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Herb Library

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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.




AsparagusAsparagus, Other



ASPARAGUS
aka Sparrow Grass, Spearage
(Asparagus officinalis)
[xiao bai bu]
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CAUTION: Berries harmful if eaten. NOT to be used in cases of kidney "inflammation" since it provokes more urine to be produced. The plant can irritate sensitive skin causing a rash when handled.

CONTRAINDICATED: NOT for those with cold damp deficient diarrhea or inflammatory kidney problems or with heart conditions related to poor elimination of urinary salts.

CONTAINS: Asparagin (diuretic) which will produce a characteristic odor in those who lack the gene to break it down; asparagusic acid (nematocidal); bitter principles, flavonoids (rutin, quercetin, kaempferol), saponins and their glycosides including a group of 18 known asparagosdies; 2 bitter compounds called officinalisins which are rich in acidic compounds, glycolic acid (diuretic), and tyrosin.
Based on 0% moisture per 100 grams there are: .70 calories per gram, ash 2.9%, calcium 265 mg, .15 mg chromium, a trace of mg of cobalt, crude fiber 14.1%, dietary fiber 39%, fat 2.4%, iron 1.2 mg, magnesium 240 mg, manganese .20 mg, niacin 18.1 mg, phosphorus 746 mg, potassium 3350 mg, protein 30%, riboflavin 2.4 mg, selenium .10 mg, trace of mg of silicon, sodium 23.9 mg, thiamine 2.17 mg, vitamin A 10,828 I.U. (540 UG beta-carotene equivalent), vitamin C 397.6 mg, zinc .23 mg.
When fresh, the water content is 90%, and, when air dried, is 7.2%. Overall picture is that asparagus is very high in niacin, phosphorus, potassium, protein, riboflavin, thiamine, and vitamin C. It is high in chromium, crude fiber, vitamin A and zinc. High in folic acid which is required to form new red blood cells.
Astringent compounds, acidic compounds, bitter compounds and saponins (asparagosides A to I, sitosterol, sarsapogenin and others), and others. Flavonoids are rutin, quercetin, kaempferol and others.Contains officinalisins 1 and 2. Mucilagenous compounds (polysaccharides [gum 11%]), sucrose, starch. Contains steroidal glycosides that directly affect hormone production.
One-half cup of cooked asparagus can provide about 100 mcg of folic acid (about 25% of RDA) and 49 mg of vitamin C.
One cup of cut spears equals 30 mg of calcium, 84 mg phosphorus, 1.4 mg iron, 3 mg sodium, 375 mg potassium, 1220 IU vitamin A, 2 mg niacin, 45 mg vitamin C, also trace amounts of tin, molybdenum and silicon. Tin has an affinity for the thymus and the other nutrients are important for pineal, adrenal and thyroid glands as well as major organs like heart, liver, spleen, lungs, pancreas and skin.

A common garden perennial which is native to Europe in wild coastal stands and cliffs and to North Africa and Asia. It has feathery scale-like leaves and erect stems with many branches (what appear to be leaves are actually branches). The flowers appear May-June and are small solitary pendulous bell-shaped and greenish-white in color. The fruit is a red berry, 1/2 inch in diameter and containing black seeds. The berries ripen in August. The stem is cut for culinary purposes in the spring when 4 to 9 inches high. Eating asparagus imparts a pungent odor to urine. The name is taken from the Greek. A number of varieties are used medicinally worldwide (see Asparagus, Other). It is known to have been in cultivation since 200 BC. Because of the prickly nature of the foliage, the fronds have been used in Greece to stuff up the holes of mice and rats. An old Chinese custom was to save the best roots for family and friends in the belief that it would increase feelings of compassion and love.



PROPAGATION: By seed in spring, thinned to 12 inches apart, then to 3 feet apart. It is often purchased as 1-year-old male "crowns" and beds are renewed periodically. Crowns are planted 4 to 6 weeks before the first expected frost date. To plant, dig a trench 10 inches wide and 10 to 12 inches deep. Put in 2 to 4 inches of soil mixed with organic matter; place crowns on soil with roots spread out; cover with 2 more inches of soil; as the spears grow, gradually fill in the trench with more soil until the top is reached. Giving sufficient water during the stage when the spears are forming is important.
NEEDS: Rich, light well-drained soil in a sunny position. Asparagus beetles can be a problem on young shoots and foliage. Does not do well in the south as it requires a period of cold dormancy, however, the variety Mary Washington has been developed for southern gardens and is resistant to asparagus rust and fusarium root.
HARVEST: Young shoots are cut from established plants (at least 3 years old) when 4 to 9 inches high in late spring and eaten fresh or juiced for medicinal purposes. If the stalks have started to feather out, it's too late to eat them. Cut the stalks at ground level or slightly below. Stop harvesting when the stalks begin coming up pencil thin.
PART USED: Young shoots and rhizomes. Roots are boiled before drying for use in decoctions and powders. Also whole seeds.

