Asparagus possess many medicinal properties and is used for therapeutic purposes since ancient times. It was one of the oldest and most valued medicine of the Romans. The fresh, fleshy fibrous roots and shoots are used as diuretic. The roots exhibit more diuretic properties compared to shoots.
In Homeopathy, Asparagus is especially used in urinary problems. It has marked and immediate action on the urinary secretion. In Unani the seeds are considered Muallid Mani or Semen Procreator. They increase semen or causes production or sperms.
Common Garden Asparagus is mainly cultivated for its tender shoots. It is a European vegetable found in cooler climates and high altitudes. It is believed that asparagus was first cultivated some 2,000 years ago in the eastern Mediterranean Region. Romans and Greeks used asparagus as food and medicine.
The plant has fleshy, long, thick roots from which young shoots emerge. These young shoots are known as spears and are harvested during spring season and eaten as vegetable after boiling or steaming for 10-15 minutes. They are also eaten as salad. The shoots are good source of protein and dietary fiber. The roasted seeds are used as coffee substitute. Asparagus is rich in nutrients, particularly carotenoids and sulfur containing compounds which give the plant its distinctive taste.
Asparagus is a dioecious (have the male and female reproductive structures on separate plants) perennial plant, with underground fleshy root-stock. Mature plant has fernlike, wispy foliage.
Erect stem of plant can be of 2 meters height. The stalks bear bud clusters of leaves resembling prickly brownish scales.
The plant remains productive for at least 10 years. The spring growth of this plant resembles a cluster of green fingers. Every spring young stems, known as spears, emerge through the ground. They represent the edible part of the plant and are collected daily over a period of about two months. After the harvest period the stems grow and develop branches, covered with stem like cladophylls, while the leaves are reduced to small scales along the stems.
Flowers are small, unisexual and greenish white-yellow, hanging on slender pedicels, 2 or 3 together in the axils of the principal branches, many of them with stamens only. The size of flower depends on gender of plant.
The berries are scarlet, the size of a pea, holding two seeds in each cell. They contain grape sugar and sparganein, a coloring matter. Seeds contain a fixed oil and aromatic resin.
The roots are twisted, black on the outside, white and horny within, mucilaginous when soaked in water. They have sweet taste. In autumn, carbohydrates and nutrients are accumulated in the storage roots.
The botanical name of Asparagus is Asparagus officinalis. It belongs to a monocotyledon of the Liliaceae family. It is believed to be native of eastern Mediterranean region and now naturalized in many countries such as USA, New Zealand.
It is also cultivated and available in India. But the quality of plants, size, and flavor may differ from the European plants.
The genus Asparagus contains more than 200 species and some of them are very well known, for e.g. Shatavari or Asparagus racemosa, which is a boon for gynecological problems. Asparagus racemosus and Asparagus officinalis should not be confused. Both are completely different species.
Below is given taxonomical classification of Asparagus officinalis.
- Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
- Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
- Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
- Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
- Class: Liliopsida – Monocotyledons
- Subclass: Liliidae
- Order: Liliales
- Family: Liliaceae – Lily family
- Genus: Asparagus L. – asparagus P
- Species: Asparagus officinalis L. – Garden Asparagus
- Part(s) used for medicinal purpose: Seeds, shoots and roots
- Plant type: Herb
- Distribution: Cultivated all over the world for edible use
- Habitat: Temperate areas of World; Native to Europe and West Asia.
- English: Common Garden Asparagus, Asparagus Grass, Sparagrass, Sparrow Grass
- Sanskrit: Dvipantara Shatavari
- Hindi: Halyun, Marchuba, Paragus, Vilayati Karua, Margiyeh
- Bengali: Hikua
- Arabic: Isfarez, Halyan
- Dutch: Asperge
- French: Asperge
- German: Spargel, Schwamerwartz
- Greek: Asparagia, Asparagonia
- Italian: Cornudo
- Persian: Marchubeh
- Russian: Sparja
- Spanish: Esparrago
- Unani: Hilyun (Seed)
- Tehran: Bikh-i-hallmun (Root)
- Infections of the urinary tract
- Kidney and bladder stones
- Vernacular names / Synonyms
Nutrition of Asparagus Stem per 100 grams (Fresh weight)
- Moisture 93.0%
- Carbohydrates 4-5%
- Protein 2.5%
- Fat 0.2%
- Fiber 0.7%
Minerals and Vitamins
- Phosphorus 62 mg
- Vitamin C 33 mg
- Calcium 22 mg
- Magnesium 20 mg
- Iron 1.0 mg
- Vitamin A 540mg
- Thiamine (B1) 0.18mg
- Riboflavin (B2) 0.2mg
Constituents of Asparagus
The root contains steroidal glycosides (asparagosides) and bitter glycosides, asparagusic acid and its derivatives, asparagines, arginine and tyrosine, flavonoids, including rutin, kaempferol and quercetrin, polysaccarides and inulin. Asparagine is a strong diuretic source of Folic Acid and selenium.
