Herb: Asparagus


Latin name: Asparagus officinalis


Family: Asparagaceae



Medicinal use of Asparagus:

Asparagus has been cultivated for over 2,000 years as a vegetable and medicinal herb. Both the roots and the shoots can be used medicinally, they have a restorative and cleansing effect on the bowels, kidneys and liver. The plant is antispasmodic, aperient, cardiac, demulcent, diaphoretic, diuretic, sedative and tonic. The freshly expressed juice is used. The root is diaphoretic, strongly diuretic and laxative. An infusion is used in the treatment of jaundice and congestive torpor of the liver. The strongly diuretic action of the roots make it useful in the treatment of a variety of urinary problems including cystitis. It is also used in the treatment of cancer. The roots are said to be able to lower blood pressure. The roots are harvested in late spring, after the shoots have been cut as a food crop, and are dried for later use. The seeds possess antibiotic activity. Another report says that the plant contains asparagusic acid which is nematocidal and is used in the treatment of schistosomiasis.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Perennial


Height:
150 cm
(5 feet)

Flovering:
August

Habitat of the herb:

Fertile and sandy soils by the seashore and along river banks.

Edible parts of Asparagus:

Young shoots - raw or cooked. Considered a gourmet food, the shoots are harvested in the spring. We find them very acceptable raw in salads, with a hint of onion in their flavour. They are normally boiled or steamed and used as a vegetable. Male plants produce the best shoots. Do not over-harvest the plant because this would weaken it in the following year. The shoots are a good source of protein and dietary fibre. Roasted seeds are a coffee substitute.

Other uses of the herb:

The plant contains asparagusic acid, which has nematocidal properties.

Propagation of Asparagus:

Seed - pre-soak for 12 hours in warm water and then sow in spring or as soon as the seed is ripe in early autumn in a greenhouse. It usually germinates in 3 - 6 weeks at 25C. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a sunny position in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer. Division in early spring as the plant comes into growth.

Cultivation of the herb:

Fertile and sandy soils by the seashore and along river banks.

Known hazards of Asparagus officinalis:

Large quantities of the shoots can irritate the kidneys. The berries are mildly poisonous.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.