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

Asafoetida (Ferula assafoetida), alternative spelling asafetida,(play /æsəˈfɛtɨdə/)[1] (also known as devil's dung, stinking gum, asant, food of the gods, giant fennel, hing and ting) is the dried latex (gum oleoresin) exuded from the living underground rhizome or tap root of several species of Ferula, which is a perennial herb (1 to 1.5 m high). The species is native to India[2]. 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. When uncooked its odour is so strong the aroma will contaminate other spices stored nearby if it is not stored in an airtight container. 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.[3]


Asafoetida reduces the growth of indigenous microflora in the gut, reducing flatulence.[4]

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.[5][6]
  • digestion - In Thailand, and India it is used to aid digestion and is smeared on the abdomen in an alcohol or water tincture known as mahahing.[7]
  • asthma and bronchitis - It is also said[8] 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.
  • antimicrobial - Asafoetida has a broad range of uses in traditional medicine as an antimicrobial, with well documented uses for treating chronic bronchitis and whooping cough, as well as reducing flatulence.[9]
  • contraceptive/abortifacient - Asafoetida has also been reported to have contraceptive/abortifacient activity,[10] and is related to (and considered an inferior substitute for) the ancient Ferula species Silphium.
  • antiepileptic - Asafoetida oleo-gum-resin has been reported to be antiepileptic in classical Unani, as well as ethnobotanical literature.[11]
  • balancing the vata - In Ayurveda, asafoetida is considered to be one of the best spices for balancing the vata dosha.[12]

Regional usages

  • In the Jammu region of India, asafoetida is used as a medicine for flatulence and constipation by 60% of locals.[13] 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 add both flavor and aroma, as well as to 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.
  • May also be used as a moth (Lepidoptera) light trap attractant by collectors - when mixed by approximately 1\3 parts with a sweet, fruit jelly.
  • Repelling spirits - In Jamaica, asafoetida is traditionally applied to a baby's anterior fontanel (Jamaican patois mole) 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.[14]

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 northeastern 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, "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's time, the true silphium of Cyrene went extinct, and asafoetida became more popular amongst physicians, as well as cooks.[15]

Asafoetida is also mentioned multiple times in Jewish sources, such as the Babylonian Talmud.[16] Maimonides also writes in the Mishneh Torah "In the rainy season, one should eat warm food with much spice, but a limited amount of mustard and asafoetida."[17]

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."[15]

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.[18]


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 asaresinotannols 'A' and 'B', ferulic acid, umbelliferone and four unidentified compounds.[19]


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 faeces); 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,[20]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). 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. In Tamil (an Indian classical language), it is called "Perungaayam". In Hindi and Urdu, it is called as Heeng.

In popular culture

Penrod, an 11-year-old boy in a 1929 novel in midwestern U.S.A., suffers intensely for being forced to wear a bag of asafoetida on his neck and encounters a girl in the same condition.

In the movie El Dorado (1966), asafoetida was a component of a hangover remedy that was introduced by James Caan's character "Mississippi".

In the "Snidely's Sawmill" episode of Dudley Do-Right, villain Snidely Whiplash tells Nell Fenwick preparatory to her being tied to a log that "over my heart is a mustard plaster, and over that is an asafoetida bag, and on that bag there is a tag which reads 'Whiplash Loves Nelly'!"

