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Nutrition Basics


(Ferula Asafoetida)

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  • Asafoetida Description
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  • asafoetida plant



    Asafoetida (Ferula asafoetida) is also known as Devil's Dung, Devil's herb, Hing and Narthex. From early times, Asafoetida has been held in great esteem amongst indigenous Indian medicine men. It is the pungent odor of this resin that is the cause for some of its other strange names (including those above), such as Stinking Gum, Asant, Food of the Gods, Hingu, Heeng, Giant Fennel and Jowani Badian. The name Asafoetida is derived from the Persian word for "resin" and the Latin word for "stinking". The herb is a native of Persia, but has been cultivated in Europe and India for over 2,000 years. Asafoetida is grown mostly in the mountains of Iran and Afghanistan, and is mainly cultivated in nearby India from where it is exported to the rest of the world.

    Asafoetida is the dried latex (gum oleoresin) exuded from the living underground rhizome or tap root of several species of Ferula. The resin-like gum comes from the dried sap and is used as a spice. The resin is greyish-white when fresh but dires to a dark amber color. The Asafoetida resin is difficult to grate and is traditionally crushed between stones or with a hammer. Today, the most commonly available form is compounded Asafoetida, a fine powder containing 30-percent asafoetida resin, along with rice flour and gum arabic.

    asafoetida plant

    Asafoetida is a perennial herb that grows wild from about 1 to 2 meters (40 to 80 inches) and up to 6 to 12 feet high with a circular mass of 30 to 40 centimeter leaves. It is found in large natural forests where little else grows. It has fine leaves and pale greenish-yellow flowers produces in large compound umbels. Fruits are oval, flat, thin, reddish brown and have a milky juice. Stem leaves have wide sheathing petioles. Flowering stems are 2.5 to 3 meters high and 10 centimeters (4 inches) thick and hollow, with a number of schizogenous ducts in the cortex containing the resinous gum. The roots are thick, massive and pulpy and also yield a similar resin to that of the stems, it is said the roots look like carrots. All parts of the plant have a distinctive stinky smell. The juice of the plant is not collected till the plant is at least four years old. In the spring, March and April, just before the flowering occurs, the stalks are cut close to the root. The plant can yield up to 2 pounds of resin out of the root once it is pulled out and dried up. Asafoetida has a pungent, strong fetid smell when raw, but in coked dishes, it delivers a smooth flavor, reminescent of leeks.

    In Indian and Persian cuisines this herbs is used to flavor pickles and it often finds its way into foods of these nations as a condiment. To cook with asafoetida, one would heat oil or butter in a pan and then add a small amount of the asafoetida dried herbs to the fat to saute. Dishes featuring vegetables or lentils are the usual ones in which ferula assa-foetida organic herbs are used to best effect. For those who cannot eat onion or garlic yet enjoy the taste, asafoetida herbs can take their flavorful place. Because of its strong scent when uncooked, it is wise to store it in an airtight container so that it does not impart its aroma to other nearby food products.

    asafoetida resin



    In Ayurvedic medicine, Asafoetida is used to treat a variety of ailments. Asafoetida is used in the treatment of hysteria, nervous disorders, flatulence, flatulent colic, digestion, and spasmodic affections of the bowels. It is also used to treat whooping cough, pneumonia, bronchitis, and asthma as well. In Ayurvedic, Western, and Chinese medicine this resin is effective in treating worms and other intestinal parasites. Asafoetida has reputation for expelling wind from the stomach and relieves stomach spasms. In the 19th century it was commonly used to treat hysterical women with mood swings, depression, a digestive weakness. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is highly regarded as a condiment and medicinal remedy for various conditions. Traditional Chinese herbalists say this resin enters the liver, spleen, and stomach channels where it stimulates the intestinal, respiratory, and nervous systems. Asafoetida has digestive, sedative, stimulant, antispasmodic, expectorant, emmenagogue (promoting menstrual discharge), and vermifuge (expelling worms or other parasites in the intestines) properties.


