At the time of the Roman Empire there was a spice used to treat health problems ranging from respiratory disorders to hysteria. Today it is still used in modern herbal medicine for the treatment of hysteria and some respiratory problems such as bronchitis, asthma and whooping cough.
It is called asafetida, and is an antispasmodic, expectorant, carminative, sedative and natural laxative.Asafoetida is a hard and resinous rubber derived from a perennial fennel plant that is greyish-white when fresh, but darkens with age to yellow-red and finally brown.
The asafoetida comes from the dried sap extracted from the stem and the roots of a plant species belonging to the carrot family and used as a spice. The resin is difficult to grate and is traditionally crushed between two stones or with a hammer.Today, the most commonly available form is asafetida, a fine powder containing 30% antioxidant resin along with rice flour and gum arabic.
A basic ingredient in Indian vegetarian cuisine, asafoetida is generally combined with legumes such as lentils and dishes with vegetables such as cauliflower. When used in the kitchen, it evokes a taste similar to an onion or leek.
5 Uses of Assafetida
From the medical point of view, there is some scientific evidence that the chemicals present in asafoetida could even help treat irritable bowel syndrome, which nowadays affects over 10% of the population globally.
But that’s not all – this rubbery resin has a number of health benefits that we see below.
- Helps treat irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome generally causes severe symptoms, including one or more of the following: alternating diarrhea and constipation, bloating and cramping, intestinal gas, abdominal pain, painful bowel movements, mucous secretions and undigested food in the stool.
Asafoetida has been studied and found to be a successful homeopathic remedy for those who suffer from this syndrome.A 14-week study treated patients with irritable bowel syndrome; one group with asafetida and the other with a placebo.
The results showed that the subjects who took the homeopathic asafoetida remedy improved to a greater extent than those who took the placebo.
Furthermore, asafoetida is specifically recommended for those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, who suffers from constipation alternating with watery diarrhea, a bloated stomach with a lot of gas and a feeling of heaviness like a lump in the throat that is relieved by swallowing.These symptoms get worse especially after eating, during the night and lying down on the left side, while they are relieved by the movement in the open air.
- Reduces flatulence
Asafoetida has traditionally been used to expel air from the stomach. In other words, it is an antiflatulent agent (gas reducer) that is used to relieve and prevent excessive intestinal gas.
It is commonly associated with lentils and other legumes to reduce post-meal gas and keep flatulence under control.
- A relief for asthma
As a powerful respiratory and expectorant stimulant, asafetida helps to release the phlegm and relieve chest congestion naturally. It is used to treat asthma, pertussis and bronchitis .
The volatile oil in asafoetida gum is eliminated through breathing passing through the lungs, which is why it is considered to be an excellent treatment for asthma and other respiratory problems.
- Lower blood pressure
Asafoetida is a natural anticoagulant and can help lower blood pressure. It is rich in coumarin , a compound that helps improve blood flow and thin the blood, thus preventing blood from clotting.
Scientists were able to isolate some phytochemicals in Ferula species (the source of asafetida) that have useful cardiovascular effects ( 2 ).
Animal studies have shown that this extract significantly reduces blood pressure. The rubber extract appears to contain relaxing compounds that have a positive effect on blood pressure and cardiovascular health, in general, thanks in part to these phytonutrients .
- Blood sugar control
Animal studies have shown that asafoetida can be a natural and effective remedy for keeping blood sugar levels under control and maintaining a normal blood sugar level.
Asafoetida extract was administered to diabetic animals with a dose of 50 milligrams per kilogram for 4 weeks, the researchers observed a hypoglycemic effect .
The study concluded that this effect is probably due to the presence of phenolic acids, in particular ferulic acid and tannins present in asafetida extract ( 4 ).
The first reports indicate that Alexander the Great brought asafoetida to the West in the 4th century BC
It was used as a spice in ancient Rome, and although it is not native to India, it has been used for centuries in Indian medicine and cuisine.Today it is mainly used in southern and western India, commonly from the mercantile caste of the Hindus and the followers of Jainism, who do not eat onions and garlic.
