This Eurasian native vegetable is delicious and nutritious in a comforting soup, as well as being an efficient diuretic to support kidney health.

Quick Facts
General Information
  • Common name(s)Asparagus, asperge, sparrow grass
  • Scientific nameAsparagus officinalis
  • Plant typeVegetable
  • Native regionNorth Africa/Middle East, Western Europe, Eastern or Central Europe
  • Main producer(s)China
  • Main Economic UseFood industry

Asparagus, a flowering perennial herb originally from Europe, Africa, and Asia, has been one of the oldest crops to have been domesticated by humans, at least 5,000 years ago. Nowadays, it is cultivated in different corners of the globe, and it's gaining recognition as a nutritional and medicinal powerhouse.

Medicinal and Nutritional Information

Quick Facts (Medicinal and Nutritional Information)
  • Medicinal actionDiuretic
  • Key constituentsGluthathione, rutin
  • Ways to useCapsules, Hot infusions/tisanes, Food
  • Medicinal rating(3) Reasonably useful plant
  • Safety rankingSafe
Asparagus News & Studies

Health Benefits of Asparagus

Considered a health food powerhouse, asparagus is one of the most nutritionally dense vegetables in existence. Among its numerous health benefits the most well-known is:

  • Stimulating urine production. Studies have shown that asparagus can stimulate urine production, as well as decrease water retention in the body.

In addition, many recent studies have shown asparagus can help with other functions, such as:

  • Aiding weight loss. Because of its high nutritional properties and its high soluble fiber content, asparagus can suppress appetite and aid in overall weight loss.

  • Preventing iron deficiency anemia. Asparagus is rich in iron and other nutrients, which can prevent anemia.

  • Preventing Alzheimer's disease. Studies have shown that a diet rich nutritionally dense vegetables, such as asparagus, can reduce the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease.

How It Works

The main active compounds in asparagus medicinal properties are gluthathione and rutin. Whereas the first one is a tripeptide made from three different amino acids, the latter is a glycoside; both compounds are being researched for a variety of potential uses. However, this is complemented by the remarkable nutritional value of asparagus, as the stalks are rich in vitamins B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folate), and B1 (thiamin). They are also a significant source of fiber and potassium.

Rutin exhibits antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action, and because it aids in collagen production, thus promoting the health of the connective tissues throughout the body. Meanwhile, gluthathione is vital for iron metabolism, and thereby helps prevent the many illnesses related to iron deficiency. Both compounds exhibit some diuretic action.

In the past, asparagus was considered toxic to the kidneys because of the characteristic smell it gives to urine. Nowadays, however, it is understood that this is not the case, and that in fact the diuretic properties of asparagus can actually benefit kidney health.

Finally, the combination of gluthathione, rutin, and folate that can be found in asparagus has been linked to a reduction in levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that in excess has been found to contribute to Alzheimer's disease.


Diuretic properties are also present in celery and maize, whereas parsley help prevent iron deficiency anemia.

Asparagus Side Effects

In most cases, asparagus is safe to consume in its culinary form. However, it can trigger food allergies for some individuals, whether it is consumed orally or applied to the skin topically.


Those who are allergic to onions or leeks may also be allergic to asparagus, so it is best to consume with caution until any potential reactions are known.

While it is safe to consume, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult their doctor before taking asparagus in medicinal dosages, since it can cause hormone fluctuations.

How to Consume Asparagus

Quick Facts (How to Consume)
  • Edible partsRoot

While there are numerous ways to obtain asparagus's numerous health benefits, one of the most effective ways to obtain its health properties is in its cooked form, where its properties are more concentrated. However, the benefits of asparagus can also be obtained from capsules and herbal remedies.

Natural Forms

  • Raw. In its fresh form, asparagus can stimulate urine production due to its rutin and gluthathione compounds.

  • Cooked. In order to make the most of asparagus nutritional value, it is better to consume it steamed or blanched. In both forms, asparagus also has diuretic properties.

  • Infusions. When brewed into a hot tea, asparagus infusions can help prevent iron deficiency anemia due to its gluthathione compounds.

Herbal Remedies & Supplements

  • Capsules. In this potent medicinal form, asparagus capsules can decrease water retention in the body through its diuretic properties.


Quick Facts (Buying)
  • Where to buySupermarkets, Farmers' markets, Specialized health stores, Online herb stores

Natural Forms

The most common presentation of raw asparagus is the whole, unpeeled stems. Stems do not need to be peeled, but many people prefer them that way. In the U.S., the most widely available color of asparagus is green asparagus. Canned asparagus, or other forms of it, are not as common, but are still popular and should be readily available in most large supermarkets.

Herbal Remedies & Supplements

Asparagus extract can be found in capsule form, and it can be purchased in most specialized health stores or through online retailers, which usually store a wide variety of brands, with different concentrations.

So far, asparagus is considered safe in culinary amounts; however, before consuming supplemental forms it is recommended to seek medical advice.



