Asparagus Cochinchinensis

Asparagus Cochinchinensis (chin. : tiānméndōng 天門冬) - (latin: Tuber asparagi Cochinensis ) it is a perennial plant that flourishes mostly in China, Japan and Korea. Tian Men Dong actually translates to “Lush Winter Aerial Plant”. This species has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years It flowers around May to June while the seeds ripen on September. Can reach a height up to 1.5m. The flowers can be either male or female but only one sex is found on each plant individually. It has a preference to well drained medium ( loamy ) and heavy ( clay ) soils. However, it can grow in semi-shade or no shade.

The edible parts of the plant are its fruit and roots. Its texture is soft and sticky in texture whereas its taste is sweet and bitter. The tubers are up to 5cm long and 2m wide comprising the major part used in traditional medicine. Usually it is dug up in autumn and winter. At first, the tubers are washed to remove bitterness, and then the fibrous core is removed and is root is put to boil. The taste is similar to the commonly used Asparagus. In some cases tubers are eaten after preserving in sugar. The fruit is said to be edible (6 - 8mm in diameter ), but the berries in a report were proven to be harmful. The dried root is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, antiseptic, antitussive, diuretic, expectorant, nervine, sialagogue, stomachic, nervous stimulant and tonic. It is taken internally in the treatment of fevers, debility, sore throats, coughs, tuberculosis and bronchitis. Also used as a purifier for detox. Except for its use in traditional Chinese medicine the plant is also used as insecticide because it exterminates the larvae of flies and mosquitoes.

Active ingredients and mechanism

Most of the therapeutic properties of Asparagus are attributed to Asparagin. The blame is put to this ingredient for the characteristic odour in the urine after consuming the herb. The exact mechanism of Asparagin is not fully known. It also contains b-sitosterol, which is used in treating benign prostate hyperplasia.

The sprouts contain wax and calcium, iron, potassium and chlorophyll. The latter possesses strong antioxidant properties.

High in polysaccharides ,vitamin E, flavonoids such as rutin , kaempferol, quercetin and inulin.It is not the scope of this post to analyze how those ingredients work but we will mention some of their benefits.  Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants which neutrilize by-products of metabolism named free radicals. These substances enhance the immune system and ease the absorption of vitamins.  Rutin is a very powerful antioxidant which is used for people with low vision or eye conditions like macular degeneration. Quercetin works in synergy with vitamins by boosting their effects ( especially vitamin C). Moreover, it said to have mild anti-histamine action and is used for soothing some of the symptoms of hayfever. Inulin is a very potent fibre (ideal for those who suffer from constipation), which is also used for reducing cholesterol levels.

Uses

This herb is used mainly in traditional Chinese medicine for the clearing lung and kidney channels. It clears lung heat,treats dry mouth, fever, aversion to wind and cold, chest pain, and hemoptysis or blood streaked sputum. For dry cough, cough with scanty sticky sputum, or cough with blood streaked sputum and difficult to expectorate.

It generates fluids and moistens dryness. Ideal for wasting and thirsting disorder. For thirst, muscle wasting, consumptive cough with blood streaked sputum, low grade or afternoon fevers, constipation and dry stools.

Tuber Asparagi Cochinensis is used in clinical research along with Bulbus Lilii (Bai He), Radix Glehniae Littoralis (Sha Shen) in lung cancer when a dry thorat and/ constipation appear. One packet of these medicinals was decocted in water and administered hot orally in three divided doses per day, morning, noon, and night. It appeared that the rates of radiation-induced esophagitis, bronchitis, and pneumonitis were markedly lower in the treatment group than the comparison group. Based on these findings, it was the author’s conclusion that treatment with Chinese medicinals based on pattern discrimination along with standard radiation therapy can achieve significantly better short-term survival rates and better local control of tumors with less side effects than radiation alone.

Laboratory studies presented that Astragalus can increase can increase the clearance rate of charcoal particles and the weight of immune organs (in mice), and thus helps to facilitate their antifatigue, anoxia tolerance, analgesia and memory improvement, as well as decrease the contents of lipid peroxide (LPO) in plasma, liver and brain.

Another research states that the herb’s active ingredients may inhibit TNF-alpha (turmor necrosis factor) secretion by inhibiting IL-1 secretion and they may have antiinflammatory activity in the central nervous system. The results showed that it was no pertinence between content of sarsaspogenin with the other Asparagus species.The content of sarsasapogenin in the tuberous roots of Asparagus Cochinchinensis was inverse ratio with the commercial grande in same species.
Used along with other herbs during ac chemotherapy for breast cancer.

The herb is also used in diabetes, malignant lymphoma, migraine headaches, systemic lupus erythmatosus and multiple sclerosis. Nonetheless, research on treating those conditions is very limited. Also used, as a base ingredient in phytoestrogen supplements.

Dose and administration

As clinical research is limited on the dosage you should consult a professional healthcare provider for appropriate dosage.
Texts mention the use of root/tuber in decoction form (60grams in a litre of water) or herbal extract in a dose of 1-4grams daily.

Contraindications

Since it is a nervous stimulant it should be avoided by people with neurosis and/ hysteria as it may cause insomnia.
Cold due to deficiency of spleen and stomach with loss of appetite and diarrhoea; cough due to wind-cold
Women who are pregnant or wish to be, should refrain from taking Asparagus long term, because this could inadvertently induce abortion. Sad to mention, but Hsia-p’u Hsien Hospital in Fukien Province use it as a cervical dilator to induce abortion.

As with all herbs and supplements, do not attempt any, if you are on any medication, unless you consult your GP first.