The Full Wiki

Asafoetida: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ferula scorodosma syn. assafoetida
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Apiales
Family: Apiaceae
Genus: Ferula
Species: F. assafoetida
Binomial name
Ferula assafoetida

Asafoetida (Ferula assafoetida) (Persian انگدان Angedan), alternative spelling asafetida, pronounced /æsəˈfɛtɨdə/[1] (also known as devil's dung, stinking gum, asant, food of the gods, Kaayam (Malayalam), Hing (Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, Hindi, Urdu, Nepali), Ingua (Telugu), Ingu (Kannada), Perungayam (Tamil), Hilteet (Mishnaic Hebrew), and giant fennel) is a species of Ferula native to Persia (Iran). Asafoetida has a pungent, unpleasant smell when raw, but in cooked dishes, it delivers a smooth flavor, reminiscent of leeks.




This spice is used as a digestive aid, in food as a condiment and in pickles. Its odour, when uncooked, is so strong that it must be stored in airtight containers; otherwise the aroma will contaminate other spices stored nearby. However, its odour and flavor become much milder and more pleasant upon heating in oil or ghee, acquiring a taste and aroma reminiscent of sautéed onion and garlic.[2]


Asafoetida reduces the growth of indigenous microflora in the gut, reducing flatulence.[3]

Medical applications

  • fighting flu - Asafoetida was used in 1918 to fight the Spanish influenza pandemic. Scientists at the Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan report that the roots of Asafoetida produces natural antiviral drug compounds that kill the swine flu virus, H1N1. In an article published in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Natural Products, the researchers said the compounds "may serve as promising lead components for new drug development" against this type of flu.[4][5]
  • Digestion - In Thailand, and India it is used to aid digestion and is smeared on the stomach in an alcohol or water tincture known as "mahahing."[citation needed]
  • asthma and bronchitis - It is also said to be helpful in cases of asthma and bronchitis. A folk tradition remedy for children's colds: it is mixed into a pungent-smelling paste and hung in a bag around the afflicted child's neck.[citation needed]
  • antimicrobial - Asafoetida has broad uses in traditional medicine as an antimicrobial, with well documented uses for treating chronic bronchitis and whooping cough, as well as reducing flatulence.[6]
  • antiepileptic - Asafoetida oleo-gum-resin has been reported to be antiepileptic in classical Unani as well as ethnobotanical literature.[8]
  • balancing the vata - In Ayurveda, asafoetida is considered to be one of the best spices for balancing the vata dosha.[9]

Regional usages

  • In India, In the Jammu region, Asafoetida is used as a medicine for flatulence and constipation by 60% of locals.[10] It is used especially by the merchant caste of the Hindus and by adherents of Jainism and Vaishnavism, who do not eat onions or garlic. It is used in many vegetarian and lentil dishes to both add flavor and aroma and reduce flatulence.

Other uses

  • Bait - John C Duval reported in 1936 that the odor of asafoetida is attractive to the wolf, a matter of common knowledge, he says, along the Texas/Mexico border. It is also used as one of several possible scent baits, most notably for catfish and pike.
  • Avoiding spirits - In Jamaica, asafoetida is traditionally applied to a baby's anterior fontanel (Jamaican patois "mole") in order to prevent spirits (Jamaican patois "duppies") from entering the baby through the fontanel. In the African-American Hoodoo tradition, asafoetida is used in magic spells as it is believed to have the power both to protect and to curse. In ceremonial magick especially from The Key of Solomon the King, it is used to protect the magus from daemonic forces and to evoke the same and bind them.

History in the West

It was familiar in the early Mediterranean, having come by land across Iran. Though it is generally forgotten now in Europe, it is still widely used in India (commonly known there as Hing). It emerged into Europe from a conquering expedition of Alexander the Great, who after returning from a trip to north-eastern Persia, thought they had found a plant almost identical to the famed Silphium of Cyrene in North Africa – though less tasty. Dioscorides, in the first century, wrote that, "the Cyrenaic kind, even if one just tastes it, at once arouses a humour throughout the body and has a very healthy aroma, so that it is not noticed on the breath, or only a little; but the Median [Iranian] is weaker in power and has a nastier smell." Nevertheless, it could be substituted for silphium in cooking, which was fortunate, because a few decades after Dioscorides time, the true silphium of Cyrene went extinct, and Asafoetida gained in popularity, by physicians as well as cooks.[11]

After the Roman Empire fell, until the 16th century, asafoetida was rare in Europe, and if ever encountered, it was viewed as a medicine. "If used in cookery, it would ruin every dish because of its dreadful smell," asserted García de Orta's European guest. Nonsense, García replied, "nothing is more widely used in every part of India, both in medicine and in cookery. All the Hindus who can afford it buy it to add to their food."[11]

Cultivation and manufacture

The resin-like gum which comes from the dried sap extracted from the stem and roots is used as a spice. The resin is greyish-white when fresh, but dries to a dark amber color. The asafoetida resin is difficult to grate, and is traditionally crushed between stones or with a hammer. Today, the most commonly available form is compounded asafoetida, a fine powder containing 30% asafoetida resin, along with rice flour and gum arabic.

