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Asafoetida or heeng (Hindi) is a natural product obtained from an herb. It is used as spice in many cuisines, pickles and also as medicine. Asafoetida is olea gum resin of a plant Ferula foetida and allied species that grow in Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Pakistan and India(Kashmir). To know, how asafoetida is prepared, its botanical description, medicinal uses and caution, read on.
How Asafoetida is extracted
Ferula species have big tap roots or carrot shaped roots. These roots are 12 to 15 cm in diameter at crown. In March-April, just before flowering the upper part of living root is laid bare and the stem is cut off close to crown. The exposed part is covered. A milky juice or gum resin exudes from this cut part. This dries up and scraped. Then again, a fresh slice of root is cut for more latex, the collection of resin and slicing is repeated till exudation stops.
This gum resin (or asafoetida) is dried and available in many forms, like lumps, mass or paste. Mass asafoetida is common commercial form available.
Asafoetida contains organic sulfur compound, resins about 40-60%, about 25% gum and about 6-17% volatile oil.
Kingdom: Plantae, Division: Magnoliophyta, Class: Magnoliopsida, Family: Umbelliferae, Genus: Ferula, Species: Foetida
Latin name: Ferula foetida Regel. Synonym: Ferula asafoetida Linn.
- Ayurvedic: Hingu, Hinguka, Ramattha, Bahlika, Jatuka, Sahasravedhi, Vedhi, Badhika, Agudagandhu
- Sanskrit: Ramatha, Sahasravedhi
- Unani: Hilteet, Hing
- Siddha/Tamil: Perunkaayam, Perungayam
- English: Asafoetida
- Assam: Hin
- Bengali: Hing
- English: Asafoetida
- Gujarati: Hing, Vagharni
- Hindi: Hing, Hingda
- Kannada: Hingu, Ingu
- Kashmiri: Eng
- Malyalam: Kayam
- Marathi: Hing, Hira
- Oriya: Hengu, Hingu
- Punjabi: Hing
- Tamil: Perungayam
- Telugu: Inguva
Parts Used: Oleo gum resin extracted from the roots and rhizome.
Asafoetida plant species are native to Afghanistan and Iran. It is distributed throughout the Mediterranean region to Central Asia. In India it grows widely in Kashmir and in some parts of Punjab.
Description of the plant
Asafoetida plant is perennial and attains a height up to 12 feet in wild with a circular mass of 30-40 cm leaves. Flowering stems reach 2.5 to 3 m high. Flowering stems have many ducts in the cortex, containing resinous gums. The flowers are small and yellow colored. Fruits are oval, thin, flat, reddish brown in colour and contains milky substance. Roots are thick, massive and pulpy. The foul odour comes from the resin like gum extracted from the stems and roots.
Heeng or Asafoetida is hot and pungent. It is heating effect on the body. It reduces vata/wind and kapaha and increases pitta. It improves appetite and aids in digestion. Heeng contains essential oil that evaporates when applied externally on skin. It is stimulant, expels gas, antispasmodic, and anthelmintic.
Asafoetida is a great remedy for the digestive troubles. It is useful in abdominal distention, pain, cramping and gas, parasites, worms, difficult menstruation, pain, anxiety, nervousness, vertigo, anxiety, hysteria, worry, depression, lethargy, cough, asthma, arthritis, headaches, nerve pain, paralysis etc. It works on circulatory and digestive system.
Heeng has carminative properties and added to many dishes that produces more abdominal gas such as chana dal, peas etc.
Asafoetida is acrid and bitter in taste. It has strong, disagreeable, pungent and a distinct odour due to the presence of sulfur.
Asafoetida has anticholesteremic (reduces cholesterol levels in the blood), anticoagulant, antifertility (reduces fertility, prevents implantation), antifungal, antihepatotoxic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiparasitic, smooth muscle relaxant activity, anti-diabetic and antiulcerogenic properties. The most significant properties are anticarcinogenic, anthelmintic, antispasmodic and carminative activity.
Ayurvedic Pharmacopeia of India recommends the dosage of asafoetida for medicinal purpose 125-500 mg for detoxified oleogum-resin. Bandhani heeng which is available in India is compounded asafoetida. It is prepared by boiling asafoetida, edible starch or edible cereal flour and water to get gelatinized mass. The mass is cooled, dried and grinded. It is the commonest form of heeng available in India which is used in the kitchen as spice.
Abdominal gas, stomach ache, infant colic
- Asafoetida has carminative properties. Even external application gives relief in gas and pain. For this purpose, asafoetida is dissolved in water and a paste is prepared which is applied externally on abdominal region.
- Heat 1/3 teaspoon of asafoetida powder in 2 tablespoons of sesame oil. Allow the mixture to cool slightly and massage it on the baby’s stomach.
Low appetite, abdominal gas
- Prepare a powder by mixing 1 teaspoon each, powdered ginger, cumin, black cumin, long pepper, asafoetida, ajwain and rock salt. Take 3/4 tsp of this mixture in 1/5 cup of warm water or buttermilk after meals three times a day.
- Prepare a powder by mixing equal quantities of asafoetida, powdered black pepper and dried ginger powder. Take one teaspoonful with water twice a day for gas and upset stomach.
Indigestion:Take 1/4 teaspoonful of asafoetida and sprinkle on ripe banana and eat.
Intestinal worms:Mix 2 gm of asafoetida in 100 ml of water and use as an enema.
Hoarseness of voice:Mix half teaspoonful of asafoetida in a glass of water and drink it twice a day.
Cough, asthma, bronchitis, respiratory ailments
Mix ¼ teaspoonful of asafoetida in 2 teaspoonful of fresh ginger juice. Add a pinch of salt and have it 2 – 3 times a day.
Insomnia:Mix half teaspoonful of asafoetida in a glass of warm water and drink it at night before going to bed.
Painful periods:Fry asafoetida in ghee and powder it. Mix one teaspoonful of this powder with one tablespoonful of cooked and mashed rice and eat. Drink a glass of hot water immediately after having it. Do this twice a day.
Opium poison neutralisation:Asafoetida is used traditionally to neutralise opium poison. For this purpose asafoetida is taken with water.
Pain in tooth due to cavity:In the case of toth cavity, take small piece of asafoetida and put in cavity.
Burn injury:In the case of burn injury, dissolve asafoetida in water and apply on burnt area to get relief.
Boil:Mix equal quantities of asafoetida and dry ginger powder. Make a paste by adding water. Apply this paste over the boils.
Hysteria:Fry asafoetida in pure ghee and mix half a teaspoonful of this in one glass of warm water. Give this to person the affected with hysteria for about one and a half months.
Itching in the anus:Dissolve some asafoetida in water and soak a piece of cotton. Apply this in and around the anus.
How to check purity of asafoetida
There are few home tests that helps to identify pure and impure asafoetida. Pure hing, gradually dissolves in water truing it milky white without a residue at the bottom. Also it burns without residue. But impure hing, dissolves in water and settles in bottom and does not burn completely on fire.
Who should not use Asafoetida?
There are few conditions in which asafoetida is contraindicated.
- Its use should be avoided in acid conditions as it increases bile.
- Asafoetida show anti- fertility effect. Its ethanolic extracts prevented successful implantation in rats. So it is recommended to avoid its use while trying for baby.
- Asafoetida stimulates or increases menstrual flow and show abortifacient (causing abortion) properties. Due to this reason, avoid its use in pregnancy.
- Long term use of Heeng may result in burning in urine, acid irritation in throat, gas and acidity.