Asafoetida (hing), is also called as the devil’s dung as it has a strong pungent smell because of the presence of sulfur compounds. It is an extremely pungent aromatic spice obtained from the rhizomes of spices ‘ferula’ or giant fennel.
Asafoetida is commercially cultivated in Iran, Afghanistan and parts of India and Pakistan. In India, it is grown in Kashmir and in some parts of Punjab. Besides being used as a spice, asafoetida also possesses many medicinal properties.
Ayurveda On Asafoetida
Ayurvedic texts have categorized hing as ‘Deepaneeya‘ (herbs that improve digestion power) and ‘Sanjnasthapana’ (an appetizer and a restorer of consciousness). It is used as a popular household remedy and it’s components are used for many prescriptions in traditional healing.
In Ayurveda, asafoetida is used to stimulate appetite and digestion. It has been widely used for simple digestive problems such as gas, bloating, indigestion and constipation.
Asafoetida oil assists in soothing the lining of the stomach and intestines, reducing distention, treating spasms and increasing the appetite. It cleanses the intestinal flora and augments the digestive fire. By this way, it eliminates all kinds of stagnation in the gastrointestinal tract.
Chemical Components Of Asafoetida
Hundred grams of asafoetida comprises – 4.1% fiber, 7.0% minerals, 67.8% carbohydrates, 4.0% protein and 1.1% fat. It’s vitamin and mineral contents include significant amounts of calcium besides phosphorus, niacin iron, carotene and riboflavin.
The volatile oil is the main active component of asafoetida, which is responsible for it’s therapeutic significance. It’s main phytochemical is Ferulic acid. It varies from 40% to 60 % in asafoetida gums. Ferulic acid in asafoetida helps to treat digestive problems.
Effects Of Asafoetida On Digestive Health
- The herb is an effective remedy for several diseases of the stomach. It is one of the best remedies available for flatulence and is an essential ingredient for most digestive powders.
- Asafoetida has been traditionally said to ‘expel wind from the stomach’. It is known as a carminative and an antispasmodic agent, and may reduce bloating and abdominal distension with daily oral ingestion.
- Asafoetida is a digestive stimulant. It’s action is on digestive juices. It increases the acid production in the stomach and improves liver functions to secrete more bile salts.
- Asafoetida also helps to increase the breakdown rates of proteins, fats, and starches. Therefore, it is beneficial in loss of appetite and indigestion.
Dosage: Asafoetida powder – 125 to 500 mg per day, or as directed by an ayurvedic doctor.
Other Health Benefits Of Asafoetida
Other health benefits of asafoetida include the following:1
- Cancer Prevention
- Analgesic Effect
- Skin Protection
- Fertility Boost
- Improves Respiratory Health
- Headache Relief
- Boosts Reproductive Health
- Heals Toothaches and Earaches
How Should Asafoetida Be Included In The Diet?
- Asafoetida when heated with oil or ghee, gives a unique aroma that enhances the taste and flavor of the food.
- Due to it’s strong flavor, asafoetida is used in curries, sauces and pickles. It also acts as a mean substitute for onions or garlic and makes a tremendous addition to pickles.
- You can use asafoetida in minute quantities, adding directly to cooking liquid, frying in oil, or steeping in water.
- Asafoetida can be used as a tenderizer and preservative for meat.
- In Indian cuisine, it is mostly used in vegetarian cooking, in which the strong onion-garlic flavor enhances many dishes.
- Iranian cuisine uses it for flavoring meatballs and in Afghanistan it is used in the preparation of dried meat.
- Asafoetida is also suited to many fish dishes and is also used as a flavoring agent in pickles and sauces.
With all it’s beneficial qualities, asafoetida has its disadvantages as well.
Side Effects Of Asafoetida
It can cause unpleasant side effects when consumed in excess like acidity, heartburn, headache and in rare cases burping and diarrhea.
Pregnant and breast-feeding women are advised against consuming asafoetida. It can cause uterine contraction and lead to miscarriage in pregnant women. Also, since asafoetida is considered hot in nature, the ferulic acid along with other chemicals present in it can pass into breast milk and can cause bleeding disorders in infants.
Asafoetida also has blood thinning properties, therefore, people with bleeding disorders should avoid consuming it.
In fact, it is best to consult a physician if you want to consume larger doses to counter specific illnesses.