Ferula assafoetida is an herbaceous, monoecious, perennial plant of the family Umbelliferae, also called Apiaceae. It grows to 2 meters high with a circular mass of 30–40 cm leaves. Stem leaves have wide sheathing petioles. Flowering stems are 2.5–3 meters high and 10 cm thick and hollow, with a number of schizogenous ducts in the cortex containing the resinous gum. Flowers are pale greenish yellow produced in large compound umbels. Fruits are oval, flat, thin, reddish brown and have a milky juice. Roots are thick, massive, and pulpy. They yield a resin similar to that of the stems. All parts of the plant have the distinctive fetid smell.[12]

It may be interesting to note that assafoetida is consumed largely by those practitioners of specific forms of medidation or vegetarism whereby garlic and onion consumption are highly discouraged by virtue of their nature to excite the nervous system. For those believers, assafoedia replaces onions and garlic by taste and by content. (Source: Roshan T. T. Chikhuri, Safety and Health Consultant and Expert Facilitator in Community Health - Mauritius)


Typical asafoetida contains about 40-64% resin, 25% endogeneous gum, 10-17% volatile oil, and 1.5-10% ash. The resin portion is known to contain asareninotannols 'A' and 'B', ferulic acid, umbelliferone and four unidentified compounds.[13]


Asafoetida's English and scientific name is derived from the Persian word for resin (asa) and Latin foetida, which refers to its strong sulfurous odour. Its pungent odour has resulted in its being called by many unpleasant names; thus in French it is known (among other names) as merde du diable (devil's shit); in some dialects of English too it was known as devil's dung, and equivalent names can be found in most Germanic languages (e.g. German Teufelsdreck,[14] Swedish dyvelsträck, Dutch duivelsdrek, Afrikaans duiwelsdrek), also in Finnish pirunpaska or pirunpihka. In Turkish, it is known as şeytantersi (devil's sweat), şeytan boku (devil's shit) or şeytanotu (the devil's herb). In many of the Indo-Aryan languages it is known as hing or "heeng". Another name occurs in many Dravidian languages (e.g. Telugu inguva, Kannada ingu), Tamil (perungaayam) and Malayalam kaayam. The original Persian name for the plant is انگدان angedan which may also sometimes be arabicized to انجدان anjedan. The Persian name for the dried sap of asafoetida is آنغوزه anghouzeh.

See also


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. asafœtida. Second edition, 1989.
  2. ^
  4. ^ "Influenza A (H1N1) Antiviral and Cytotoxic Agents from Ferula assa-foetida". Journal of Natural Products xxx (xx). August 19, 2009 (Web). doi:10.1021/np900158f. 
  5. ^ Ancient Chinese Remedy May Work for Flu
  6. ^ Srinivasan, K.(2005)'Role of Spices Beyond Food Flavoring: Nutraceuticals with Multiple Health Effects',Food Reviews International,21:2,167 — 188
  7. ^ Riddle, John M. 1992. Contraception and abortion from the ancient world to the Renaissance. Harvard University Press p. 28 and references therein.
  8. ^ Traditional Systems of Medicine By Abdin, M Z Abdin, Y P Abrol. Published 2006 Alpha Science Int'l Ltd. ISBN 8173197075
  9. ^ pg. 74, The Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amadea Morningstar with Urmila Desai, Lotus Light, 1991. ISBN 9780914955061.
  10. ^ Hemla Aggarwal and Nidhi Kotwal. Foods Used as Ethno-medicine in Jammu. Ethno-Med, 3(1): 65-68 (2009)
  11. ^ a b Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices By Andrew Dalby. Published 2000 University of California Press Spices/ History 184 pages ISBN 0520236742
  12. ^ Abstract from Medicinal Plants of the World, Volume 3 Chemical Constituents, Traditional and Modern Medicinal Uses. Humana Press. ISBN 978-1-58829-129-5 (Print) 978-1-59259-887-8 (Online) DOI 10.1007/978-1-59259-887-8_6 Author: Ivan A. Ross
  13. ^ Handbook of Indices of Food Quality and Authenticity By Rekha S. Singhal, Pushpa R. Kulkarni. Published 1997 Woodhead Publishing Food industry and trade ISBN 1855732998 ... Note there is more good information about the composition in this reference, page 395.
  14. ^ Thomas Carlyle's well-known 19th century novel Sartor Resartus concerns a German philosopher named Teufelsdröckh.

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010
(Redirected to asafoetida article)

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




  1. Alternative form of assafoetida.

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address