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Steroids from the Roots of Asparagus officinalis and Their Cytotoxic Activity

Asparagus officinalis L. is a kind of liliaceous perennial plant, the young shoots of which are a popular vegetable used in salads, vegetable dishes, and soups in the world. It has also been used as a traditional herbal medicine in both European and Asian countries; its dried roots are used as an approved medicinal product in the treatment of inflammatory diseases of the urinary tract for prevention of kidney stones in Europe, and as a tonic, antifebrile, anticancer, and antitussive drug in China for a long time.

Pharmacological studies on this plant have demonstrated anti-inflammatory, cytotoxic, antimutagenic and antifungal activities. A considerable number of chemical constituents, including steroidal saponins, flavonoids, oligosaccharides, and amino acid derivatives have been isolated from its roots and shoots. Steroidal saponins were shown to be the major components and suggested to be responsible for the biological activities of this plant.