It also contains sulfur compounds (dimethyl sulphide,), which are responsible for its distinctive taste and smell.
Aerial parts: 2-hydroxyasparenyn 4’trans-2hydroxy-1methoxy-4-5(4methoxyphenoxy)-3- penten-1-ynyl-benzene
Fruits: Capsanthin, capsorubin, capsanthin 5, 6 epoxide 3-O-[a-L-rhamnopyranosyl (1-2);] beta-oglucopyranosyl](25S)spirost- 5-ene-3beta-ol
Roots: Steroids, Sucrose-1-fructosyltransferase, Sarsasapogenin and nine asparagosides A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I
Important Medicinal Properties
Asparagus is rich in medicinal properties. The understanding of these properties will help us to better utilise this herb. These also indicate the conditions in which we should avoid it.
Below is given medicinal properties along with the meaning.
- Antitussive: Prevent or relieve a cough.
- Antipyretic/antifebrile/febrifuge: Effective against fever.
- Anticancer: Used against or tending to arrest or prevent cancer.
- Anti–inflammatory: Reducing inflammation by acting on body mechanisms.
- Antioxidant: Neutralize the oxidant effect of free radicals and other substances.
- Cardiotonic: tonic effect on the action of the heart
- Contraceptive: Prevent pregnancy
- Demulcent: Relieving inflammation or irritation.
- Depurative: Purifying agent.
- Diuretic: Promoting excretion of urine/agent that increases the amount of urine excreted.
- hair growth stimulator: Promotes hair growth
- Hypotensive: blood pressure lowering
- Galactagogue: Promotes or increases the flow of a mother’s milk.
- Laxative: Tending to stimulate or facilitate evacuation of the bowels.
- Sedative: Promoting calm or inducing sleep
- Spermicide: Kills sperms.
- Tonic: Gives feeling of vigour or well-being.
Health Benefits of Asparagus
The shoots are considered aphrodisiac and tonic.
- It is low in calories with virtually no fat and very low sodium.
- It reduces the acidity in blood due to its alkaline nature.
- It works as body cleanser.
- It has diuretic properties and stimulates production and passing of urine.
- It flushes the kidneys and helps prevent formation of kidney stones.
- It helps in constipation due high fiber content.
- It is rich in folic acid.
- It used to increase sexual potency for both men and women.
- It has high ascorbic acid (vitamin C) content, about 20 to 38 mg per 100 grams.
Medicinal Uses of Common Garden Asparagus
- Asparagus roots are used in treatment of variety of diseases including female infertility, rheumatism, gout, arthritis, kidney stones, and urinary problems. For preventing the nutrition loss, it is better to steam the herb as boiling causes loss of important minerals.
- Asparagus roots have diuretic and laxative properties. It is used in irrigation therapy for inflammatory diseases of the urinary tract and for prevention of kidney stones.
- The infusion made from roots is used against jaundice and congestive torpor of the liver.
- Tincture made from the whole plant is used in urinary irritation, rheumatism and gout. The water in which Asparagus has been boiled is beneficial against rheumatism.
- The roots are used to reduce cramping in menstruation. Like Shatavari, it is also used to stimulate secretion of breast milk.
- It is an excellent food for strengthening the heart. For weak or enlarged hearts, the freshly expressed juice of shoots is taken with honey.
- Asparagus along with celery, parsley, holly, and fennel were used traditionally for the treatment of dropsy and gravel.
- The powdered seeds are used to get relief from nausea.
Dosage of Asparagus
- The recommended doses of dried root powder is 3-6 grams. Children above the age of 5 years can be given half of the adult dose.
- The tender shoot can be taken 20-50 grams.
- Contraindications, Interactions, Side-effects and Warnings Asparagus
Hazards and/or side effects not known for proper therapeutic dosages.
- Raw asparagus may cause nausea or diarrhea.
- The fruits / berries are mildly poisonous.
- It is contraindicated in kidney diseases and oedema because of functional heart.
- It must not be used in inflammatory kidney disorders.
- Avoid in goiter, liver and kidney diseases.
- Do not use in case of excess catarrhal mucus.
- There are few incidences in which allergic reactions (asthma, anaphylaxis) have occurred on handling the plant or on oral use.
- It makes urine smelly.