This genus has about 100 species, distributed in temperate and subtropical parts of Eurasia. It includes hardy and tender, usually tuberous, perennials, shrubs, and climbers, all with feathery foliage. Asparagus is from a Greek word, corrupted into such common names as "spearage" and "sparrow grass". Various Asparagus species are used medicinally in similar ways. Most contain asparagin, a diuretic that give the urine a characteristic odor in those who lack the gene to break it down. Asparagus cochinchinesis was first mentioned in Chinese medical texts c.CE200. Asparagus officinalis has been cultivated for over 2,000 years as a vegetable and also as a medicinal herb for its potent diuretic effects. In common with many popular medicinal plants, it was given the name offininalis to recognize its status as an "official" - plant with a long commercial history as a medicinal herb. The common name of A. racemosus, shatavari, means "she who possesses a hundred husbands", and refers to the herb's rejuvenative effect on the female reproductive organs.

Climbing, rhizomatous perennial with leaves hardened at the base into spines, and foliage of pointed cladodes, 1-3.5cm (½-1¼in) long. Fragrant, white flowers, to 5mm (¼in) across, appear in summer, followed by red berries.

Common Name:
Botanical Name:
Asparagus racemosus
Native Location:
S and E Africa to Asia and N Australia.
Rich, light, well-drained soil, in a sunny position. Asparagus officinalis is often purchased as a dormant one-year-old male "crown" and renewed after 10 years. Asparagus racemosus may be grown as an annual in cold areas; protect under cover in winter. Asparagus beetle may attack young shoots and foliage.
By seed sown in spring, sown at 16°C (62°F), thinned to 30cm (12in) apart, then to 1m (3ft) apart; by division in early spring.
Young "spears" (shoots) of A. officinalis are cut in late spring from established plants when about 23cm (9in) high, then eaten fresh or juiced for medicinal purposes. Rhizomes and tubers are lifted when dormant and boiled before drying for decoctions and powders; those of A. racemosa are used fresh to treat dysentery, and dried for decoctions, powders, and medicated oils.
7m (22ft)
Parts Used:
A soothing, tonic herb that acts mainly on the circulatory, digestive, respiratory, and female reproductive organs.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for infertility, loss of libido, threatened miscarriage, menopausal problems, hyperacidity, stomach ulcers, dysentery, and bronchial infections. Externally for stiffness in joints and neck. The most important herb in Ayurvedic medicine for women, as ashwaghanda (Withania somnifera, see winter cherry). is for men. Used internally by Australian Aboriginals for digestive upsets, and externally for sores.
Berries are harmful if eaten
Encylopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright ©: 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited pp 135-6