Chinese Asparagus

Health Care Professional Information

Scientific Name
Asparagus cochinchinensis
Common Name

Tian Dong, Tian Men Dong, Radix asparagi, tenmondo, asparagus root

Clinical Summary

Derived from the root of the plant, Chinese asparagus is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of conditions including breast cancer, liver disease, and as a tonic (1).
In vitro studies indicate that it has anti-inflammatory effects (5) (8) and can prevent ethanol-induced cytotoxicity (3). The root extract was shown to slow aging in mice via antioxidant effects (9). Chinese asparagus has not been studied in humans.
Adverse events or drug interactions have not been documented.

Purported Uses
  • Cancer treatment
  • Constipation
  • Cough
  • Health maintenance
  • Hepatitis
  • Saponins: Officinalisnin I and II, asparasaponin I and II, asparagosides A-I, asparacoside
  • Asparamide
  • Beta-sitosterol
  • Asparacosins A and B
  • 3' '-methoxyasparenydiol
  • 3'-hydroxy-4'-methoxy-4'-dehydroxynyasol
  • Furostanol oligoglycosides: aspacochioside A, B and C
    (1) (2) (6) (7)
Mechanism of Action

In vitro studies suggest that the beta-sitosterol constituent has activity against mouse s-180 leukemia and lung cancer. An aqueous extract of asparagus root inhibits tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) secretion in mouse astrocytes (4). Asparagus root also reduces alcohol-induced hepatotoxicity in Hep G2 cell lines (3).

Adverse Reactions

None reported

Herb-Drug Interactions

None known

Dosage (Inside MSKCC Only)
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  1. Huang KC. The Pharmacology of Chinese Herbs, 2nd ed. New York: CRC Press; 1999.
  2. Konishi T, Shoji J. Studies on the constituents of asparagi radix. I. On the structures of furostanol oligosides of asparagus cochinchinensis (loureio) merrill. Chem Pharm Bull 1979;27:3086-94.
  3. Koo HN, et al. Inhibition of tumor necrosis factor-alpha-induced apoptosis by asparagus cochinchinensis in Hep G2 cells. J Ethnopharmacol 2000;73:137-43.
  4. Kim H, et al. Inhibitory effect of asparagus cochinchinensis on tumor necrosis factor-alpha secretion from astrocytes. Int J Immunopharmacol 1998;20:153-62.
  5. Lee do Y, Choo BK, Yoon T, et al. Anti-inflammatory effects of Asparagus cochinchinensis extract in acute and chronic cutaneous inflammation. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Jan 12;121(1):28-34.
  6. Shi JG, Li GQ, Huang SY, et al. Furostanol oligoglycosides from Asparagus cochinchinensis. J Asian Nat Prod Res. 2004 Jun;6(2):99-105.
  7. Zhang HJ, Sydara K, Tan GT, et al. Bioactive constituents from Asparagus cochinchinensis. J Nat Prod. 2004 Feb;67(2):194-200.
  8. Lee do Y, Choo BK, Yoon T, et al. Anti-inflammatory effects of Asparagus cochinchinensis extract in acute and chronic cutaneous inflammation. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Jan 12;121(1):28-34.
  9. Xiong D, Yu LX, Yan X, Guo C, Xiong Y. Effects of root and stem extracts of Asparagus cochinchinensis on biochemical indicators related to aging in the brain and liver of mice. Am J Chin Med. 2011;39(4):719-26.

Consumer Information

How It Works

Bottom Line: Although Chinese asparagus has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, evidence of its effectiveness against cancer, hepatitis, or any other disease is lacking.Scientists are not sure how Chinese asparagus works, since little research has been performed on this botanical. In the laboratory setting, a Chinese asparagus extract has been shown to slow the growth of isolated leukemia and lung cancer cells, as well as protect liver cells from alcohol toxicity. However, it is not known whether these effects occur in the human body, and more research is needed to evaluate its safety and effectiveness.

Purported Uses
  • To treat cancer
    Limited laboratory research shows some activity against isolated leukemia and lung cancer cell lines. Human data are needed.
  • To relieve constipation
    There are no data to support this claim.
  • To treat cough
    No scientific evidence supports this use.
  • To treat hepatitis
    Limited laboratory research shows a protective effect against alcohol toxicity in isolated liver cells. Human studies have not been conducted.
Side Effects

None known.

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