Food of the Gods: Asafoetida

Asafoetida or HingWith its characteristic obnoxious yucky smell, Asafoetida is an important ingredient used in Indian vegetarian cuisine. Used primarily in specific (Indian) vegetarian societies where garlic and onions are strictly taboo, asafoetida or hing (as popularly known in India), is used to enhance the flavour of dishes.  Wondering, how a foul smelling spice can actually flavour food?  Well, the fact remains, that when added to hot oil or ghee, asafoetida dissipates imparting a nice mouth-watering aroma suggestive of a dash of onion-garlic combination.  Nonetheless, although known as ‘Devils Dung’ in some parts of the world, this herb-spice is also referred to as ‘Food of the Gods’, considering its innumerable therapeutic and curative powers.

Botanical Classification

A perennial plant the name ‘Asafoetida’ is derived from a concoction of Persian word indicating ‘Aza’- meaning ‘resin,’ along with the  Latin word ‘foetid’, denoting the foul and smelly nature of the spice. However, there are other common names attached to this herb that include ‘Laser’, ‘Food of the Gods’, ‘Devil’s Dung’, and ‘Giant Fennel’. Bearing the botanical name ‘Ferula asafoetida’, the plant belongs to the family of Ferula (indicating carter or vehicle in Latin ) Asafoetida  is a member of the Apiaceous or Umbelliferae plant which also  include fennel, caraway, celery, dill, parsley, lovage and carrots. They generally grow up to a height of two feet.  However at times they reach a height of six feet producing bunches of bright yellow flowers.



Native to India, the Mediterranean region and the Middle East, Asafoetida is a gum extracted from the sap of the Giant fennel plant. One of the oldest spices, since ancient times, Asafoetida has been in use in Rome and Persia. It was used as a medicinal herb in Ancient Rome, where it was taken in combination with garlic to get rid of various medical conditions. A mere gum extracted from the sap of the of the Giant fennel plant this is widely used as a spice in countries like India and Afghanistan. A gastronomic delight this Devils Dung offers a host of medicinal benefits certainly making them The Food of the Gods.


Chemical Components

100 grams of Asafoetida comprises of fibre 4.1% minerals 7.0% carbohydrates 67.8%; moisture 16.0%, protein 4.0%, fat 1.1%, and its vitamin and mineral contents include significant amounts of calcium besides phosphorus, niacin iron, carotene and riboflavin. It contains 297 calories and about forty- sixty-four percentage resinous material  made up of ferulic acid. The most important compound responsible for its typical stench is the organic sulphur, found as part of its essential oil, similar to that of garlic, which consists of allyl, per sulphide, and two turpenes for which it is usually replaced with in food preparations


Medical properties
Chemical Components Therapeutic Properties
Isopimpinellin,Apinene, aterpineol, diallyl disulfide, Luteolin, fewlic acid, umbelliferone, vanillin Anticancer
Apinene, azulene, 3pinene, Ferulic  acid, isopimpinellin; luteolin, umbelliferone Anti-inflammatory
Luteohn Antileukemic
Diallyl sulfide, ferulic acid luteolin, umbelliferone, vanillin Antimutagenic
ferulicacid Antineoplastic
Diallyldisulfide, diallylsulfide, Ferulicacid, luteolin; vanillin Antitumor
apinene, diallyldisulfide, ferulic cid, luteolin, vanillin Antiviral
apinene, aterpineol, azulene, diallyldisulfide, diallylsulfide, ferulicacid, luteolin, umbelliferone Antibacterial
Azulene, ferulicacid, luteolin, umbelliferone, valericacid Antispasmodic
aterpineol, azulene, 3pinene, diallylsulfide, umbelliferone Antiseptic
Ferulicacid, luteolin Hepatoprotective
Ferulicacid Antinitrosaminic
Ferulicacid luteolin, vanillin Antioxidant
Ferulicacid Antiaggregant
apinene, valencacid Tranquilizer
Diallyldisulfide Antiproliferative
Luteohn Apoptotic
Fenilicacid, luteolin Anticarcinogenic
Diallyldisulfide, ferulicacici Immunostimulant
Ferulicacid, glucuronicacid Antihepatotoxic
Umbelliferone Antiprostaglandin
Luteolin Antihyaluronidase
Luteolin Cytotoxic
Luteolin PTK-lnhibitor
Luteohn, umbelhferone Lipoxygenase-i inhibitor
Azulene Antiulcer
apinene, alphaterpineol valeric cid Sedative
Diallyldisulfide, luteolin Anti-HIV
Ferulicacid Omithine-Decarboxylase- Inhibitor
Luteolin 13-Glucuronidase-Inhibitor


Therapeutic Uses and Benefits of Asafoetida
Respiratory Health

Asafoetida or Hing for AsthmaThe condiment and spice is valued for its support towards respiratory disorders such as bronchitis, whooping cough and asthma. A mixture of asafoetida combined with two teaspoons each of onion juice and honey, along with a spoon of betel juice proves very effective providing instantaneous relief. According to ancient folklore medicine, a bag containing asafoetida combined with an overpowering smelly substance hung around the neck of a child suffering from cold offers remedy.