See also


  1. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. asafœtida. Second edition, 1989.
  2. ^
  3. ^
  5. ^ Lee, CL; Chia-Lin Lee, Lien-Chai Chiang, Li-Hung Cheng, Chih-Chuang Liaw, Mohamed H. Abd El-Razek, Fang-Rong Chang, Yang-Chang Wu (August 19, 2009 (Web)). "Influenza A (H1N1) Antiviral and Cytotoxic Agents from Ferula assa-foetida". Journal of Natural Products xxx (xx): 1568–72. doi:10.1021/np900158f. PMID 19691312. 
  6. ^ Ancient Chinese Remedy May Work for Flu
  7. ^
  8. ^ [
  9. ^ Srinivasan, K.(2005)'Role of Spices Beyond Food Flavoring: Nutraceuticals with Multiple Health Effects',Food Reviews International,21:2,167 — 188
  10. ^ Riddle, John M. 1992. Contraception and abortion from the ancient world to the Renaissance. Harvard University Press p. 28 and references therein.
  11. ^ Traditional Systems of Medicine By Abdin, M Z Abdin, Y P Abrol. Published 2006 Alpha Science Int'l Ltd. ISBN 81-7319-707-5
  12. ^ pg. 74, The Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amadea Morningstar with Urmila Desai, Lotus Light, 1991. ISBN 978-0-914955-06-1.
  13. ^ Hemla Aggarwal and Nidhi Kotwal. Foods Used as Ethno-medicine in Jammu. Ethno-Med, 3(1): 65-68 (2009)
  14. ^ MacGregor Mathers, Samuel Liddell, ed (1889). "VII". The Key of Solomon (Clavicula Salomonis). London: George Redway. "Then he shall kindle a fire with dry rue, upon which he shall put powdered assafoetida, and other things of evil odour; after which let him put the aforesaid names, written on parchment or virgin paper, upon the fire, saying: [...]" 
  15. ^ a b Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices By Andrew Dalby. Published 2000 University of California Press Spices/ History 184 pages ISBN 0-520-23674-2
  16. ^ b. Avodah Zarah ch. 1; b. Shabbat ch. 20; et. al.
  17. ^ Mishneh Torah, Laws of Opinions (Hilchot Deot) 4:8.
  18. ^ 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
  19. ^ Handbook of Indices of Food Quality and Authenticity By Rekha S. Singhal, Pushpa R. Kulkarni. Published 1997 Woodhead Publishing Food industry and trade ISBN 1-85573-299-8 ... Note there is more good information about the composition in this reference, page 395.
  20. ^ Thomas Carlyle's well-known 19th century novel Sartor Resartus concerns a German philosopher named Teufelsdröckh.

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • asafoetida — (n.) alternative spelling of ASAFETIDA (Cf. asafetida) (q.v.); also see OE (Cf. oe) …   Etymology dictionary

  • Asafoetida — Asant Asant (Ferula asafoetida) Systematik Unterklasse: Asternähnliche (Asteridae) Ordnung …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Asafoetida — Asafetida As a*fet i*da, Asafoetida As a*f[oe]t i*da, n. [Asa + L. foetidus fetid.] The fetid gum resin or inspissated juice of a large umbelliferous plant ({Ferula asaf[oe]tida}) of Persia and the East Indies. It is used in medicine as an… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • asafoetida — [ˌasə fi:tɪdə, fɛt ] (US asafetida) noun 1》 a fetid resinous gum obtained from the roots of a herbaceous plant, used in herbal medicine and Indian cooking. 2》 a plant of the parsley family, from which asafoetida is obtained. [Ferula assa… …   English new terms dictionary

  • asafoetida — dvokiančioji ferula statusas T sritis vardynas apibrėžtis Salierinių šeimos prieskoninis, vaistinis augalas (Ferula assa foetida), paplitęs pietvakarių Azijoje (Irane). Iš jo gaminami maisto priedai (kvėpikliai). atitikmenys: lot. Ferula assa… …   Lithuanian dictionary (lietuvių žodynas)

  • asafoetida — kvapioji ferula statusas T sritis vardynas apibrėžtis Salierinių šeimos prieskoninis, vaistinis augalas (Ferula foetida), paplitęs pietvakarių Azijoje. Iš jo gaminami maisto priedai (kvėpikliai). atitikmenys: lot. Ferula foetida angl. asafetida;… …   Lithuanian dictionary (lietuvių žodynas)

  • asafoetida — n. (US asafetida) a resinous plant gum with a fetid ammoniac smell, formerly used in medicine, now as a herbal remedy and in Indian cooking. Etymology: ME f. med.L f. asa f. Pers. aza mastic + fetida (as FETID) * * * noun the brownish gum resin… …   Useful english dictionary

  • asafoetida — noun see asafetida …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • asafoetida — n. garlic smelling resin …   English contemporary dictionary

  • asafoetida — as·a·foet·i·da …   English syllables

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