USES

MEDICINAL:
Bitter, diuretic, laxative, blood purifier, anti-rheumatic, restorative, cleansing, acts on bowels (bulk fiber), liver and kidneys; promotes fertility, reduces menstrual cramping, increases milk production, stimulates hormone production, antispasmodic, helps prevent anemia, and is used for aches pain and swelling in joints due to rheumatism and arthritis. Affects the urinary, digestive and structural systems. Seeds are diaphoretic, aperient, deobstruent.
Soothing to the urinary system.
In Ayurvedic medicine it is considered sweet, bitter, cold and affects the lung and kidney( the tuberous root is used). It is used as a yin tonic, nutritive, diuretic, expectorant and emulcent. It is used to treat dryness of the lungs and throat, consumptive diseases, tuberculosis and blood-tinged sputum. Counteracts thirst, treats kidney yin deficiency and lower backpain.
Increases cellular activity in kidneys, increasing the rate of urine production.
Has been used for edema (especially as related to congestive heart failure), urinary infection and calculi, diminished urine production of chronic kidney disease, to reduce the intesity of colic from urinary stones and pain from kidney infection.
As a diuretic the water from the steamed asparagus has been drunk and taken also for kidney "congestion" along with eating the steamed stalks. Both roots and shoots have a stimulating action on the kidney and liver and increase flow of fluids from the body. A decoction is used for bladder and kidney ailments.
Eating asparagus and its watery juice is good for helping dissolve uric acid deposits in the extremities (ie. gout) and is also useful for hypertension.
Helps prevent water retention (diuretic activity). Has been used for dysuria.
Has been used internally for cystitis, pyelitis, kidney disease, rheumatism (anti-inflammatory action of steroidal glucosides), gout, edema from heart failure, enlarged heart, cancer, neuritis.
Although used for rheumatic and gouty conditions it is NOT used in cases of podagra.
Has been used in Chinese medicine for parasites.
Considered a sedative for the nervous system.
A component (asparagusis acid) has been used to treat schistomiasis (a parasitic skin condition commonly known as "swimmer's itch").
Powdered seeds have been used for upset stomach, to relieve nausea and calm the stomach.
Shoots and flowering tops are diuretic and have been used to break up kidney stones.
Water from steamed asparagus stalks has been used as a blemish remover. The water being used to cleanse the skin morning and night. The juice has been used for acne or any "acid" body condition.
Good source of plant protein for those on vegetarian diets.
Culpepper states that the decoction of the root, boiled in wine and taken internally was good to "clear the sight" and that if held in the mouth would ease a toothache.
In Chinese medicine it is believed to calm the emotions and eliminate stress and tone the heart.
Japanese research reports that green asparagus aids protein conversion into amino acids.
Chinese research reports roots can lower blood pressure and the seeds possess antibiotic activity.
Italian researchers reported (1991) that a compound had shown some antiviral activity in test tubes.
A toxic narcotic (methanethiol) has been isolated from the urine of those who have eaten it.
JUICING: should always be combined with other juices as it tends to be too potent to drink otherwise.

