Chinese Asparagus

Chinese Asparagus

Common Names

  • Tian Dong; Tian Men Dong
  • Radix asparagi
  • Tenmondo
  • Asparagus root

For Patients & Caregivers

Tell your healthcare providers about any dietary supplements you’re taking, such as herbs, vitamins, minerals, and natural or home remedies. This will help them manage your care and keep you safe.

How It Works

Although Chinese asparagus has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for various conditions, human studies have not been conducted.

Derived from the root of the plant, Chinese asparagus is used in traditional Chinese medicine as a tonic, an expectorant, and to treat a variety of conditions including liver and airway inflammatory diseases.

Scientists are not sure how Chinese asparagus works, since little research has been performed on this botanical. In the laboratory setting, Chinese asparagus extracts slowed the growth of isolated lung cancer cells, and protected liver cells from alcohol toxicity. Animal studies suggest it may help reduce airway inflammation. However, it is not known whether these effects could 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 lung cancer cell lines. Human data are needed.
  • To treat lung diseases
    Preliminary laboratory studies suggest that compounds found in Chinese asparagus may protect against airway inflammatory diseases, but no human studies have been conducted.
  • To treat hepatitis
    Limited laboratory research shows a protective effect against alcohol toxicity in isolated liver cells. Human studies have not been conducted.
Do Not Take If

You are taking cytochrome P450 2E1 or 1A2 substrate drugs: Animal studies suggest that Chinese asparagus may affect how certain drugs are metabolized by these enzymes or increase the risk of side effects. Clinical relevance has yet to be determined.

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For Healthcare Professionals

Scientific Name
Asparagus cochinchinensis
Clinical Summary

Derived from the root of the plant, Chinese asparagus is used in traditional Chinese medicine as a tonic, an expectorant, and to treat a variety of conditions including liver and airway inflammatory diseases (1) (10).

In vitro studies indicate that it has anti-inflammatory effects (5) (8) (11), and can prevent ethanol-induced cytotoxicity (3). In vitro and in vivo studies suggest antioxidant (17) (18) and neuroprotective effects (9) (19). Various extracts have also shown anti-asthmatic effects in animal models by suppressing airway inflammation (20) (21).

In lung cancer cells, aspacochioside C isolated from A. cochinchinensis showed moderate cytotoxicity (12), and the compound methylprotodioscin downregulated proinflammatory cytokine production (13). However, Chinese asparagus or these constituents have not been studied in humans as a treatment for cancer.

In animal studies, Chinese asparagus induced CYP2E1 and CYP1A2 activities, suggesting potential interactions with drugs metabolized by these enzymes (14). Clinical relevance has yet to be determined.

Purported Uses
  • Cancer treatment
  • Health maintenance
  • Lung diseases
  • Hepatitis
Mechanism of Action

Compounds isolated from this species include norlignans (15), steroidal saponins (16), pregnane glycosides, aspacochinosides, and furostanol glycosides, some of which may have anti-neuroinflammatory effects in lipopolysaccharide-induced murine microglial cells via inhibition of nitric oxide (NO) production (11). An aqueous extract of asparagus root inhibits tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha secretion in mouse astrocytes (4). Asparagus root also reduces alcohol-induced hepatotoxicity in Hep G2 cell lines (3).

In vitro and murine models of lung inflammation suggest that methylprotodioscin is the active constituent that protects against airway inflammation (10) (13). Dioscin and methylprotodioscin suppressed airway mucin gene expression and production by acting directly on airway epithelial cells (10). Methylprotodioscin inhibited production of proinflammatory cytokines such as IL-6, TNF-alpha, and IL-1beta in lung tissue (13), and downregulated proinflammatory cytokine production via c-Jun N-terminal kinase/c-Jun pathway inhibition in lung cancer cells (13).

Herb-Drug Interactions

Cytochrome P450 substrates: In animal studies, Chinese asparagus was shown to induce the activities of CYP2E1 and CYP1A2, suggesting potential interactions with drugs metabolized by these enzymes (14). Clinical relevance has yet to be determined.

Dosage (OneMSK Only)
  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.
  10. Lee HJ, Park JS, Yoon YP, et al. Dioscin and methylprotodioscin isolated from the root of Asparagus cochinchinensis suppressed the gene expression and production of airway MUC5AC mucin induced by phorbol ester and growth factor. Phytomedicine. May 15 2015;22(5):568-572.
  11. Jian R, Zeng KW, Li J, et al. Anti-neuroinflammatory constituents from Asparagus cochinchinensis. Fitoterapia. Jan 2013;84:80-84.
  12. Shen Y, Xu CL, Xuan WD, et al. A new furostanol saponin from Asparagus cochinchinensis. Arch Pharm Res. Oct 2011;34(10):1587-1591.
  13. Lee JH, Lim HJ, Lee CW, et al. Methyl Protodioscin from the Roots of Asparagus cochinchinensis Attenuates Airway Inflammation by Inhibiting Cytokine Production. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:640846.
  14. Wu B, Liu P, Gao Y, et al. [Effect of water extract from traditional Chinese medicines Rehmannia glutinosa, Scrophularia ningpoensis, Asparagus cochinchinensis and Ophiopogon japonicas on contents of CYP450 and activities of CYP3A, CYP2E1 and CYP1A2 in rat]. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. Oct 2011;36(19):2710-2714.
  15. Li XN, Chu C, Cheng DP, et al. Norlignans from Asparagus cochinchinensis. Nat Prod Commun. Oct 2012;7(10):1357-1358.
  16. Zhu GL, Hao Q, Li RT, et al. Steroidal saponins from the roots of Asparagus cochinchinensis. Chin J Nat Med. Mar 2014;12(3):213-217.
  17. Lei L, Ou L, Yu X. The antioxidant effect of Asparagus cochinchinensis (Lour.) Merr. shoot in D-galactose induced mice aging model and in vitro. J Chin Med Assoc. Apr 2016;79(4):205-211.
  18. Lei L, Chen Y, Ou L, et al. Aqueous root extract of Asparagus cochinchinensis (Lour.) Merr. Has antioxidant activity in D-galactose-induced aging mice. BMC Complement Altern Med. Sep 25 2017;17(1):469.
  19. Jalsrai A, Numakawa T, Kunugi H, et al. The neuroprotective effects and possible mechanism of action of a methanol extract from Asparagus cochinchinensis: In vitro and in vivo studies. Neuroscience. May 13 2016;322:452-463.
  20. Sung JE, Lee HA, Kim JE, et al. Saponin-enriched extract of Asparagus cochinchinensis alleviates airway inflammation and remodeling in ovalbumin-induced asthma model. Int J Mol Med. Nov 2017;40(5):1365-1376.
  21. Choi JY, Kim JE, Park JJ, et al. The Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Fermented Herbal Roots of Asparagus cochinchinensis in an Ovalbumin-Induced Asthma Model. J Clin Med. Oct 22 2018;7(10).
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