Asafoetida is a resinous gum of a tall perennial herb, with robust carrot-shaped roots. It is dirty yellow in colour with a pungent smell. It is used as a flavouring agent and forms a constituent of many spice mixtures. Asafoetida has several varieties which are distributed from the Mediterranean region to Central Asia. It is grown in Iran and Afghanistan. The other species, known botanically as Ferula northex, grow abundantly in Kashmir, Western Tibet and Afghanistan. It forms a good substitute for asafoetida.
An analysis of asafoetida shows it to consist of carbohydrates 67.8 per cent per 100 gms, moisture 16.0 per cent, protein 4.0 per cent, fat 1.1 per cent, minerals 7.0 per cent and fibre 4.1 per cent. Its mineral and vitamin contents include substantial calcium besides phosphorus, iron, carotene, riboflavin and niacin. Its calorific value is 297.
Asafoetida contains resin, gum, volatile oil and ash. The resin consists Chiefly of asaresinotennol, free or combined with ferulic acid. Umbelliferone seems to be present in the combined state.
Asafoetida has been held in great esteem amongst indigenous medicines from the earliest times in India. It is reputed as a drug which expels wind from the stomach and counteracts any spasmodic disorders. It is also a nervine stimulant, digestive agent and a sedative.
Asafoetida is useful in the treatment of respiratory disorders like whooping cough, asthma and bronchitis. About 3 to 6 centigrams of this gum, mixed with 2 teaspoons of honey, a quarter teaspoon of white onion juice and I teaspoon of betel leaf juice, taken thrice daily would keep the patient away from such disorders.
The herb is an effective remedy for hysteria. Inhaling this gum prevents hysterical attacks. An emulsion made by 2 grams of the gum with 120 mI of water is a valuable enema per rectum in treating hysteria, when oral dosage not advisable.
The herb is beneficial in the treatment of impotency. Aboaut 6 centigrams of asafoetida should be fried in ghee and mixed with honey and a teaspoon of fresh latex of banyan tree. This mixture should be taken once daily for 40 days before sunrise. It is also considered a specific medicine for spennatorrhoea and premature ejaculation.
The herb is extensively used in the treatment of nervous disorders of children. There is an old European belief that a small piece of this gum, hung around a child's neck, would protect it from many diseases, especially germs which are sensitive to its particular odour.
The herb is considered useful in the treatment of several problems concerning women such as sterility, unwanted abortion, pre-mature labour, unusually painful, difficult and excessive menstruation and leucorrhoea. About 12 centigrams of gum fried in ghee mixed with 120 grams of goat's fresh milk and a tablespoon of honey, should be given thrice daily for a month. It excites the secretion of progestrone hormone.
Asafoetida is also useful for women after childbirth. Owing to its antiflatulent and digestive properties, the herb can be taken with beneficial results during the post-delivery period. In southern India, the powder of the herb mixed with rice is given to women after delivery.
The herb is an effective remedy for several diseases of the stomach. It is one of the best remedies available for flatulence and is an essential ingredient for most of the digestive powders.
In case of flatulence and distension of the stomach, asafoetida should be dissolved in hot water and a pad of cloth steeped in it may be used for fomenting the abdomen.
Asafoetida is useful in alleviating toothache. After being pestled in lemon juice, it is slightly heated. A cotton piece, soaked in the lotion and placed in the cavity of the tooth, relieves pain quickly.
Preparation and Doses: Asafoetida fried in ghee is administered either as a solution, emulsion or pills. The dose is 30 to 90 centigrams. The solution is made by thoroughly mixing 20 grams of the gum with half a liter of hot water. The dosage for adults is one to two tablespoons and one-fourth to half for children.
Antidote of Opium: The herb is used as an antidote of opium. Given in the same quantity as opium ingested by the patient, it will counteract the effect of the drug.
The gum resin is relished as a condiment in India and Iran where it is used to flavour curries, meatballs, daI and pickles. It is used in Europe and the United States in perfumes and for flavouring. The whole plant is used as a fresh vegetable.