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Family Liliaceae / Asparagaceae
Asparagus officinalis Linn.
Lu sun

Scientific names Common names
Asparagus officinalis Linn. Asparagus (Tag., Engl.)
Asparagus officinalis var. L. var. altilis L. Common asparagus (Engl.)
Asparagus polyphyllus Stev.. Lu sun (Chin.)

Other vernacular names
AFRIKAANS: Aspersie.
ARABIC: Halgun, Kishk almaz.
BOSNIAN: Kukovina, Mekostruk, Šparoga.
COUNTRY: Shi diao bai
CROATIAN: Beluš, Pitome šparoge, Pitomi sparog, Šparga, Špargle, Šparoga, Šparogama, Šparugama.
CZECH: Chřest obecný, Chřest lékařský.
COUNTRY: Almindelig asparges, Asparges, Rodstok af asparges.
DUTCH: Asperge, Wortelstok van asperge.
ESTONIAN: Aspar, Harilik aspar.
FINNISH: Parsa, Ruokaparsa.
FRENCH: Asperge, Asperge alimentaire, Asperge commune, Asperge officinale.
GERMAN: Garten-Spargel, Gemüse-Spargel, Spargel, Wurzelstock vom Spargel.
GREEK: Sparaggi, Sparagi.
HEBREW: Spragus, Asparag refui.
HINDI: Shatwaar.
HUNGARIAN: Spàrga, Közönséges spárga.
ITALIAN: Asparagio, Asparago, Asparago comune.
JAPANESE: Asuparagasu, Matsubaudo, Oranda kiji kakushi.
KOREAN: A seu pa ra geo seu, Yakpijjaru.
NORWEGIAN: Asparges.
PERSIAN: Maarcube.
POLISH: Szparag lekarski.
PORTUGUESE: Aspargo, Espargo, Espargo hortense, Rebentos de espargos.
ROMANIAN: Sparanghel.
RUSSIAN: Asparagus lekarstvennyi, Sparža, Sparža aptečnaja.
SERBIAN: Betrica, Kalenac, Kolenac, Kuka, Kuke, Kukovina, Sparga, Špargla, Šparožina, Vilina metla.
SLOVAKIAN: Asparágus lekársky, Špargľa.
SLOVENIAN: Beluš, Navadni beluš, Smerečica, Špargelj, Šparglin, Vrtni beluš, Vrtni špargelj.
SPANISH: Brote de espárrago, Esparraguera, Espárrago común, Esparrago.
SWEDISH: Sparris, Vanlig sparris.
THAI: Normai farang.
TURKISH: Kuşkonmaz.
URDU: Asparagys.
VIETNAMESE: Măng tây..

Asparagus is an erect, unarmed, branched herbaceous perennial herb, growing up to 1 meter in height. Leaves (scales) are very minute, and the cladodes (branchlets) fascicled, slender terete, 0.5 to 1.5 centimeters long. Flowers are axillary, fascicled, solitary or in pairs, pedicelled, the perianth straw-yellow or greenish yellow, about 5 millimeters long. Fruit is globose, 6 to 10 millimeters in diameter, fleshy red when ripe.

- Cultivated in Manila and other large towns as an ornamental.
- Grown in Baguio and Chinese gardens for its vegetable.
- Imported tips are bleached and whitish, the Baguio grown ones, greenish.
- Native of Europe.
- Now cultivated in all temperate and subtemperate countries.

- Root yields asparagin, a greenish yellow resin, sugar, gum, albumen, chlorides, acetate and phosphate of potash, malates, etc.
- Fruit contains grape-sugar and sparagancin, a coloring matter.
- Seeds yield a fixed oil, aromatic resin, sugar, and a bitter principle--spargin.
- Amino acids and inorganic mineral contents were found much higher in the leaves than the shoots.
- An 1891 study identified methanethiol (a sulfur compound, also known as methyl mercaptan) present in the urine of some asparagus eaters, absent in others.
- Asparagusic acid and its derivatives, such as dihydroasparagusic acid, are sulfur-containing compounds found in asparagus but not in other related vegetables.

- Asparagin imparts the characteristic strong urine smell, and believed to stimulate the kidneys.
- Considered mild aperient, diuretic, sedative, laxative.
- Green resin is believed to be calming to the heart.
- Studies suggest numerous medicinal properties: antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, diaphoretic, demulcent, immunomodulating, laxative, and sedative.
- Fruit is considered poisonous to humans.

Parts used
Whole plant, roots and seeds of ripe fruit.


Edibility / Nutritional
- A much desired vegetable, especially the tips.
- Contains many vitamins and minerals: Vit A, B1-6-12, C, E, K, calcium, magnesium, zinc, dietary fiber, rutin, niacin, folic acid, iron, selenium, among others.
- Green resin used for flatulence, calculous affections, cardiac dropsy, rheumatism, and chronic gout.
- Given in doses of 1 to 2 grains, combined with potassium bromide, for cardiac dropsy and chronic gout.
- Water in which asparagus was boiled, although disagreeable, is good for rheumatism.
- In Brazil, roots considered a powerful diuretic.
- Roots also used for bronchial catarrh and pulmonary tuberculosis.
- In Tehran, roots are burned and smoked to relieve toothaches.
- Rhizome is used as cardiac sedative, palliative, diuretic, and laxative.
- Hangovers: Considered a useful supplement for hangovers.