    Asafoetida spice is used as a digestive aid, in food as a condiment, and in pickles. It typically works as a flavor enhancer and, used along with turmeric, is a standard component of Indian cuisine, particularly in lentil curries, such as dal, or various 'Pappu' like dosakaya, mamidikaya or tomato pappu. as well as in numerous vegetable dishes. It is especially widely used in South Indian cuisine, which is mainly vegetarian, and is often used to harmonize sweet, sour, salty and spicy components in food. It is used to hallmark the taste of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu sambar, a saucy dish made with cereals and lentils. The spice is added to the food at the time of Chaunk / Popu/ tadka. Sometimes dried and ground Asafoetida (in very mild quantity) can be mixed with salt and eaten with raw salad. In its pure form, its odor is so strong the aroma will contaminate other spices stored nearby if it is not stored in an airtight container. Many commercial preparations of Asafoetida utilize the resin ground up and mixed with a larger volume of wheat flour. The mixture is sold in sealed plastic containers with a small hole at the bottom, allowing the diluted spice to be dusted lightly over the food being cooked. However, its odor and flavor become much milder and more pleasant upon heating in oil or ghee, acquiring a taste and aroma reminiscent of sauteed onion and garlic.


    Antiflatulent: Asafoetida reduces the growth of indigenous microflora in the gut, reducing flatulence.

    Fighting Influenza: Asafoetida was used in 1918 to fight the Spanish influenza pandemic. In 2009, scientists at the Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan reported that the roots of Asafoetida produce natural antiviral drug compounds that kill the swine flu virus, H1N1. In an article published in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Natural Products, the researchers said the compounds "may serve as promising lead components for new drug development" against this type of flu.

    Wound Healing: In Thailand and India, Asafoetida is used to aid digestion and is smeared on the abdomen in an alcohol or water tincture known as mahahing. Asafoetida in this tincture form was evidently used in western medicine as a topical treatment for abdominal injuries during the 18th and 19th centuries, although when it came into use in the West and how long it remained in use is uncertain. One notable case in which it was used is that of Canadian Coureur des bois Alexis St. Martin, who in 1822 suffered a severe abdominal injury from an accidental shooting, which perforated his right lung and stomach, and shattered several ribs. St Martin was treated by American army surgeon William Beaumont, who subsequently used St Martin as the subject of a pioneering series of experiments in gastric physiology, thanks to the fact that when St Martin's wounds fully healed, it left an open fistula into the stomach which enabled Beaumont to insert various types of food directly into St Martin's stomach and record the results. In his account of his treatment of and later experiments on St Martin, Beaumont recorded that he treated the suppurating chest wound with a combination of wine mixed with diluted muriatic acid, and 30 to 40 drops of tincture of Asafoetida, applied three times a day, and that this appeared to have the desired effect, helping the wound to heal.

    Asthma & Bronchitis: Asafoetida is also said to be helpful in cases of asthma and bronchitis. A folk tradition remedy for children's colds: it is mixed into a pungent-smelling paste and hung in a bag around the afflicted child's neck.

    Antimicrobial: Asafoetida has a broad range of uses in traditional medicine as an antimicrobial, with well documented uses for treating chronic bronchitis and whooping cough, as well as reducing flatulence.

    Contraceptive / Abortifacient: Asafoetida has also been reported to have contraceptive/abortifacient activity, and is related to (and considered an inferior substitute for) the ancient Ferula species Silphium.

    Antiepileptic: Asafoetida oleo-gum-resin has been reported to be antiepileptic in classical Unani, as well as ethnobotanical literature.

    Balancing Vata & Kapha: In Ayurveda, asafoetida is considered to be one of the best spices for balancing the vata dosha. It mitigates vata and kapha, relieves flatulence and colic pain. It is pungent taste and at the end of digestion. It aggravates pitta, enhances appetite, taste and digestion. It is easy to digest. (Reference: Ashtanga Hridaya Su chapter 6).


    In the Jammu region of India, Asafoetida is used as a medicine for flatulence and constipation by 60 percent of locals. It is used especially by the merchant caste of the Hindus and by adherents of Jainism and Vaishnavism, particularly in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra, who do not eat onions or garlic. It is used in many vegetarian and lentil dishes to add both flavor and aroma, as well as to reduce flatulence.


    Bait: John C Duval reported in 1936 that the odor of Asafoetida is attractive to the wolf, a matter of common knowledge, he says, along the Texas-Mexico border. It is also used as one of several possible scent baits, most notably for catfish and pike. May also be used as a moth (Lepidoptera) light trap attractant by collectors when mixed by approximately 1 part to 3 parts with a sweet, fruit jelly.