Asafoetida, a gummy resin much loved in India and Iran, is obtained mainly from the plant Ferula assafetida . This herbaceous plant belongs to the Umbelliferae family and the resin comes from the rhizome and root of the plant.The asafetida also known as fetid fennel is also known as “food of the gods”, “Jowani badian”, “stinky gum”, “devil manure”, “devil dung”, “hengu”, “kayam”, “hing” , “Ting” and “ingu”.
This spice is made from about 4% to 20% volatile oil, from 40% to 60% resin and 25% rubber.
In the oil there are: vanillin, cadinene and pinene, while in the resin: ferulic acid, umbelliferone, foetidina, kamolonol and asaresinotannol.The common name “assafetida” comes from the fusion of the Persian term Farsi aza , which means resin and, from the Latin word foetius , which means an extremely unpleasant smell (fetid).
Native to central Asia, in the territory that goes from eastern Iran to Afghanistan. Today it is cultivated mainly in these two countries, from where it is exported to the rest of the world.The essential component of the “ferula assafetida” oil contains a variety of odorous compounds with a high percentage of these sulfur-containing compounds.
The amazing sulfur smell of asafoetida was first thought to calm hysteria and, in the days of the American wild west, it was included in a mixture together with other strong spices as a cure for alcoholism.
Given its strong pungent odor, it is surprising but true that it is also commonly used as a fragrance component in perfumesUsing a pinch of asafoetida in a dish you will only add a calorie to your meal without fat, cholesterol, sodium and sugar.
How to use asafoetida
Assafetida will probably not be available at your local store, but it is not expensive and is readily available online.
It could also be found at some specialty stores, especially Indian or Middle Eastern stores. In its raw form and in most powders, it is gluten-free, but pay attention to the lower quality varieties that are sometimes mixed with wheat flour.If you buy asafoetida as a spice, it is essential to keep it in an airtight container, away from light and heat sources. This also keeps its strong sulfur odor.
It is most commonly available as a powder or granule that can be added directly to any dish. It is also sold in pieces that must be crushed before use.It is a very powerful spice and even in its fundamental state it lasts well over a year if properly stored.
Do not be disgusted by its pungent smell (of sulfur) because it will dissipate with cooking. Asafoetida should be used in minimal quantities to add a unique and beneficial health to your kitchen. It is generally used in many dishes with lentils, vegetarian stews and soups.
It can also be tasty in fish dishes. In terms of tastes, it’s not very pleasant on its own – it’s like a concentrated garlic or onion flavor. However, once cooked, it adds a pleasant onion or leek flavor to the dishes.
Medical asafetida is available as a supplement in various forms, including tincture or in capsules.
Possible side effects
- Asafoetida is considered safe for most people when consumed in quantities commonly found in foods.
- However, excessive consumption can cause nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and urination problems.
- It should never be taken by pregnant or nursing women and by children.
- It can be potentially lethal or cause a blood disease when taken by children.
- If used for prolonged periods by premenopausal women, it can cause irregular menstruation.
- There is no clinical evidence to support the assaxetida dosage recommendations, but commonly a daily dose of 200 to 500 milligrams of resin is used for medicinal purposes.
- Do not take it in cases of bleeding disorders, epilepsy or blood pressure problems (low or high).
- It may irritate the gastrointestinal tract, so consult with your doctor first if you have any health problems.
- It is possible that asafoetida slows down blood clotting, so stop taking it at least two weeks before any scheduled surgery.
- Also avoid if you are taking blood thinners or hypertension drugs.
- Asafoetida is a hard and resinous rubber derived from a perennial fennel plant that has been used since the Roman Empire as an antispasmodic, expectorant, carminative, sedative and laxative.
- This spice is an excellent substitute for garlic and onion, with just a pinch it adds a calorie to your meal without fat, cholesterol, sodium and sugar.
- It has been shown to provide relief from asthma, reduce blood pressure, is a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome, controls blood sugar and reduces flatulence.
- It is generally used in many dishes with lentils, vegetarian stews and soups. Also tasty with fish dishes. The asafoetida is not very pleasant on its own, it tastes like rotten garlic or onion – however, once cooked, it adds a pleasant onion or leek flavor to the dishes.