Quick Facts (Growing)
  • Life cyclePerennial
  • Harvested partsRoots
  • Light requirementsFull sun
  • SoilLight (sandy)
  • Soil pH6.1 – 6.5 (Slightly acidic)
  • Growing habitatSubtropical regions
  • USDA Plant Hardiness Zones3a (From −40 °C (−40 °F) to −37.2 °C (−35 °F)), 3b (From −37.2 °C (−35 °F) to −34.4 °C (−30 °F)), 4a (From −34.4 °C (−30 °F) to −31.7 °C (−25 °F)), 4b (From −31.7 °C (−25 °F) to −28.9 °C (−20 °F)), 5a (From −28.9 °C (−20 °F) to −26.1 °C (−15 °F)), 5b (From −26.1 °C (−15 °F) to −23.3 °C (−10 °F)), 6a (From −23.3 °C (−10 °F) to −20.6 °C (−5 °F)), 6b (From −20.6 °C (−5 °F) to −17.8 °C (0 °F)), 7a (From −17.8 °C (0 °F) to −15 °C (5 °F)), 7b (From −15 °C (5 °F) to −12.2 °C (10 °F)), 8a (From −12.2 °C (10 °F) to −9.4 °C (15 °F)), 8b (From −9.4 °C (15 °F) to −6.7 °C (20 °F))
  • Potential insect pestsBeetles, Slugs, Snails
  • Potential diseasesRust

A perennial plant, asparagus is one of the earliest growing crops in the spring. If well cared for, it is incredibly hardy and can be cultivated for decades. Unlike many other herbs, asparagus is tolerant of saline soils, which can prove useful when trying to give value to otherwise fallow land. It is also considered a good companion plant for tomatoes, since each plant can repel the most common pests that affect the other. For additional tips on how to help this plant thrive, follow the growing guidelines below:

Growing Guidelines

  • Asparagus should ideally grow in full sun, but can tolerate partial shade.

  • It is ideal to grow asparagus from 1-year-old, disease-free crowns to get a head start on cultivation.

  • Plant crowns four to six weeks before average last frost, 18 - 24 inches (45 - 60 cm) apart in trenches eight inches (20 cm) deep. Keep adding soil periodically and gradually.

  • Water during dry spells during the first year. Do not overwater as plants don't tolerate water-logged soils.

  • Fertilize in spring and fall by top-dressing with liquid fertilizer or side-dressing with a balanced organic fertilizer.

  • Be sure to carefully remove weeds when they crop up.

More detailed information about growing asparagus can be found in the herb garden section.

Additional Information

Plant Biology

Asparagus is a dioecious plant, meaning it produces male and female plants. However, only the female plants produce berries.

The full asparagus plant can grow up to 60 inches (150 cm) tall, with rhizome-type roots and small red berries. However, the most valuable part of the asparagus is the young shoots, which are used in gourmet cuisine. Although they usually go ignored, the rhizomes also contain supporting compounds that are beneficial to health.

  • Classification

    Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) is part of the Asparagaceae family, which comprises about 2,500 species of flowering plants across 150 genera. The Asparagus genus originally contained about 200 species; however, over half of them are native to Africa - such as A. flagellaris and A. africanus, as well as other wild relatives - and have recently been catalogued as Protosparagus, a different genus.

    Asparagus species have evolved to withstand different environments. Among the drought tolerant relatives of A. officinalis can be mentioned A. acutifolious (wild asparagus), A. aphyllus (Mediterranean asparagus), A. albus (white asparagus), A. stipularis, and A. scoparius, while A. tenuifolius is acid-soil resistant.

  • Varieties and Cultivars of Asparagus

    The two main varieties of A. officinalis include "proper" asparagus and purple asparagus, with the latter being more popular in Southern Europe. Although green and white asparagus are usually regarded as varieties, on a botanical level they are both the same variety of "proper" asparagus, but cultivated under different sunlight conditions.

    From these two main varieties, many cultivars have been developed worldwide to enhance the taste and provide for better local adaptation. Among the most widespread cultivars, 'Mary Washington', 'Jersey Knight', and 'Precoce d'Argenteuil' can be counted.

Historical Information

Depictions of asparagus are recorded on ancient Egyptian architecture dating to around 3000 BCE, and the herb was also well known in both Spain and Syria during ancient times. Ancient Greeks and Romans used it for culinary purposes, drying it for food during winter. In the 2nd century CE, it was mentioned as a beneficial herb by Galen, a Greek physician. By the 1400's, the asparagus was cultivated in France, reaching England and Germany during the 16th century. In the 19th century, it was introduced as a culinary herb to the Americas.

Economic Data

The United States, the European Union, and Japan comprise the top three importers of asparagus, importing over 100,000 tons between them each year. China is the top producer of the vegetable, followed by Peru and Germany. Over 7 million tons of asparagus are produced by these three countries annually. The main economic importance of asparagus is its culinary use.


  • Medicinal Plants of the World, p. 60
  • USDA Nutrient Database
  • Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Constituents of Asparagus officinalis evaluated for inhibitory activity against cyclooxygenase-2, 2016
  • Royal Horticultural Society, Asparagus
  • Drug Metabolism and Disposition: The Biological Fate of Chemicals, Food idiosyncrasies: beetroot and asparagus, 2001
  • Trees of Western North America, p. 118
  • Wild Crop Relatives: Genomic and Breeding Resources: Vegetables, p. 30
  • Vegetables, pp. 94 - 96
  • University of Minessota, Growing asparagus in Minnesota home gardens
  • Cornell University, Asparagus
  • Pharmacognosy Reviews, Chemical constituents of Asparagus, 2010
  • British Broadcasting Corporation, Sprue asparagus recipes