    Rituals & Repelling Spirits: In Jamaica, Asafoetida is traditionally applied to a baby's anterior fontanel (Jamaican patois mole) to prevent spirits (Jamaican patois duppies) from entering the baby through the fontanel. In the African-American Hoodoo tradition, Asafoetidais used in magic spells, as it is believed to have the power both to protect and to curse. In ceremonial magick, especially from The Key of Solomon the King, it is used to protect the magus from demonic forces and to evoke the same and bind them.

    asafoetida powder

    RITUAL USES OF ASAFOETIDA (Ferula foetida)

    Folk Names: Assyfetida, Devil's Dung, Food of the Gods
    Part Uses - Incense: Gum
    Substitute: Tobacco, Valerian
    Scent: Overpowering, rotten meat, dung
    Gender: Masculine
    Planet: Mars (Saturn)
    Element: Fire (Earth)
    Powers: exorcism, purification, protection

    Magical Uses: Burn in small amounts in exorcism and protection incenses. Also use in protection sachets, but only if you want to smell odd. Destroys manifestations or spirits if thrown onto a fire or into the censer during magical rites. Sometimes used as an amulet to keep away colds and fevers, and for this purpose is usually worn around the neck. Used ritually for consecration, endings, exorcism, overcoming opposition, protection, psychic protection, release, spell breaking. The old grimores relied heavily on Asafoetida as an ingredient in spells of exorcism and black magic. Its smell is so offensive, however, that its use has been almost eliminated in recent years.

    Unfortunately, though Asafoetida is undoubtedly powerful, it also has a particularly horrid odor. Just the slightest suggestion of the fragrance has caused vomiting, Use with care and in a well-ventilated area.



    Asafoetida comes in various forms and is an ingredient in many products. For best results, read and follow product label directions.

    Typical Asafoetida contains about 40 to 64 percent resin, 25 percent endogeneous gum, 10 to 17 percent volatile oil, and 1.5 to 10 percent ash. The resin portion is known to contain asaresinotannols 'A' and 'B', ferulic acid, umbelliferone and four unidentified compounds.



    There are no known safety issues or interactions associated with Asafoetida when taken in the recommended doses.

    The only safety issue noted is when used as a spice. It is said by some that it takes a brave person to use Asafoetida as a spice on your food.


  • Asafoetida Herbal Products

  • asafoetida products


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    Ayurvedic Herbs Direct: Vata Digest - Hingvastak, Banyan Botanicals, 500 mg, 90 Tabs
    Indigestion and flatulence are two common symptoms of vata aggravation. The cold, dry and light qualities of vata weaken the digestive fire and inhibit the large intestines ability to properly absorb nutrients and maintain regularity. Hingvastak is the traditional formula used to balance vata due to its heating quality. The herbs enkindle the digestive fire, warm the intestinal tract and promote regularity. Each 500 mg tablet contains Cumin seed, Ajamoda seed, Black Cumin seed, Ginger root, Black Pepper fruit, Pippali fruit, Mineral Salt, Asafoetida, and Fenugreek.
    Ayurvedic Herbs Direct: Para Cleanse, Banyan Botanicals, 500 mg, 90 Tabs
    Para Cleanse is a synergistic combination of the most effective antiparasitic herbs in the Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia. This formula helps rid the gastrointestinal tract of unwanted parasites and eliminates the toxins on which they feed. It is also useful for digestive complaints associated with foreign travel. Each 500 mg tablet contains Vidanga fruit, Neem leaf, Kataja bark, Ajamoda seed, Amalaki fruit, Bibhitaki fruit, Haritaki fruit, Black Pepper fruit, Ginger root, Pippali fruit, Asafoetida, and Fenugreek.


    Starwest Botanicals: Asafoetida Powder (Ferula assa-foetida), 1 lb.
    Asafoetida powder and a maximum of 60 percent fenugreek seeds.


    HerbsPro: Asafoetida Extract, Natures Answer, 1 fl. oz.


    Kalyx: Asafoetida Powder (Ferula assa-foetida), Starwest Botanicals, 1 lb: C
    Kalyx: Chinese Asafoetida Herb 5:1 Extract Powder (Ferula sinkiangensis), Plum Flower, 100 Grams: V (Special Order)
    Kalyx: Chinese Asafoetida Whole Herb (Ferula sinkiangensis): Plum Flower, 500 Grams (1.17 lb): V (Special Order)
    Kalyx: Chinese Asafoetida Herb Powder (Ferula sinkiangensis): Plum Flower, 500 Grams (1.17 lb): V (Special Order)


    Amazon: Asafoetida Herbal Products

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