Exploring the Benefits of Asparagus

That beautiful fine fern, Asparagus, can be a wonder for your health. Asparagus is a member of the Lily family (Liliaceae). Spears grow from a crown that is planted about 12" deep in preferably sandy soils. Under ideal conditions, an asparagus spear can grow 10" in a 24-hour period. Each crown will send spears up for about 6-7 weeks during the spring and early summer. The outdoor temperature determines how much time will be between each picking. Early in the season, there may be 4-5 days between pickings and as the days and nights get warmer, a particular field may have to be picked every 24 hours.

A number of different medicinal varieties exist. Asparagus (Asparagus officianalis) is a highly regarded herb worldwide. Chinese pharmacists save the best roots of the asparagus plant for their families and friends in the belief that it will increase feelings of compassion and love. Asparagus, (racemosus Willd), Hindi named Satavar, is found through out tropical Africa, Java, Australia, India, Sri Lanka and southern parts of China. It is an under-shrub, much different from the herbal variety grown here. It climbs up to 1-3 meters high, with stout and creeping rootstock. The root occurs in cluster or fascicle at the base of the stem with succulent and tuberous rootlets. The stem is, woody, triangular, grooved, and climbing. The young stem is delicate, brittle and smooth. The spines are long, occasionally curving back on itself or straight. Leaves are in tufts of 2-6 in a node, slender and pointed. The flowers can be solitary or bundled with simple or branched stems about 3 cm long. Asparagus plants yield 3 lobbed, purple-reddish, seeds. In India it is found in plains to 4,000 ft high, in tropical, sub-tropical dry and deciduous forests and in the Himalayas.

The tubers of Asparagus are often candied and eaten as a sweetmeat. The fresh juice of the root is given with honey as an anti-diarrheal. It is used in the preparation of medicated oils for external application in nervous and rheumatic affections and urinary troubles.

In India, this herb is used to promote fertility, reduce menstrual cramping, and increase milk production in nursing mothers. In the Western world, it has been touted as an aphrodisiac.

These customs and beliefs are not mere superstition: Asparagus root contains compounds called steroid glycosides that directly affect hormone production and may very well influence emotions. An excellent diuretic, asparagus is also very nutritious. It is high in folic acid, which is essential for the production of new red blood cells. Many herbal healers recommend Asparagus root for rheumatism, due to the anti-inflammatory action of the steroidal glycosides. Powdered seed from the Asparagus plant is effective for calming an upset stomach.

Possible benefits in the uses of Asparagus are: stimulation of hormone production, ridding the body of excess water and salt, and possibly preventing anemia due to folic acid deficiency. Asparagus also soothes pain and swelling of joints due to rheumatism or arthritis.

There are many oral uses of the Asparagus plant. One use is to eat the young shoots and seeds. The seed is also available in powdered form. Take 1 teaspoon of powder daily in juice. There is one exception to the use of Asparagus: do not use if your kidneys are inflamed, because it increases the rate of urinary production.

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