Asafoetida (Ferula foetida) is renowned for its peculiar aroma. It is, therefore, extensively used in South Asian cuisines for different flavoring dishes. But apart from being a spice, Asafoetida is a powerful digestive aid.
Ayurveda uses asafoetida to cure an array of diseases related to digestion. It is also very beneficial for the heart, liver, eyes, and brain. It also shows analgesic, relaxant, anti-hypertensive, expectorant, anthelminthic, and antimicrobial activity. Let’s learn the benefits and properties of this indispensable spice of the Indian kitchen.
Asafoetida – All you need to know
The Sanskrit name of asafoetida is ‘Hingu.’ It means that herb which can be recognized just by its sharp and penetrating smell.
Hingu is a perennial herb that can grow up to 5-8 feet tall. It has thick, massive, pulpy, carrot-shaped roots. The stem is thick, hollow, and filled with a resinous gum. Leaves are long, ovate shaped with irregular margins. Flowers of Hingu are small, dirty yellow, and grow in an umbel arrangement. Hingu fruits are oval, flat, and reddish-brown that contains milky substance.
The useful part of the Hingu plant is its resin (exudate) which is extracted from the roots and stems. The original resin is gummy and has different sizes and shapes.
Its surface is smooth, dull opaque, ranging from light brown to chocolate in color. On breaking, it exposes a translucent, waxy surface with numerous cavities containing glossy resinous material.
Properties of Asafoetida
Asafoetida tastes pungent and bitter. It is sharp-acting, light to digest, and shows the heating effect on the body. Asafoetida balances vata and kapha dosha and increases pitta dosha.
Asafoetida comprises of 40-65% resin, 20-25% gum, and 4-20% volatile oil. These elements contain phytoconstituents which imparts protective and disease-preventive properties to asafoetida.
What are the benefits of Asafoetida?
Asafoetida is being used as a spice and medicine in India and Iran for centuries. But many recent pieces of research have also found the following benefits of asafoetida –
Maintains your gut health
Undoubtedly, Asafoetida is the most potent aid to the digestive system. It strengthens digestive fire, improves appetite, and stimulates the secretion of bile and gastric enzymes. It also repairs weak digestion and dispels intestinal gas.
Asafoetida is an effective age-old home remedy to treat several digestive disorders like flatulence, bloating, and constipation. It is added while cooking lentils and pulses as they cause the formation of gases in the intestine.
Protects liver toxicity
Nowadays, junk foods, drinks, synthetic drugs, even polluted water, and air has become a part of our daily life. Many of these are toxic to health, primarily to the liver.
Asafoetida cleanses your liver, destroys toxins, and keeps the amount of serum enzymes under control. Thereby, it maintains a healthy metabolic activity and prevents the body from toxicity.
Calms your mind
Ayurveda often uses asafoetida in treating mental disorders as it is an excellent nervine tonic. It works as a sedative and relaxes hyperactive nerves. It is a good, natural option to relieve depression, anxiety, epilepsy, hysteria, and other nervous disorders.
Expels out cough
Asafoetida shows relaxant and expectorant activity. It relaxes constricted bronchial smooth muscles, eases breathing as well as expels out phlegm from the lungs. Therefore, it is beneficial in treating whooping cough, asthma, bronchitis, tuberculosis, and various other respiratory disorders.
Using asafoetida to relieve stomach-ache is one of the most useful home remedies in India. It is because of the antispasmodic and analgesic effect of asafoetida. It is very beneficial in treating stomach aches, joint pain, migraines, headache, and earache.
Tonic for your heart and eyes
It is lesser-known that asafoetida shows a cardio-protective effect. Its relaxant activity relaxes blood vessels, controls blood pressure, and ensures proper circulation. Thus, it reduces the strain of heart muscles for efficient pumping of blood.
Also, asafoetida increases pitta dosha (fire element). Maintaining eye health is one of the crucial functions of pitta dosha. Therefore, asafoetida is very beneficial for eyesight and treats various eye disorders.
How to use Asafoetida?
Using asafoetida in a daily diet is the best way to keep digestion related disorders at bay. It is best to fry asafoetida in ghee before using it. This enhances the effectiveness of asafoetida. Here are some ways to avail medicinal benefits of asafoetida –
- Daily consumption of ghee processed with asafoetida resin gum is very useful in mental disorders. For this, add one part of asafoetida paste in 4 parts of ghee and 16 parts of water. Let it boil until all the water evaporates. Using this ghee acts as a nervine stimulant
- You can get relief from earache by instilling two drops of asafoetida oil in the affected ear
- You can improve your appetite with asafoetida. For this, fry a pinch of asafoetida in ghee. Take it with a piece of crushed ginger along with a glass of buttermilk. Do this twice a day
- If you suffer from toothache, then place a granule of asafoetida fried in ghee in the carious tooth
- If your child or infant has a stomach ache, then stir and dissolve asafoetida in water. Apply it on and around the navel area. You can also apply this remedy to cure joint pain, migraine, and headache
- If you are suffering from bloating and abdominal pain regularly, then asafoetida could be of great help. Take 1 gram asafoetida fried in ghee with buttermilk twice a day
What is the recommended dose of Asafoetida?
Asafoetida is a very sharp acting drug and hence, should be used in a limited amount. It is advisable to use only 125 – 500 mg of asafoetida powder in a day for oral intake. If you are using it as a spice for flavoring lentils and beans, use only a small pinch of asafoetida.
Side effects of Asafoetida
Asafoetida used rightfully does not have any side effects. But in large doses, it can cause swelling of mouth, anxiety, headache, dizziness, nausea, and diarrhea. Pregnant ladies should use asafoetida with caution.
Asafoetida is an amazing digestive aid, anthelminthic, anti-hypertensive, expectorant, pain reliever, cardiac, and nervine tonic. The incredible medicinal benefits of asafoetida are well known in the South Asian regions.
Hence, it has become a daily part of their cuisine. But its medicinal powers are yet to be explored by a larger part of the globe.