Is This Herb Basically All-Natural Viagra for Women?

Graphic: Abby Maker for Well+Good

Move over, maca—there’s another adaptogenic plant on the scene that’s got a serious knack for boosting libido, regulating hormones, and managing stress—with an added hit of girl power. I’m talking about shatavari, an Indian cousin to asparagus that has its roots in Ayurvedic medicine.

“[It's] often referred to as ‘she who has a hundred husbands,’” says Katie Pande, medical herbalist and senior herbal advisor for Pukka Herbs. (Shatavari's featured in the tea brand's Womankind blend). “The association with husbands and fertility is a reference to the traditional uses of the roots, which for centuries have been used to treat and nourish women’s health.”

The plant's so potent, in fact, that Moon Juice founder Amanda Chantal Bacon is reformulating her popular Sex Dust supplement to incorporate it (due out mid-July). "It's incredible," she gushes. "The thing I love about shatavari is that it’s an herb that you [can] spend your lifetime with as a woman: It's a hormone balancer, and will increase breast milk when you’re nursing; it’s one of the herbs that's safe to take during pregnancy; it’s great for puberty; also really great when you’re menopausal and perimenopausal; great for libido, and great for just internal juiciness."

But that’s not even the full extent of shatavari’s benefits. According to Aviva Romm, MD, author of The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution“several impressive studies have shown that [the plant] may be helpful for depression, stress, and burnout, and also for improving learning. It may also be helpful for blood sugar balance, reducing inflammation, and supporting healthy immune response.”

"The thing I love about shatavari is that it’s an herb that you [can] spend your lifetime with as a woman."

Dr. Romm frequently recommends it to her patients for chronic fatigue. “In my practice, I [suggest] shatavari for women who are exhausted, overwhelmed, or are struggling with low sex drive and hormonal imbalances—especially fertility challenges and menopausal symptoms,” she says.

So how does it work, exactly? According to Pande, the plant contains two superstar compounds—shatavarin and sarsasapogenin—that are considered precursors to female sex hormones. “This means that shatavari has the ability to balance estrogen and progesterone within the body, without being over- or under-stimulating,” she says. “It can prove beneficial in treating [PMS], supporting fertility, conditions such as endometriosis and PCOS, and also during menopause.”

So, basically, it’s one of those botanical wonders that’s good for pretty much everyone, and there are loads of ways to get your fix—like liquid extracts, teas, supplements, or powders. But just because shatavari is an equal-opportunity adaptogen doesn't mean you should be adding it to your daily supplement regimen. It's most powerful when taken situationally to address an issue. For example, Bacon recommends it for expectant women to help boost energy during their pregnancy (once they've got the green light from their MD to continue an herbal supplement regimen, that is). And after they give birth, it can help stimulate milk production in new moms.

In general, Dr. Romm advises her patients that they'll need to take it for "at least two weeks to notice effects. Once you’re feeling better, more energized, and calmer—or once your hormonal balance has been achieved—you can discontinue use.” Multi-talented and ultra-efficient? Consider it queen bee of the plant kingdom.

Adaptogens are moving from the medicine cabinet to the pantry—check out these snacks infused with medicinal mushrooms and the superherb-infused butters that turn anything into unicorn food.

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