Wild Asparagus

Aug 1, 2022

Scientific Name(s): Asparagus racemosus (Willd.)
Common Name(s): Abhiru, Satavari, Shatavari

Clinical Overview

Use

Limited clinical data exist regarding use of A. racemosus as a galactogogue and for use in gastric emptying. A. racemosus is often used in polyherbal formulations, making observed effects in studies difficult to attribute to a single product. Clinical studies are lacking to support any use.

Dosing

There are no quality clinical trials to provide dosage recommendations.

Contraindications

Information is lacking.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Information is lacking. Shatavari is regarded as safe for use during pregnancy and lactation by Ayurvedic practitioners, but the plant is not listed as having “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) status by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Limited studies have been conducted evaluating the galactogogue effect of A. racemosus

Interactions

A. racemosus may interact with drugs dependent on cytochrome P450 (CYP-450) 3A4 enzymes for metabolism.

Adverse Reactions

Clinical studies and case reports are lacking to provide information regarding adverse effects. The plant is considered safe by Ayurvedic practitioners. At higher than recommended dosages, adverse cardiovascular effects may occur (based on limited animal studies).

Toxicology

No data.

Scientific Family

  • Liliaceae (lily)

Botany

The climbing A. racemosus plant grows wild, reaching 2 m in height, and is cultivated in India and other tropical and subtropical Asian and African countries. It has also been found in the Himalayan Mountains. It is extensively branched with needle-like leaves, and bears fragrant small white flowers and berries. The tuberous roots and rootstock are of primary interest, and the plant is sometimes eaten as a vegetable. Singh 2016 ,  Williamson 2002

A. racemosus should not be confused with Stemona plants that have similarly shaped tuberous roots. Kumeta 2013  See also the related Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) monograph.

History

Shatavari is considered one of the more important Ayurvedic medicines, and is included in several multi-ingredient preparations or “rasayanas.” It is used in reproductive health; as a galactogogue; in GI conditions (ulcers, dehydration, and diarrhea); for cough, fever, and infections among other conditions; and to promote general wellbeing by increasing cellular vitality and immunity. Dhar 2016 ,  Pandey 2018 ,  Singh 2016 ,  Williamson 2002

Chemistry

More than 50 organic compounds have been described. Pandey 2018  Major chemical constituents identified include steroidal saponins, alkaloids, and flavonoids (including quercetin and rutin). Characterization of the steroidal saponins (such as shatavarin and asparanin) have been described based on spectroscopic and spectrometric methods. Sharma 2011 ,  Sharma 2009 ,  Singh 2016

Presence of the alkaloid asparagamine A in the roots has been debated; previous isolation of asaparagamine A from materials suggested to have originated from A. racemosus was possibly due to misidentification of the plant species. Kumeta 2013 ,  Williamson 2002

Uses and Pharmacology

A. racemosus is often used in polyherbal formulations, making observed effects in studies difficult to attribute to a single product.

Cancer

Animal and in vitro data

In vitro studies in human cancer cell lines and experiments in rodents describe apoptotic and antioxidant activity of A. racemosus root extract Bhutani 2010 ,  Karuna 2017 ,  Kongkaneramit 2011 ,  Smita 2017 ,  Verma 2014 . Antioxidant activity was also considered to play a role in prevention of isoniazid-induced hepatotoxicity in an animal study. Palanisamy 2012  Furthermore, pretreatment of rats with an aqueous root extract of A. racemosus in one study prevented hepatocarcinogenesis, Agrawal 2008  while in another experiment, reductions were observed in viable tumor cell counts. Mitra 2012

CNS

Animal data

Studies in rodent models have been conducted to assess effects of A. racemosus on stress and learning and memory, primarily using the methanolic extract of A. racemosus root. Garabadu 2014 ,  Ojha 2010 ,  Singh 2009

Evaluation of levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and other monoamines suggest a centrally acting mechanism, Garabadu 2014 ,  Krishnamurthy 2013 ,  Ojha 2010 ,  Pahwa 2016 ,  Singh 2009  possibly related to the saponin content of the extract. Meena 2011  In one animal experiment, flumazenil attenuated the effect of A. racemosus extract. Garabadu 2014

Diabetes

Animal data

In a study in rats with induced type 2 diabetes, ethanol extracts of A. racemosus roots administered over 28 days decreased serum glucose and increased pancreatic insulin, plasma insulin, liver glycogen, and total oxidant status. Hannan 2012

Diuretic effects

Animal data

A diuretic effect, with increased excretion of potassium, phosphate, and chloride, was demonstrated in a study in rats. Kumar 2010