DOSE: TRADITIONAL DOSAGES FOR PROFESSIONAL NOTE ONLY
!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
FRESH ROOT = 1 Tbsp or 20-50 ml freshly expressed root 3 times daily.
DRIED ROOT = 1.5 gram or 60 grains
EXTRACT = 1.5 gram dried root, 7 grams alcohol and 8 grams water.
POWDERED SEEDS = 1 tsp (or 30 grains) daily in juice.
FRESH STALKS, JUICED = 1 Tbsp several times daily
TINCTURE (diuretic) = Express juice from 5 lbs fresh asparagus; simmer til reduced to 1 pint; strain and add 1 pint of 90 proof alcohol (vodka, etc). (OR: 5 oz of dried tops can be used to prepare a tincture in the usual way); taken in 1/2 tsp doses (Dr. S.J. Jefferson of Great Britain)
DECOCTION for Bladder and Kidney ailments = 2 doz. asparagus stalks; wash and cover with 1 quart of water; bring to boil; lower heat; simmer til liquid reduced by half; cool, drain. 1 Tbsp taken every 4 hours.
JUICE for Acne or any "acid" body condition = 8 stems yields about 1/2 C. juice; mix with low sodium tomato or vegetable juice.
HIGH POTASSIUM DRINK = 4 carrots, 1-2 stalks asparagus, 1 stalk celery; process in juicer; makes about 8 oz.

HOMEOPATHIC:
Used for urinary problems, rheumatism, heart palpitations with oppression of the chest.
DOSE = 6th potency

VETERINARY:
May diminish milk yields. Used for problems and obstructions of kidneys and bladder; used for jaundice. Aperient.
DOSE (for animals) = handful of raw shoots twice daily.

CULINARY:
Aside from the usual spears, the toasted seeds are used as coffee substitute.




ASPARAGUS, OTHER
(Asparagus spp)



Asparagus acerosus
No Image Available

Used by the Indo-Chinese the same as A. cochinchinensis



Chinese asparagus
(A. cochinchinensis syn A. lucidus) and (Melanthium cochinchinensis)
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First mentioned in Chinese medical texts around 200 AD. Perennial hardy to 5° F. Native to Japan, China, and Korea, near the sea. True leaves are scale-like and inconspicuous. Foliage is represented by small, green leaf-like branches. Flowers are white, solitary or in pairs. Fruits are white berries each with a rounded black seed.

PART USED: Dried tuberous root [tian men dong] (Often mixed with other herbs)

MEDICINAL USES:
Antibacterial, cleansing, diuretic, sialagogue, antipyretic, antitussive, expectorant, stomachic, mervous stimulant, tonic. A drink made from the plant is said to be refrigerant.
Has been used to control coughs, clear bronchial congestion, soothe inflammation, increase the flow of urine.
Has been used internally for fevers, debility, sore throats, coughs, rhinitis, diptheria, tuberculosis, bronchitis.
Has been used as a tonic for females, to treat a hacking cough, for the spitting of blood, constipation arising after fever.
Root has often been used in combination with others for diabetes.
Decoction has been used for: constipation, cough, dropsy, dysuria, gout, heart, hematoptysis, pertussis, thirst.
Has been used as a folk remedy for cancer and has shown antitumor activity in animal trials; now being studied for lung cancer and lymphosarcoma.
Prolonged use for impotence.
In Indo-China the leaves and flowers are crushed and left exposed to air overnight; then the juice is expressed and mixed with honey; taken for diarrhea and dysentary.



Fern Asparagus
A. filicinus
[tu bai bu]
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PART USED: Root.

Used like A. cochinchinensis as anti-pyretic, bechic, diuretic, expectorant, nervine, stimulant, tonic for constipation, cough, hemoptysis, dry throat, and pertussis. Cooked with pork for tonic. Plant also used as an astringent drink.



Shatavari
(A. racemosus)
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Shatavari means "she who possesses a hundred husbands" and refers to the rejuvenative affects on the female reproductive system. In the Ayurvedic system it is as important to female reproductive health as ginseng is to the Chinese male. Can be grown as an annual in northern regions with protection in winter in the warmer northern zones. Native to Australia through western Africa to southern Asia.

PART USED: Rhizomes. Used fresh for dysentary and dried for decoctions, powders and medicinal oils.

MEDICINAL USES:
Soothing, tonic, acts mainly on circulatory, digestive and respiratory systems, and the female reproductive organs; diuretic, expectorant, demulcent; promotes milk flow.
Has been used internally for infertility, loss of libido, threatened miscarriage, menopausal problems, hyperacidity, stomach ulcers, dysentary, bronchial infection, to reduce menstrual cramping.
Has been used externally for stiffness in joints and neck.
Has been used internally by Australian aborigines for digestive upsets and externally for sores.

DOSE = TRADITIONAL DOSAGES FOR PROFESSIONAL NOTE ONLY
!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
Decoction or 200-250 mg powdered root in capsules.





©2000 by Ernestina Parziale, CH

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