Lost Cure from Africa

I just got an incredible e-mail from my friend Prince Dr. David Mawanda in Africa. It’s a lost cure from Africa that I wanted to tell you about right away.

Dr. Mawanda is the doctor I wrote to you about who has a degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Nutrition from the University of Beijing. He also formed a natural medicine development organization in Africa called NAMEDO.

Dr. Mawanda agrees with me that too many traditional healing practices have been lost over the last few years. And he wants to help restore those practices in Uganda.

One of the ways he wants to do this is by writing a book for young people in Uganda. He e-mailed me the outline. He wants the book to be a guide to help young people learn which healing plants they can grow right in their own yards.

He wrote to me that too many companies are trying to duplicate herbal medicine with what they are selling in stores. But Ugandans used to have the real herbs growing in and around their homes. He wants to restore traditional healing knowledge so that people can plant their own gardens again, and make their own natural, pure decoctions, teas, drinks and formulas.

One of the examples Dr. Mawanda wrote to me is asparagus. Today, most people think of it as just a vegetable you eat. And it’s very healthy. But only steaming and eating it would be abandoning centuries of healing wisdom.

Asparagus used to grow wild in people’s yards, and many Ugandans would grow it in their small gardens, knowing how valuable it is as a cure for something modern medicine has no idea how to stop… the flu and the common cold.

You see, in Africa, traditional healers used asparagus to stop the spread of viruses like colds and flu. Asparagus has a volatile oil, and they would heat it, and let the essence of the oil spread throughout the house to kill airborne viruses.

The reason it works are the compounds called asparagosides. Besides being anti-bacterial,1 and anti-cancer (they kill cancer cells ranging from tumors to prostate cancer2), asparagosides are anti-viral.

Scientists have known about this action of asparagus’ active compounds for a while, but modern medicine really dropped the ball on this one.

After Dr. Mawanda wrote to me I did a little digging. I found an overlooked study done by the Research Center for Applied Science and Technology at Tribhuvan University in Nepal.

It shows that asparagus extract is a powerful flu virus killer.

The researchers first noticed that at high concentrations, asparagus extracts can kill cancer cells. But even at low concentrations, asparagus was the most powerful flu virus killer of the 44 extracts they looked at.

Even a very small amount of asparagus extract killed over 50% of flu virus cells, and protected normal cells from being destroyed by the flu virus. 3

Asparagus has a long history as a medicinal plant in Europe. The Greeks used it to treat urinary and kidney problems. And it’s still mostly used as a strong diuretic and in the treatment of urinary problems.

Asparagus is also a rich source of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that boosts your immune system, reduces inflammation and helps keep your liver healthy.

But asparagus’ use as flu and cold remedy, and to stop their spread, has been completely overlooked by Western medicine.

Fortunately, although it takes a little bit of preparation and patience, you can grow asparagus and use it yourself. You can easily grow it from seeds. If you do, it’s important to make sure there are no weeds near your planting. Plus, it can take a year before you get asparagus.

It’s a bit faster to grow from plantings, and you can get lots of help one of my favorite plant knowledge sites, the University of Cal-Davis’ Vegetable Research and Information Center (vric.ucdavis.edu), or websites like Dave’s Garden (davesgarden.com/), or Kitchen Gardeners’ International (kgi.org).

You can purchase dried asparagus root powder online, but I would recommend visiting a local Asian specialty store. Asparagus is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a detoxifier. Look for it as “tian men dong.”

Asparagus extract is also available as a supplement. Some will have the powdered root, but may not have any extract with asparagosides, so look for the root extract with at least 4% asparagosides.

Or, you can do what I do and eat lots of asparagus. I have it almost every day with some fish or eggs for lunch. And it has a great flavor when you stir fry it with other vegetables. Plus, when you cook it you can breathe in some of the essence of the volatile oil, and use a lost healing tradition from Africa in your own home.

P.S. – Dr. Mawanda will be a contributor to my upcoming book Healing Roots: Lost Cures from Africa.

1. Belhouchet Z, Sautour M, Miyamoto T, Lacaille-Dubois M. “Steroidal saponins from the roots of Smilax aspera subsp. mauritanica.” Chem Pharm Bull. 2008 Sep;56(9):1324-7.
2. Zhang H, Sydara K, Tan G, Ma C, Southavong B, Soejarto D, Pezzuto J, Fong H. “Bioactive constituents from Asparagus cochinchinensis.” J Nat Prod. 2004 Feb;67(2):194-200.
3. Rajbhandari M, et. al. “Antiviral activity of some plants used in Nepalese traditional medicine.” Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2009 Dec;6(4):517-22.