Hepatoprotective / Hangovers:
Study showed treatment of HepG2 human hepatoma cells with a leaf extract suppressed more than 70% of a marker of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Cellular toxicities induced by H2)2, ethanol, or CCl4 were significantly alleviated with the leaves and shoot extracts. The enzymes that metabolize alcohol--alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase--were up-regulated by more than 2-fold. Results suggest the mechanisms for alleviation of alcohol hangover and hepatoprotection against toxic insults, and a use for the typically discarded parts.
Antioxidant / Natural Free Radical Scavenger / Oligosaccharides: Study isolated oligosaccharides--1,2,3,4,6-pentakis-O-α-D-Glucopyranose、1,2,3,4,6-pentakis-O- Galacto- pyranose、2,3,4.5,6,-pentakis-pentakis-O-D-Glucose、pentakis-O-Glucopyra-nose and 2,3,4,5,6-pentakis-O-mannosend. Results showed the A. officinalis oligosaccharides to be a natural free radical scavenger and antioxidant.
Asparagus Urine Smell: The Myth: The asparagus urine with its unusual smell has long been attributed to sulfur-containing compounds. Some most people emit the strong odor of asparagus urine, some people don't. The article by John H. Studies suggest two separate traits: some people secrete the compounds in their urine but can't smell them, while some people don't secrete the compound but can smell them in other people's urine. An 1891 study identified methanethiol (a sulfur compound, also known as methyl mercaptan) present in the urine of some asparagus eaters, absent in others. A 2001 study, isolated 12 different sulfur compounds in the vapors of asparagus urine, absent in normal urine, which included methanethiol and dimethyl sulphide, to which were attributed the distinctive odor. Results suggest a clear variation in two different traits: excretion of sulfur compounds in urine after eating asparagus, and the ability to smell those compounds. A simple dominant one-gene character is suggest for excreting. The genomic smelling/non-smelling trait still needs to be identified. (From Asparagus urine smell: The myth / Myths of Human Genetics / John H. McDonald, University of Delaware)
Steroids / Roots / Anti-Cancer: Study of roots yielded one novel steroid, sarsasapogenin O, and seven known steroids. The compounds demonstrated significant cytotoxicities against human A2780, HO-8910, Eca-109, MGC-803, CNE, LTEP-a-2, KB and mouse L1210 tumor cells.
Antioxidant / Antibacterial: Study showed highest antioxidant activity from an in vivo grown plant extract. An ethanolic extract showed antibacterial activity against Bacillus cereus.
Comparative Studies on Bioactive Compounds in Different Varieties: Study evaluated and compared the bioactive compounds in ten varieties of Asparagus officinalis, especially asparaginiase and flavone and rutin contents in roots, leaves, and spears. Asparaginas activity was significantly higher in roots than spears and leaves. Flavones and rutin were higher in the leaves than roots and spears.

Extracts in the cybermarket.

March 2013

IMAGE SOURCE: File:Illustration Asparagus officinalis0b.jpg / Original book source: Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany / Permission granted to use under GFDL by Kurt Stueber / Public Domain / Wikipedia
OTHER IMAGE SOURCE: Asparagus officinalis / Walter Hood Fitch - Illustrations of the British Flora (1924) - Permission granted to use under GFDL by Kurt Stueber. Source: www.biolib.de / GNU Free Documentation License / alterVISTA
OTHER IMAGE SOURCE: / File:Asparagus officinalis 004.JPG / -- H. Zell / 20 Oct 2009 / GNU Free Documentation / Wikimedia Commons / Click on graphic to see original image
OTHER IMAGE SOURCE: / File:Asparagus officinalis 006.jpg / -- H. Zell / 4 June 2010 / GNU Free Documentation / Wikimedia Commons / Click on graphic to see original image

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Asparagus officinalis L. / Chinese names / Catalogue of Life, China
Sorting Asparagus names / Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE / A Work in Progress/ The University of Melbourne. Australia / Copyright © 1997 - 2000 The University of Melbourne.
Effects of Asparagus officinalis extracts on liver cell toxicity and ethanol metabolism./ Kim BY, Cui ZG, Lee SR, Kim SJ, Kang HK, Lee YK, Park DB. / J Food Sci. 2009 Sep;74(7):H204-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2009.01263.x.
Asparagus urine smell: The myth / Myths of Human Genetics / John H. McDonald, University of Deleware
Steroids from roots of Asparagus officinalis and their cytotoxic activity / Xue-Feng Huang, Yu-Ying Lin, Ling-Yi Kong* / JIPB.net
Antioxidant and antibacterial activities of ethanolic extracts of Asparagus officinalis cv. Mary Washington: Comparison of in vivo and in vitro grown plant bioactivities / Arash Khorasani, Wirakarnain Sani*, Koshy Philip, Rosna Mat Taha and Arash Rafat
/ African Journal of Biotechnology Vol. 9(49), pp. 8460-8466, 6 December, 2010 / DOI: 10.5897/AJB10.916
COMPARATIVE STUDIES ON BIOACTIVE COMPOUNDS IN DIFFERENT VARIETIES OF ASPARAGUS OFFICINALIS L. / Han Yingyan, Fan Shuangxi, Cheng Jihong, Fu Jie / International Society for Horticultural Science

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