Asparagus is a familiar food as well as a medicinal plant in India and other countries. White asparagus is mostly processed into the canned product. For this purpose, the 'bottom cut' must be discarded because of its bitter taste, which is attributed to saponin constituents. Kawano et al (1975, 1977) investigated the bitter components in asparagus and reported their structures to be furostanol saponins. Goryanu et al independently isolated and characterised nine steroidal saponins (asparagosides A to I) from Asparagus officinalis, whose structures were summarized in a review. Further, many saponins were isolated from other species in the Asparagus genus.
Many kinds of biological activities of saponins have been reported to date. However, there are only a few reports on the biological activities of asparagus saponins. In our previous paper, a crude saponin fraction from white asparagus bottom cut strongly inhibited the growth of some kinds of fungi. Interestingly, Candida albicans, which is responsible for contamination in food processing and candidiasis, and some species of Trichophyton, Microsporum and Epidermophyton, which are responsible for so-called ringworm, were suppressed effectively. A new antifungal saponin, tentatively designated AS-1, was isolated as the active principle.