Plant Profiler

Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis)

Asparagus officinalis
Synonyms / Common Names / Related Terms
3-O-[beta-D-xylopyranosyl(1-4)-beta-D-glucopyranosyl(1-2)-beta-D-glucopyranosyl]-(25S)-5beta-spirostan-3beta-ol (11), 3'-methoxynyasin, asparagamine A, Asparagus africanus, Asparagus gobicus, Asparagus officinalis, Asparagus racemosus, edible asparagus, gobicusin A, gobicusin B, iso-agatharesinol, Liliaceae (family), racemofuran, racemosol, Shatavari, sparagrass, Spargel (German), sparrow grass, sperage.

Mechanism of Action


  • Constituents: Variations in the copper, iron, zinc, manganese, calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium and phosphorous content of fresh white asparagus (Asparagus officinalis, L.) as a function of the spear portion and the differences between varieties (Desto and Cipre's) and thicknesses (<11 and >14mm) of asparagus were investigated.5 The mineral elements studied showed significant changes between the portions, with lower concentrations, except for sodium, occurring in the asparagus portions furthest away from the tip of the spear. From the roots of Asparagus gobicus, four nor-lignans, 3'-methoxynyasin, iso-agatharesinol, gobicusins A, B and one new steroidal saponin, 3-O-[beta-D-xylopyranosyl(1-4)-beta-D-glucopyranosyl(1-2)-beta-D-glucopyranosyl]-(25S)-5beta-spirostan-3beta-ol (11) were isolated, as well as twelve other compounds.6 The roots of Asparagus racemosus were found contain to racemofuran, asparagamine A and racemosol.2
  • Antioxidant properties: Roots of Asparagus racemosus were found contain to racemofuran, which has antioxidant property against 2,2-Diphenyl-1-Picrylhydrazyl (EPR spectroscopy) with IC50 value of 130 microM.2
  • Antiprotozoal effects: Nyasol isolated from the roots of Asparagus africanus potently inhibits the growth of Leishmania major promastigotes, and moderately inhibits Plasmodium falciparum schizonts. These concentrations only moderately affect the proliferation of human lymphocytes.1
  • Antitumor properties: The crude saponins from the shoots of asparagus were found to have antitumor activity. The asparagus crude saponins (ACS) inhibited the growth of human leukemia HL-60 cells in culture and macromolecular synthesis in a dose and time dependent manner. The ACS at 75-100micrograms/mL range was cytostatic. ACS concentrations greater than 200micrograms/mL were cytocidal to HL-60 cells. The ACS at 6 and 50micrograms/mL inhibited the synthesis of DNA, RNA and protein in HL-60 cells by 41, 5, and 4, respectively, or by 84, 68 and 59%, respectively. The inhibitory effect of ACS on DNA synthesis was irreversible.3
  • Two oligofurostanosides were isolated from the seeds of Asparagus officinalis. These two compounds have been shown to inhibit the growth of human leukemia HL-60 cells in culture and macromolecular synthesis in a dose-dependent manner. The inhibitory effect on DNA synthesis was found to be irreversible.4
  • Nyasol (5) and 11 from asparagus exhibited remarkable in vitro cytotoxic activity against cultured HO-8910 (human ovarian carcinoma) and Bel-7402 (human hepatoma) cells with IC50 vales of 30.6 and 29.4 microM, 5.2 and 5.2 microM, respectively.6
  • Cytotoxicity effects: The aqueous extract of Asparagus cochinchinensis (MERRIL) roots (1-100 microg/mL) dose-dependently inhibited the EtOH-induced tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) secretion. The asparagus extract (1-100 microg/mL) also inhibited the EtOH and TNF-alpha-induced cytotoxicity. Furthermore, we found that the asparagus extract inhibited the TNF-alpha-induced apoptosis of Hep G2 cells. These results suggest that the asparagus extract may prevent the EtOH-induced cytotoxicity through inhibition of the apoptosis of Hep G2 cells.7


  • Volatile organic components are excreted in human urine after ingestion of asparagus.8
  • The detection of the excreted odor constitutes a specific smell hypersensitivity. In a study, those who could smell the odor in their own urine could all smell it in the urine of anyone who had eaten asparagus, whether or not that person was able to smell it himself. Thresholds for detecting the odor appeared to be bimodal in distribution, with 10% of 307 subjects tested able to smell it at high dilutions, suggesting a genetically determined specific hypersensitivity.9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16

  1. Oketch-Rabah HA, Dossaji SF, Christensen SB, et al. Antiprotozoal compounds from Asparagus africanus. J Nat Prod 1997;60(10):1017-1022. 9358645
  2. Wiboonpun N, Phuwapraisirisan P, Tip-pyang S. Identification of antioxidant compound from Asparagus racemosus. Phytother Res 2004;18(9):771-773. 15478181
  3. Shao Y, Chin CK, Ho CT, et al. Anti-tumor activity of the crude saponins obtained from asparagus. Cancer Lett 1996;104(1):31-36. 8640742
  4. Shao Y, Poobrasert O, Kennelly EJ, et al. Steroidal saponins from Asparagus officinalis and their cytotoxic activity. Planta Med 1997;63(3):258-262. 9225609
  5. Amaro-Lopez MA, Zurera-Cosano G, Moreno-Rojas R. Trends and nutritional significance of mineral content in fresh white asparagus spears. Int J Food Sci Nutr 1998;49(5):353-363. 10367005
  6. Yang CX, Huang SS, Yang XP, et al. Nor-lignans and steroidal saponins from Asparagus gobicus. Planta Med 2004;70(5):446-451. 15124091
  7. Koo HN, Jeong HJ, Choi JY, et al. Inhibition of tumor necrosis factor-alpha-induced apoptosis by Asparagus cochinchinensis in Hep G2 cells. J Ethnopharmacol 2000;73(1-2):137-143. 11025149
  8. Gearhart HL, Pierce SK, Payne-Bose D. Volatile organic components in human urine after ingestion of asparagus. Clin Chem 1977;23(10):1941. 902428
  9. Lison M, Blondheim SH, Melmed RN. A polymorphism of the ability to smell urinary metabolites of asparagus. Br Med J 1980;281(6256):1676-1678. 7448566
  10. Hoffenberg L. A note on polymorphism: the ability to smell urinary metabolites of asparagus. Diastema 1983;11:37-38. 6584373
  11. Mitchell SC, Waring RH, Land D, et al. Odorous urine following asparagus ingestion in man. Experientia 1987;43(4):382-383. 3569485
  12. Mitchell SC. Asparagus and malodorous urine. Br J Clin Pharmacol 1989;27(5):641-642. 2757888
  13. Mitchell SC. Food idiosyncrasies: beetroot and asparagus. Drug Metab Dispos 2001;29(4 Pt 2):539-543. 11259347
  14. Richer C, Decker N, Belin J, et al. Odorous urine in man after asparagus. Br J Clin Pharmacol 1989;27(5):640-641. 2757887
  15. Waring RH, Mitchell SC, Fenwick GR. The chemical nature of the urinary odour produced by man after asparagus ingestion. Xenobiotica 1987;17(11):1363-1371. 3433805
  16. White RH. Occurrence of S-methyl thioesters in urines of humans after they have eaten asparagus. Science 1975;189(4205):810-811. 1162354

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