Asafoetida (Ferula asafoetida) is a dry latex or resinous gum of a tall perennial plant. This plant has a massive taproot or a carrot shaped root about 15 cm in diameter at the crown at about 4-5 years. The latex is collected in earthen vessels, dried and packaged in leather bags in the form of hing. This process is usually done before the plant flowers. It is a murky yellow, acrid and bitter to taste. It emits a strong, disagreeable, pungent, alliaceous odour due to the presense of sulphur compunds, which is possibly called the devil's dung abroad.
Origin & Distribution
The species are distributed from the Mediterranean region to Central Asia. In India it is grown in Kashmir and in some parts of Punjab. The major supply of asafoetida to India is from Afghanistan and Iran.
There are two main varieties of asafoetida ie. Hing Kabuli Sufaid (Milky white asafoetida) and Hing Lal (Red asafoetida). Asafoetida is acrid and bitter in taste and emits a strong disagreeable pungent odour due to the presence of sulphur compounds therein. It is available in three forms ie. ‘Tears’, ‘Mass’ and ‘Paste’. ‘Tears’, is the purest form of resin, rounded or flattened, 5 to 30 mm in diameter and a greyish or dull yellow in colour. ‘Mass’ asafoetida is the common commercial form, uniform in mass. ‘Paste’ form contains extraneous matter.
The white or pale variety is water soluble, whereas the dark or black variety is oil soluble.
Since pure asafoetida is not preferred due to its strong flavour, it is mixed with starch and gum and sold as compounded asafoetida mostly in bricket form. It is also available in free flowing (Powder form) or in tablet forms
Asafoetida has been widely used in various indigenous systems of medicine in India. It has been attributed properties to expel wind from the stomach and counteract many spasmodic disorders. It is also a nervine stimulant, digestive agent and a sedative. Recent studies have shownt hat asafoetida oil has antibiotic properties and inhibits growth of microbes.
In the body, asafoetida is absorbed from the intestines and due to various volatile oils, it is excreted through lungs, skin and kidneys, leaving a sedative effect. It excites the secretion of ovarian hormones and sex stimulating centres.
- Digestive Disorders
Incase of flatulence and distension of the stomach, asafoetida should be dissolved in hot water and a pad of cloth soaked in it may be used for formenting the abdomen. It can also be used as an enema for intestinal flatulence.
- Respiratory Disorders
It also has expectorant properties and helps remove catarrh and phlegm frmo the bronchial tube. About 3-6 centigrams of hing should e taken mixed with 2 teaspoons of honey, a quater teaspoon of white onion juice and 1 teaspoon of betel leaf juice, thrice daily. This mixture will be beneficial both for the prevention and treatment of these diseases. The smoke of the asafoetida can be inhaled through a pipe to relieve the paroxysm of asthma.
- Aches and Pains
2 grams of asafoetida dissolved in a tablespoon of coconut oil, when applied as an analgesic balm in rhematoid arthritis, mylagia, and traumatic swelling is greatly beneficial. A paste of asafoetida prepared with water or lime juice, aplied over wasp, bee and scorpion stings.
It is also great for relieving toothaches when it is pestled with lime juice and slightly heated, a cotton piece should be soaked in the solution and placed in the cavity. It works instantaneously.
- Sexual Impotence
It is powerful int he treatment of impotency. About 6 centigrams of this spice should be fried in ghee and mixed with honey and a teaspoon of fresh latex of the banyon tree. This mixture should be taken once daily for 40 days before sunrise.
- Intestinal Worms
It is regarded in Ayurvedic, and Chinese medicine as an effective remedy for worms and other intestinal parasites. It can also be administered as an enema.
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