joglekar et al 1967).
Toxicity: The systemic administration of high doses of various extracts of A. racemosus did not produce any abnormality in the behaviour pattern of mice and rats (Jetmalani et al 1967). Asparagus species may cause delayed-type cell-mediated and IgE-mediated reactions in sensitive individuals (Tabar et al 2003).
Indications: Dyspepsia, gastric and duodenal ulceration, intestinal colic, diarrhea, hepatitis and hepatomegaly, hemorrhoids, pharyngitis, cough, bronchitis, asthma, tuberculosis, stranguary, urethritis, cystitis, nephropathy, leucorrhea, amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, agalactia, female and male infertility, threatened miscarriage, menopause, epilepsy, fatigue, asthenia, cardiopathies, tumors, surgical adhesions.
Contraindications: kaphakopa, agnimāndya and āma, due to its śīta vīrya and snigdha and guru properties.
Medicinal uses: Śatāvarī is an important medicament in Āyurveda to relieve vitiations of vāta and pitta, combining a nourishing and strengthening activity (bṛṃhaṇa) with soothing demulcent and emollient properties (snehana). Śatāvarī is thus indicated in any kind of irritation and inflammation in the gastrointestinal, respiratory and urinary tracts. It is particularly indicated in amlapitta or ‘acid gastritis’, most notably in the form of a medicated ghṛta compound called Śatāvarī ghṛta, prepared by decocting a paste of Śatāvarī root along with an equal quantity of the fresh root juice in milk and ghṛta. The Cakradatta states that Śatāvarī ghṛta alleviates amlapitta caused by vitiations of vāta, pitta, and rakta, and can also be used in the treatment of thirst, fainting, dyspnea, and gout (Sharma 2002). The Bhāvaprakāśa recommends Śatāvarī ghṛta in the treatment of passive hemorrhage, gastritis, asthma and consumptive conditions (Srikanthamurthy 2000). For vāttika fever the fresh juice of Śatāvarī and Guḍūcī are mixed with jaggery and taken internally (Sharma 2002). Decocted with goat’s milk Śatāvarī is used in the treatment of raktapitta, of the passive hemorrhaging of the nose, eyes, ears, mouth, vagina or rectum (Sharma 2002). Śatāvarī is also an important remedy in consumption and cachexia, used along with botanicals such as Aśvagandhā, Balā, Nāgabalā, Gokṣura, Vāsaka, Punarnavā and Puṣkaramūla. Combined with equal parts Trikaṭu, Triphalā, Balā, and Atibalā, all of which are then combined with equal parts lauhabhasma (purified iron ore), Śatāvarī is used in consumptive conditions with severe cachexia, stiffness of the limbs and facial paralysis (Sharma 2002). In the treatment of vertigo Śatāvarī can be decocted in milk with Balā and Drākṣā (Sharma 2002). For epilepsy a simple milk decoction of Śatāvarī is recommended by the Cakradatta (Sharma 2002). Śatāvarī is also an important ingredient in Mahānārāyaṇa taila, used topically in abhyaṅga in the treatment of angina, muscular spasm, inflammation and pain. Combined with equal parts Kaṭuka, Guḍūcī, Triphalā and Paṭola, Śatāvarī is used internally in the treatment of gout (Sharma 2002). In the treatment of disease of the heart Śatāvarī can be used along with botanicals such as Arjuna and Balā. Prepared as milk decoction with Gokṣura and taken with jaggery as an anupāna, Śatāvarī can be used in the treatment of paittika variants of dysuria, with burning sensations and hematuria. Although the name Śatāvarī can be translated as ‘one hundred roots’, (śat ‘one hundred’, āvarī- ‘below’) referring to panicle of roots that is characteristic of the plant’s habit, Śatāvarī has also been translated to mean ‘one hundred husbands’, indicating its potent vajīkaraṇa properties, especially in women (Frawley & Lad 1986). Śatāvarī is a common component of many different formulations used to treat disorders of the female reproductive tract, used along with botanicals such as Balā, Atibalā, Yaṣṭimadhu, Nāgakeśara, Aśvagandhā, Kumārī juice, Kuraṇṭaka, Nīlotpala and Kumuda. The Cakradatta suggests that Śatāvarī is an effective vajīkaraṇa rasāyana, decocted in milk and ghṛta and taken with honey and Pippalī cūrṇa (Sharma 2002). To prevent threatened miscarriage (prajāsthāpana) the Cakradatta recommends a milk decoction of Śatāvarī, Mañjiṣṭhā, Apāmārga, and Tila. As a galactagogue (stanyajanana) a simple milk decoction of Śatāvarī is often used, or is part of more complex formulations that include botanicals such as Aśvagandhā, Yavānī and Kuṣṭha. As a restorative for the male reproductive system and to replenish the shukla dhātu Śatāvarī is taken along with botanicals such as Aśvagandhā, Balā, Kapikacchū, Gokṣura and Tila. To augment the size of the breasts as well as the penis the Cakradatta recommends a medicated oil to be massaged into these tissues, prepared by decocting Śatāvarī, Aśvagandhā, Kuṣṭha, Jaṭāmāṃsī and Bṛhatī in milk and sesame oil, until all the milk is evaporated (Sharma 2002). In Chinese medicine a very similar species of Asparagus called Tian Men Dong (Asparagus cochinchinesis) is used as a kidney and lung yin restorative in the treatment of dryness of the lungs, hemoptysis, thirst, constipation and asthenia (Bensky & Gamble 1993).
• Cūrṇa: 3-15 g b.i.d.-t.i.d.
• Kvātha: 60-120 mL b.i.d.-t.i.d.
• Tincture: recently dried root, 1:3, 25% alcohol, 1-10 mL b.i.d.-t.i.d.