Asparagus is widely used as a vegetable in Europe, America, Australia and some parts of Asia. It is often considered a delicacy a restaurants and people do not bother about its medicinal properties or health benefits. Rather, they are more concerned about how it tastes on the plate. On the other hand, asparagus is mainly seen as a medicinal plant in India and some neighboring countries for centuries. That means, there must be some fact behind this practice. Let us explore them.
Asparagus is a plant of lily family (Liliaceae), belonging to the sub-family Asparagaceae and its botanical name is Asparagus Officinalis. It is most found in almost whole of Europe, northern Africa and western Asia. The wild asparagus that is found and used in the Indian subcontinent is called Asparagus Racemosus.
Asparagus is primarily cultivated and consumed as a vegetable crop in Europe and America. It is the tender asparagus shoot that it used as a vegetable, before it turns woody on ageing. It is mainly served as an appetizer, particularly with meat, chicken, turkey, pork or beef. In India however, the roots of asparagus are consumed as medicine. Eating the stem (shoot) portion is not in practice in India and a few neighboring countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal etc.
Organic Asparagus (see also organic food)high in dietary fiber, vitamins (particularly B6, B-complex, A and C); minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, phosphorus, potassium and protein. This makes it an ideal diet for calorie conscious, diabetics, hypertensive people.
Wild Asparagus, bearing botanical name Asparagus Racemosus, has been in use as a medicinal plant for centuries in India. In western countries too, there are instances which depict asparagus as a medicinal plant. Asparagus is known for its following medicinal properties.See also health benefits
- In treatment of malnutrition: In India, wild asparagus roots (fresh and raw or dried and powdered) are often used in treatment of malnutrition among children. Very lean and thin children, when given a regular dose of asparagus roots, showed improvement in health after a period.
- In maintaining vigor: In India, asparagus roots are given to adults (men) for maintaining vigor and to promote semen production. On the other hand, it is given to lactating mothers to increase milk in breasts. It is also given to new mothers to help them recover from post-delivery weakness, fatigue etc.
- The presence of folate in asparagus helps protect against neural tube defects in babies and thus it can help pregnant women.
- As it is high in potassium, it helps retention of calcium in body, thereby strengthening bones and teeth.
- It is a good source of vitamin C( see essential vitamins). This helps in improving immunity and fight infections. Vitamin C also helps build collagen.
- Asparagus shoots are well known for their diuretic properties. This helps patients of kidney failure, promote weight loss and detoxify the body.
- The high fiber content of asparagus makes it a bulk laxative and facilitates clear bowels.
- Certain compounds in Asparagus help neutralize ammonia generated in our body, thereby making us feel fresh. It also protects blood vessels from rupturing.
- Asparagus also acts as an anti-inflammatory agent due to presence of compounds like saponins (like asparanin, diosgenin, protodioscin and sarsasapogenin) and flavonoids like quercetin, rutin, kaempferol and isorhamnetin.
- It is a rich source of antioxidants like vitamin C, beta carotene, glutathione, selenium & zinc.
- The low calorie and high fiber combination of asparagus makes it an ideal diet for people suffering from high cholesterol, diabetes etc.
- Asparagus is believed to help in treating certain types of cancer like leukemia. But it is not yet proved. This is merely due to the fact that enzyme asparaginase and an amino acid asparagine are used in treatment of leukemia and both of them are present in asparagus.
- It is also helpful in fighting cancer of bladder, colon, breast, lungs, prostrate, ovary and bone marrow.
- It is good for cardiac health due to presence of folate in it.
This makes asparagus a healthy delicacy to munch on. After knowing all these, I am sure that you will love it more. So, what’s for dinner tonight? Asparagus, I presume.