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Shatavari and Maca

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We get a lot of questions concerning the use of Shatavari compared to the popular herb Maca. Both are great herbs to support female reproductive health and have a variety of uses. 

General Info about Maca

  • Adaptogen
  • Traditionally used for to increase fertility and libido
  • Used to balance hormones in both men and women

Maca's active constituents are alkaloids called macamides which work on the body through the hypothalamus and adrenal glands, hence its mood, energy, and hormone balancing effect. If you put Maca on a chart with Ashwagandha and Shatavari, it would fall somewhere in the middle of the these two. It is very similar to both, however it lacks some of the particular immuno-modulating properties of both Shatavari and Ashwagandha. Maca also does not contain the phytoestrogens or androgens that Shatavri and Ashwagandha have. The root of the Maca plant is also rich in zinc and copper which are both important for fertility.

General Info about Shatavari

  • Adaptogen
  • Used to balance hormone levels particularly in women
  • Revitalizes kidney functionImproves immune function

One of the most interesting things about Shatavari is in the phytoestrogens it contains. Phytoestrogens are very controversial these days, but that seems to be because there is confusion in consumers minds about the difference between plant estrogens found in processed soy and plastics which have a very different effect on the body than the phytoestrogens contained in Shatavari. The phytoestrogens in Shatavari both balance hormone levels and bind to estrogen receptors and preserve them from damage caused by unnatural and toxic phytoestrogens contained in processed soy products, plastics and other chemical pesticides, herbicides, etc that people are exposed to on a daily basis. This is particularly confusing for many people because the same term is used to refer to estrogens contained in plants and in the toxins mentioned above. I compare the difference in these estrogens to the difference in the vitamins contained in a whole food vitamin supplement which contains an array of cofactors that are required for your body to be able to use the vitamins effectively and the vitamins in a synthetic vitamin supplement, where the synthetic version of the vitamins actually are toxic without those cofactors. It is the same thing with toxic estrogens and estrogens in a whole plant. However, a person with naturally excessive levels of estrogen may want to avoid taking Shatavari, and instead use Maca or Ashwagandha. 

One of the more notable differences in Maca and Shatavari is the difference in the immuno-modulating properties. In fact, more modern research on Shatavari's immune enhancing properties has been done than on Maca. It appears that Shatavari is the winner in this department. 

Which would be better – Maca or Shatavari? Is there a situation where one is preferred over the other? Can they be used together?

  • It really depends on individual needs. They are both considered Rasayan herbs according to Ayurveda, and they can certainly be used together in some cases. There are herbal elixer recipe's which call for Maca, Shatavari, and Ashwaganda together to heal very pronounced nervous system and hormonal imbalances. Maca would be preferable for someone with excess estrogen, and Shatavari would be preferable to someone with a deficiency.

Q: General use examples for PMS – Menopause – Preg – Breastfeeding?

  • For PMS: A combination of Maca, Shatavari, and possibly Ashwaganda would be an excellent way to balance all levels of stress and hormone disruption that causes PMS. Throw a little Turmeric and Tulsi in the mix too and you have a powerful preventative regimen!
  • For Menopause: Shatavari would be the go-to first for Menopause because of its strong cooling efffect on the inflammatory environment of the female body during this transition. And if that is not working, add the Maca too!
  • For Pregnancy: As always, a pregnant woman must consult with her healthcare providers before beginning a new herb. However, Shatavari is traditionally used to strengthen pregnancy. I have not seen enough information about Maca being used during pregnancy, although a couple of articles have listed it under it's traditional uses.
  • For Breastfeeding: Both may be used, depending on the estrogen levels of the nursing woman. If her estrogen is low, use Shatavari. If high, reach for the Maca.

In closing: It is so hard for consumers to decide on which herb will be best suited to their needs with all of the available options. But one of the most wonderful thing about whole herbs is that they very rarely have a negative effect on the body, so my approach is to take an assortment of Rasayan Herbs (tonics) every day to keep my health at an optimal level. One thing that might help consumers need is to tell them that these herbs are really food for your body, and just as important as the meals they eat, so as with the foods on your plate, variety is a really good thing! And very worth the investment because when you have health you truly have wealth.