ASPARAGUS RACEMOSUS WILLD. Systematic position Kingdom Plantae Division Spermatophyta Class Monocotyledonae Subclass Coronarieae Order Liliales Family Asparagaceae Genus Asparagus Species Asparagus racemosus Willd. English name : Asparagus Indian name : Shatavari (Sanskrit / Marathi), Satavari, Shakakul (Hindi) Habitat : The plant grows best in tropical and subtropical dry and deciduous forests. Geographical distribution : Asparagus racemosus is distributed throughout tropical Africa, Java, Australia, India, Srilanka and Southern parts of China (Kirtikar and Basu, 1985) (Fig. 3). In India, It is found in tropical, sub tropical regions and in Himalayas upto 1000 to 1500 m. In Rajasthan State, it in mainly cultivated in Udaipur, Rajasmand, Sirohi, Ajmer, Jaipur, Kota, Tonk, Pali, Chittorgarh, Bhilwara, Bundi, Jhalawar, Banswara, and Dungarpur (Fig. 4). Plant description : The plant is a climber, climbs upto 1-3 m high. It is an extensively scandent spinous, much branched undershrub. Roots are numerous fusiform, succulent and tuberous with a diameter of 0.5 to 1.5 cm arises as a cluster from the basal end of the stem. Stem is woody, sparsely covered with recurved spines. Leaves are reduced to small scales called as cladode which are in tufts of 2-6 in a node, finely accuminate, falcate divaricate and constitute the main photosynthetic organs (Plate 3 A). Inflorescence is a branched raceme. Flowers are white, fragrant, solitary or fascicles have a width of 0.3-0.4 cm (Plate 3 B). Berries are globose or obscurely 3 lobed (Plate 3 C). Seeds are black in color and hard with brittle testa (Chako, 1997) (Plate 3 D). Principal constituents : The principal chemical constituents exhibiting medicinal properties are Shatavarin (steroidal saponin) (Ravikumar et al., 1987). Four types of shatavarin, shatavarin I - IV are present in roots. Apart from this asparagamine, a polycyclic alkaloid (Sekine et al., 1995), Isoflavon-8-methoxy 5,6,4'-trihydro-xyisoflavone 7---D-gluco-pyranoside (Saxena and Chaurasia, 2001), racemosol, a cyclic hydrocarbon (Sekine, 1997), polysaccharides and mucilage are also present. Kaempherol is found in shoots. Apart from this, Quercitin-3-glucorinide, rutin in shoots; sitosterol, stigmasterol and some other unidentified saponins are found in fruits and seeds (Sharma et al., 1981). Part used : Shoots and tuberous roots (Plate 3 A,E). Medicinal properties and uses : The healing qualities of Shatavari are useful to a wide array of ailments. Ancient works like Rigveda, Atharvaveda etc. have mentioned the manifold action of the drug which is indicated by the synonyms Satvirya and Dasavirya. Ayurvedic literature considers it as a powerful Rasayana, drug capable of improving memory power, intelligence and physical strength and maintaining youthfulness. It is well known for its effect on the female reproductive system. Being a rasayana or rejuvenating herb, its restorative action is beneficial in woman's complaints. The roots of plant have been referred as bitter-sweet, emollient, cooling, nervine tonic, constipating, aphrodisiac, diuretic, carminative and antiseptic (Chaudhary and Kar, 1992). The powdered dried root exhibits galactogogic properties. It is served as a potential stimulator for early restoration of milk production without any adverse effect. (Dalvi et al., 1990 and Priya and Vijayalakshmi, 1998). The alcoholic extract of A. racemosus has been shown to increase the prolactin levels in female rats (Sabins et al., 1966). The juice of fresh root of A. racemosus is recommended in duodenal ulcers (Kishore et al., 1980). The plant is also used for skin diseases, wounds and as demulcent in dyspepsia. The aqueous root extract possess immunoadjuvant potential (Gautam et al., 2004). Roots of A.racemosus were found to possess antioxidant and anti-ADH activity (Kamat et al., 2000 and Wiboonpun et al., 2004), antitumour and anticancer activity (Senna et al., 1993; Shao et al., 1996; Dhuley, 1997 and Diwanay et al., 2004), anti-ulcerogenic activity (Datta et al., 2002), anti-inflammatory activity (Mandal et al., 1998) and antimicrobial activity (Mandal et al., 2000). A. racemosus has immense importance in the indigenous systems of medicine, because of its wide variety of uses. The plant is rather variable and three varieties are generally recognized although not distinguished in trade 1. Asparagus racemosus var. racemosus Willd. 2. Asparagus racemosus var. javanicus Baker. 3. Asparagus racemosus var. subacerosa. Comparative morphological characters of A. racemosus Willd. and A. officinalis L. are presented in Table 3. Anatomical characterization of Asparagus racemosus Willd. Anatomical characterization is an important part of pharmacognostical studies as it provides for quick field identification.