Home Herbal Monograph Asparagus
History

Asparagus racemosus and A.sarmentosus are the 'Satavari' and 'Maha-satavari' of the 'Nighantas'. The tubers are candied and eaten as a sweetmeat. The fresh juice of the root is given with honey as a demulcent in bilious dyspepsia or diarrhea. It is a constituent in the preparation of medicated oils for external application in nervous and rheumatic affections and urinary troubles.

Habitat
Found throughout tropical Africa, Java, Australia, India, Sri Lanka and southern parts of China. In India it is found in plains to 4,000ft high, in tropical, sub-tropical dry and deciduous forests and in the Himalayas.

Morphology Description (Habit)
It is an under-shrub, climbs up to 1-3 m high, with stout and creeping root stock. The root occurs in clusters or fascicle at the base of the stem with succulent and tuberous rootlets. The stem is scandent, woody, triquetrous, striate, terete and climbing. The young stem is delicate, brittle and smooth. The spines are long, sub-recurved or straight. Cladodes are in tufts of 2-6 in a node, slender, finely acuminate, falcate divaricate. The flowers, solitary or fascicles, simple or branched racemes of 3 cm long. The pedicel is slender and jointed in the middle. Perianth lobes white, fragrant and 3 mm in length. The anthers minute and purple. The berry globular or obscurely 3 lobbed, purple-reddish, seeds hard with brittle testa.

Principal Constituents

Apart from saponins, the material contains alkaloids, proteins, starch, tannin, mucilage and diosgenin. The type of saponin varies with the geographical distribution of the species. Plants found in south India have saponin-A4 fraction but not in north Indian samples1. Steroid saponin, shatavarin - is the major glycoside with 3 glucose and rhamnose moieties attached to sarsasapogenin, whereas shatavarin-IV has 2 glucose and one rhamnose moieties with sarsasapogenin. Vanillin, coniferin and sarsasaponin were also identified from the roots. The plant contains triterpene saponins - Shatavarin I - IV, which are phytoestrogen compounds. Alcoholic extract has anti-oxytocic activity, saponin-glycoside (A4) produced a specific and competitive block of the pitocin-induced contraction of rat, guinea pig and rabbit uteri in vitro and in situ. It also blocked the spontaneous uterine motility. Also found that the hypotensive action of syntocinin in cat was unaffected by previous administration of saponin A42. Root extracts increase the weight of mammary glands in post-partum and estrogens-primed rats and uterine weight in estrogens-primed group3. It also has galactogogue action in buffaloes4. It increased the force and rate of contraction in isolated frog's heart, but in higher doses it caused cardiac arrest5. Both aerial parts and roots have amylase and lipase activities6. Aerial parts have anticancer activity in human epidermal carcinoma of the nasopharynx7.

Clinical studies
It is proved that it increases milk production in lactating women.

Toxicology

There is no report of toxic and adverse effects on use of this plant but Asparagus officinalis is an allergenic plant8.

Indications
The roots have oleaginous, cooling, antispasmodic, indigestible, appetizer, alliterative, stomach, tonic, aphrodisiac, galactagogue, astringent, antidiarrhoeatic, antidysenteric, laxative properties and is useful in tumors, inflamations, diseases of blood and eye, throat complaints, tuberculosis, leprosy, epilepsy, night blindness and kidney troubles.

References
  1. Kanitkar, J Res Ind Med, 3, 2, 1969; Sankarasubramanian, Curr Sci, 38, 414, 1968.
  2. Gaitonde and Jetmalani, Arch Int Pharmacodyn, 179, 121, 1969; Indian J Pharm, 31, 175, 1969.
  3. Sabnis, Indian J Exptl Biol, 6, 55, 1968.
  4. Patel, Indian Vet J, 46, 718, 1969.
  5. Roy, Indian J Pharm, 30, 289, 1968; 6,132, 1971.
  6. Dange, Planta Medica, 17, 393, 1969.
  7. Dhar, Indian J Exptl Biol, 6,232,1968.
  8. Tampion, J. Dangerous Plants.