Asafoetida for Digestive Health

Hing for IndigestionAsafoetida has been popular as grandmas remedy for indigestion, for a long time now.  Hence, it is an important ingredient used in ayurvedic preparations. Containing carminative properties, they promote digestive health and provide immense relief from gastritis, indigestion, flatulence, colic, stomach pain, intestinal worms and irritable bowel syndrome.  Consumed with buttermilk, Asafoetida offers rapid respite from flatulence as Asafoetida eases the growth of micro flora in the intestines. In India therefore, this spice is used liberally in curries using lentils, to augment digestion. Besides facilitating digestion, asafoetida also helps enhance taste and boosts appetite.


Cancer Prevention

Asafoetida contains anticarcinogenic properties such as Fenilicacid and luteolin that protect and inhibit the development of infected cancer cells.


Cholesterol Health

Due to asafoetida’s hypotensive benefits, the gum was used during ancient times, as a remedial measure to treat hypertensive patients. Besides, the sulphur and the cur cumin substances present in the gum prevents thickening of the blood and facilitates circulatory health thus acting as a natural blood thinner. In addition, certain anticoagulant properties present in the spice guard against rising triglycerides and blood cholesterol levels caused because of fatty food consumption. Taking asafoetida combined with juice of bitter gourd is beneficial for blood sugar control, which is one of the main contributing factors towards Cholesterol.



Make a paste using a teaspoon each of camphor, dried ginger and asafoetida to two teaspoons of cubeb along with milk Apply this remedial stuff on forehead to set right migraine and tension headaches.


Women’s Health

Asafoetida boosts progesterone secretion, therefore provides relief from reproductive problems such as infertility, irregular menstruation, excessively painful Dysmenorrhoea and pre-mature labour. About 12 centigrams of gum fried in ghee mixed with 120 grams of goat’s fresh milk and a tablespoon of honey, taken thrice every day for a month enables effective secretion of progesterone hormone. For alleviating Dysmenorrhoea or painful menstruation, consume a cup of buttermilk mixed with a pinch of asafoetida, salt along with half a teaspoon of fenugreek powder.  Furthermore, regular intake of asafoetida fried in ghee on an everyday basis helps diminish the pain and discomfort accompanying menstrual periods during postpartum.


Male Impotence

Natural remedies using this medicinal herb help assuage sexual dysfunction. For problems connected with impotency a piece of asafetida fried in ghee may be taken before sunrise, for about a month and a half, in combination with honey and the gum procured from the banyan tree.


Asafoetida Benefits for Neurological Health

Besides being effective for physical ailments, this medical herb also aids emotional health.  Hence, was most commonly recommended by herbalists for treating neurological disorders as the spice contains sedative properties that promote sleep.  Therefore, it helps alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety disorders, panic attacks and mood swings.  Besides, inhaling the fumes of Asafoetida gets rid of hysteric attacks.


Other Uses of Asafoetida
  • A thick emulsion of the herb applied on the infected area provides instant relief from snake and insect bites.
  • Mixed with limejuice it is one of the most useful remedies for treating toothache.
  • In the aromatherapy process, the essential oil of Asafoetida is highly valuable.
  • In order to improve the quality of a singer’s voice, a mixture of this medicinal herb taken with butter imparts a deep timbre.
  • Rubbing this spice in the affected areas cures corns.
  • Because of its offensive smelly nature, Asafoetida is used as one of the ingredients in certain mosquito and insect repellents.
  • Asafoetida acts as an antidote for opium to counteract the effect of the drug



–   In certain people, Asafoetida may aggravate symptoms of gastritis causing vomiting, queasiness, diarrhoea, flatulence, bloating, belching, and swelling on the lips along with irritation in the throat combined with a burning sensation. During infection of the GI tract, this medicinal herb can cause stomach irritation.

–    In women, an overdose of this spice can result in menstrual irregularities. Since it contains abortifascient properties, it has a tendency to bring on abortion.

–    Stay away from asafoetida during lactation period and pregnancy.

–    Avoid administering to children, as it is likely to cause blood disorders.

–    It is wise to avert this spice while taking hypertensive drugs.

–   Due to its anticoagulant nature people with blood disorders ought to refrain from taking this spice as it has a tendency to delay blood clotting.

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