Asparagus. Asparagus officinalis, L. Asperge, Fr. Spargel, G. Esparaguera, Sp. (Fam. Convallariceae.)—This well-known garden vegetable is a native of Europe. It is perennial and herbaceous. The root, which is inodorous, and of a weak, sweetish taste, is used in France as a diuretic and aperient in the form of decoction, made in the proportion of one or two ounces of the root to a quart of water. Hayne asserts that, in the dried state, it is wholly inert. In the berries H. Reinsch has found a large proportion of glucose and a yellowish-red coloring matter, spargin. (A. J. P., xlii, 371.) From the juice of the young shoots Robiquet and Vauquelin obtained a peculiar crystallizable principle, called asparagin, C4H8N2O3, which has since been found in a number of plants. (See Althaea.)
There is at present no sufficient reason for believing that asparagus is of value in practical medicine. The peculiar heavy odor which it imparts to the urine has been the chief foundation for the belief in its diuretic properties; but Nencki (Provincial Med. Journ., March, 1891) appears to have demonstrated that this odor is due to the presence in the urine of methyl-mercaptan, a gas which is frequently produced in minute quantities in the intestines by the decomposition of proteids. According to Justin D. Lyie (N. Y. M. J., July, 1892), eating asparagus causes the urine to answer Trommer's, Fehling's, and Bottger's glycosuria tests, although sugar is not present. Tanret found two carbohydrates, asparagose and pseudo-asparagose, in the roots and green berries of asparagus. (P. J. Tr., 1909, 205.) Certain physiologists have claimed that asparagin has an effect on metabolism, but this view is probably incorrect. (See Z. B., 1892, x.) Asparagus may be administered internally in the form of the syrup produced from the fresh juice or from the tincture. For further information concerning Asparagus, see U. S. D., 19th ed., p. 1401-1402.