Endocrine (estrogen/prolactin) effects

Animal data

Studies in rodents suggest estrogenic effects of A. racemosus extracts on female mammary glands as well as genital organs in adult pregnant rats. Pandey 2018 ,  Singh 2016  Increases in plasma prolactin and milk production have been demonstrated in a study in buffaloes, suggesting a galactopoietic role. Singh 2012

Clinical data

Limited clinical studies have been published in peer-reviewed literature. One study reported no effect on follicular growth, development, or ovulation with use of shatavari compared with clomiphene citrate. Pandey 2018

Another clinical study (N=60) evaluated A. racemosus as a galactogogue and reported increases in prolactin in addition to positive findings for secondary outcome measures (satisfaction of the mother regarding the state of lactation and infant well-being and happiness). Gupta 2011

Gastric emptying

Clinical data

An older, small clinical study (N=8) compared A. racemosus (2 g of powdered root) to metoclopramide (10 mg tablet) with respect to gastric emptying time, with no difference reported. Dalvi 1990

Hypercholesterolemia

Animal data

In hypercholesteremic rats fed powdered A. racemosus, lipid profiles were improved and increases in hepatic hydroxymethylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase activity and bile acid were observed. Visavadiya 2009

Immunomodulatory activity

Animal and in vitro data

In in vitro and animal studies, A. racemosus extracts have demonstrated effects on proinflammatory cytokines and other immune factors (eg, interleukins, tumor necrosis factor [TNF], immunoglobulin G). Pise 2015 ,  Sidiq 2011 ,  Singh 2016 ,  Thakur 2012 ,  Tiwari 2017  Immune stimulation was demonstrated in a study of immunosuppressed animals, Sharma 2011  and proinflammatory cytokines were inhibited in mice with swimming-induced stress. Kanwar 2010  TNF-alpha was inhibited by a liposomal preparation of A. racemosus, with greater anti-inflammatory action at 0.1 mcg/mL than at higher concentrations. Plangsombat 2016

Infections

Animal and in vitro data

In vitro tests and screening studies suggest that A. racemosus possesses antifungal activity, including against Candida and Malassezia yeasts. Onlom 2014 ,  Panghal 2011 ,  Uma 2009  However, screening studies have produced equivocal results for antibacterial effects (possibly dependent on the extraction method), with one study reporting A. racemosus had the least antimicrobial activity against human uropathogens, Narayanan 2011  and another study finding activity against all clinical isolates tested. Panghal 2011  In one screening study, activity in human CD4 T-cell lines infected with HIV was reported for saponins from A. racemosus. Sabde 2011

Toxicity of A. racemosus to mosquitoes (larvae and adults) Govindarajan 2014  and in leishmanial infections has been reported. Kaur 2014 ,  Sachdeva 2017 ,  Sachdeva 2014

Osteoclast inhibition

In vitro data

Limited inhibition of osteoclasts has been demonstrated in vitro. Di Pompo 2014

Dosing

There are no quality clinical trials to provide dosage recommendations.

In an older study, 2 g of powdered A. racemosus root was given to healthy volunteers to evaluate gastric emptying time. Dalvi 1990  In a small study evaluating effects on lactation, lactating mothers received 60 mg/kg/day of A. racemosus root powder orally for 30 days. Gupta 2011

Higher than product-specified doses should be avoided due to the potential for cardiac effects. Singh 2016

Pregnancy / Lactation

Information is lacking. Shatavari is regarded as safe for use during pregnancy and lactation by Ayurvedic practitioners, Singh 2016  but the plant is not listed as having GRAS status by the FDA. Forinash 2012  In rats, teratogenic effects have been reported for the methanol extract. Singh 2016

Limited studies have been conducted evaluating the galactogogue effect of A. racemosus. Gupta 2011 ,  Sharma 1996

Interactions

Case reports of interactions are lacking. An in vitro experiment suggests the possibility of interactions with drugs dependent on CYP3A4 metabolic pathways. Patil 2014

Adverse Reactions

Clinical studies and case reports are lacking to provide information regarding adverse effects. The plant is considered safe by Ayurvedic practitioners. Singh 2016  In frogs, an alcoholic extract was reported to have positive ionotropic and chronotropic effects, with cardiac arrest occurring with high doses. Singh 2016

Toxicology

Studies in rats suggest dosages of 3,200 mg/kg of aqueous extract of the roots is nonlethal. Subacute, long-term toxicity studies show no changes in physiological or biological measures in rats. Kumar 2010 ,  Singh 2016  In rats, teratogenic effects have been reported for the methanol extract. Singh 2016

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