Asparagus officinalis is a vegetable that has been as much a food as a remedy for thousands of years in both Eastern and Western cultures at a time when all foods were recognized for their medicinal value.
Asparagus is native to the salty soils found in the maritime habitats of Europe and Asia but not the Americas. It was introduced to North America in the mid 1800’s and is cultivated in the white, green and purple varieties. The white is regarded as the most tender, the green is likely the most common but, the purple was developed in Italy to have a higher sugar content and to be less fibrous. All are delicious!
Anyone who has ever eaten asparagus knows it’s succulent, delicate, somewhat sweet flavor, it’s soft yet fibrous texture and an overall very agreeable taste. Asparagus is cultivated worldwide and popular everywhere.
Asparagus thrives in soils that are saline. Few plants are known to have salt added to their soils to control weed growth but asparagus seems to like it. This tends to reserve those soils for asparagus cultivation as few other plants thrive in that saltiness. Anyone seriously wishing to grow asparagus should know that they enjoy a happy coexistence with tomatoes; asparagus repels a type of roundworm that would attack the roots of the tomato and the tomato in-turn repels the asparagus beetle.
Asparagus stocks grow straight out of the ground like a spear, are picked in spring and are best eaten as young shoots while still tender. Asparagus is nutrient and mineral rich, containing over 21 vitamins and minerals, with particularly high amounts of potassium, phosphorus and B vitamins. Asparagus is naturally high in water content, as you would expect from a plant native to maritime areas.
Asparagus is known to act through both the Liver and Kidneys, extending to general digestion by aiding the pancreas and is blood nourishing. This was known long before the chemical analysis of plants was possible.
Those effects were suggested by its form, habitat, taste, naturally high water content and other obvious characteristics. From those observations asparagus was expected to tonify, warm, fortify and moisten the body in general. And, as an extension, it suggested it’s usefulness to the Kidney/urogenital area of both male and females. These speculations were found to be generally true and have been substantiated in over a thousand years of practical application to only be further substantiated by modern research.
Besides the more obvious benefits, in Traditional Herbal Theory “specific moistures” are the fuel that feeds the body’s warmth which in turn fortifies the body. This type of moisture, moistens systemically to produce effects that water alone does not. Asparagus is especially good at this.
Although the effects of asparagus are more obviously felt and center around the Kidneys; because of the dominion of the Kidneys, with the help of the Lungs as the water regulator of the body, it makes sense that if it is given an ingredient that specifically acts upon it, that it will spread that effect where ever else water/moisture is central to specific functions.
That said, the Liver is an organ that also works with water to dilute toxins within itself to protect the body from them so, asparagus, working through the Kidneys will benefit Liver functions as well and by extension, also the eyes, as they are under the effects of the Liver.
This type of natural health information in relation to asparagus can be found as much in Eastern as well as Western old herbal texts like Nicolas Culpepper, Dioscoridis, Tabernaemontanus and any book on Traditional Chinese Medicine or Ayurveda. Old information is valuable, very straightforward, far less complicated and less misleading than some would believe.
Culpepper states further that: “It is good for those who are convalescing. It will provoke appetite and helps stomach weakness. It is a Jupiter herb, helping the kidneys through the liver. Also, it is a male herb, “stireth up bodily lust in man or woman.” Although stated a few hundred years ago, these statements are generally correct.
The high potassium levels in asparagus means that it will help Kidney functions but also assist in Heart functions including palpitations while draining and/or balancing excess fluids and electrolytes throughout the body. Unlike most chemical diuretics, this natural food, like most other foods that will act like it, is discriminating about how much water it removes, from where it is removing it and, will not force the body beyond a point of equilibrium that would do harm.
The most obvious benefits would include vitality, better muscle and nerve strength and better coordination of organ functions.
Asparagus affects the body in very specific and obvious ways. The most obvious being it’s effect as a diuretic and laxative. Asparagus is virtually guaranteed to send anyone to the washroom to eliminate and produce a very distinct asparagus like odor in urine in the process. As part of it’s overall eliminatory stimulation it is also a fine laxative.
Through these effects the body in this way is helped by lowering the risk of high blood pressure and improved heart health. From the Natural health perspective, the ramifications of improved Heart and Kidney health are closely tied to greater mental strength and clarity. Also, from the point of view of TCM, the Kidneys are in charge of a lot of the bodies growth an maintenance which includes healthy cell growth so it not coincidental that the amino acid asparagine, which is essential for cell growth should find itself in what is essentially a Kidney remedy.
Most of these benefits are often attributed to the potassium in asparagus which is only partially true because asparagus, like any other real food from Nature is a conglomeration of a few dozen nutrients and a few hundred others that have not even been identified yet. They all work together to produce a “total” effect and benefit, individual ingredients notwithstanding.
In the case of asparagus the effect seems to be Kidney centered and Kidney function maintaining. Kidney stones, sciatica, gout and arthritis according to Paracelsus are tied to the contamination of the waters of the body with disagreeable minerals or substances that can originate from foods of a certain type or from a certain area. Presently, we have the added curse of chemical combinations that have never existed before finding themselves in our foods. Should any of these inhibit Kidney functions they are either retained to produce “turbidity” within the fluids of the body, either systemically or in specific areas to eventually deposit what they are carrying in a microscopic crystalline form to cause great pain.
Asparagus by helping to resolve the formation of turbidity within the kidneys in general as well as in the areas the Kidneys are most active in could help prevent such things as sciatica, gout, arthritis and various skin rashes, as well a pains in the lower body, which are all nothing more than an extension of Kidney congestion and uric acid build up from diminished Kidney function. When this happens the Kidneys are said to have “cooled.” (minerals fall out of a saturated solution when over saturated or when the temperature of that solution drops) Asparagus is warming to the Kidneys and therefore restores there functioning and warmth distribution helping to prevent these type of problems.
The general warming effect of asparagus on the Kidneys also makes it beneficial for frigidity or impotence when it is nothing more than simply a Kidney weakness. But, because of that warming property, this would also indicate that asparagus should be avoided in the event of a Kidney or urinary tract infection.
All of these effects are attributed to asparagus. The asparagus root is a rhizome. It possesses the same or similar properties of the asparagus spears only that being a root they will likely be even stronger.
A tea can also be made in the Spring with 2 tsp. of asparagus in an 8 oz. Cup of cold water, it is to be brought to a boil and then strained. 2-3 cups are to be taken daily for 10 days.