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(Redirected from Ferula assa-foetida)

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Asafoetida in a jar

Asafoetida Template:IPAc-en<ref>Oxford English Dictionary. "asafœtida". Second edition, 1989.</ref> is the English name for the dried latex (gum oleoresin) exuded from the rhizome or tap root of several species of Ferula, a perennial herb that grows Template:Convert tall. It is part of the celery family Apiaceae. Asafoetida is thought to be in the same genus as silphium, a plant now believed to be extinct, and was used as a cheaper substitute for that historically important herb. The species is native to the deserts of Iran and mountains of Afghanistan, but is mainly cultivated in nearby India.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>

Asafoetida has a pungent smell, but in cooked dishes it delivers a smooth flavour reminiscent of leeks. It is also known as food of the gods, devil's dung, jowani badian, hing, hengu, inguva, kayam, and ting.<ref name="IIIM">Template:Cite journal</ref>



Containers of powdered asafoetida

This spice is used as a digestive aid, in food as a condiment, and in pickling. It plays a critical flavoring role in Indian vegetarian cuisine by acting as an umami enhancer.<ref>Carolyn Beans. Meet Hing: The Secret-Weapon Spice Of Indian Cuisine.June 22, 2016. https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/06/22/482779599/meet-hing-the-secret-weapon-spice-of-indian-cuisine</ref> Used along with turmeric, it is a standard component of lentil curries such as dal, sambar as well as in numerous vegetable dishes, especially those based on potato and cauliflower. Kashmiri cuisine also uses it in lamb/mutton dishes such as Rogan Josh <ref>Kashmiri Recipes; Mutton Rogan Josh. http://www.polkacafe.com/authentic-kashmiri-recipes-2524.html</ref> It is sometimes used to harmonize sweet, sour, salty, and spicy components in food. The spice is added to the food at the time of tempering. Sometimes dried and ground asafoetida (in very small quantities) can be mixed with salt and eaten with raw salad.

In its pure form, it is sold in the form of chunks of resin, small quantities of which are scraped off for use. The odor of the pure resin is so strong that the pungent smell will contaminate other spices stored nearby if it is not stored in an airtight container. Many commercial preparations of asafoetida use the resin ground up and mixed with a larger volume of other neutral ingredients, such as gum arabic, wheat flour, rice flour and turmeric.<ref>Vandevi Hing (Asafoetida): list of ingredients. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000JMDJ5C</ref> The mixture is sold in sealed plastic containers with a hole that allows direct dusting of the powder. Asafetida odour and flavour become much milder and much less pungent upon heating in oil or ghee. Sometimes, it is fried along with sautéed onion and garlic.

Asafoetida is considered a digestive in that it reduces flatulence.<ref>Template:Cite news</ref> It is, however, one of the five pungent spices generally avoided by Buddhist vegetarians.

Traditional medicine

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  • Antiflatulent: In the Jammu region of India, asafoetida is used as a medicine for flatulence and constipation by 60% of locals.<ref name="Aggarwal">Hemla Aggarwal and Nidhi Kotwal. Foods Used as Ethno-medicine in Jammu. Ethno-Med, 3(1): 65–68 (2009)</ref>
  • A digestion aid: 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. Asafoetida in this form was evidently used in western medicine as a topical treatment for abdominal injuries during the 18th and 19th centuries; although when it came into use in the West and how long it remained in use is uncertain. One notable case in which it was used is that of Canadian Coureur des bois Alexis St. Martin, who in 1822 suffered a severe abdominal injury from an accidental shooting that perforated his right lung and stomach and shattered several ribs. St Martin was treated by American army surgeon William Beaumont, who subsequently used St Martin as the subject of a pioneering series of experiments in gastric physiology. When St Martin's wounds had healed, there remained an open fistula into his stomach that enabled Beaumont to insert various types of food directly into St Martin's stomach and record the results. In his account of his treatment of and later experiments on St Martin, Beaumont recorded that he treated the suppurating chest wound with a combination of wine mixed with diluted muriatic acid and 30-40 drops of tincture of asafoetida applied three times a day, and that this appeared to have the desired effect, helping the wound to heal.<ref>Beaumont, William: Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juice and the Physiology of Digestion (McLachlan & Stewart, Edinburgh, 1888), p.15</ref>
  • Remedy for asthma and bronchitis: It is also said to be helpful in cases of asthma and bronchitis.<ref name="Mahendra">Template:Cite journal</ref> 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.
  • An 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.<ref name="K. Srinivasan">Template:Cite journal


  • A contraceptive/abortifacient: Asafoetida was said to have contraceptive/abortifacient activity in the Renaissance and before.<ref name="riddle">John M. Riddle 1992. Contraception and abortion from the ancient world to the Renaissance. Harvard University Press p. 28 and references therein.</ref> It is related to (and considered an inferior substitute for) the ancient Ferula species silphium.Template:Citation needed
  • Antiepileptic: Asafoetida oleo-gum-resin has been reported to be antiepileptic in classical Unani, as well as ethnobotanical literature.<ref name="Abdin">Traditional Systems of Medicine. Abdin, M Z, Abdin, Y P Abrol. Published 2006 Alpha Science Int'l Ltd. Template:ISBN</ref>
  • Balancing the vata and kapha: In India according to the Ayurveda, asafoetida is considered to be one of the best spices for balancing the vata dosha. It mitigates vata and kapha, and relieves flatulence and colic pain. It is pungent in taste and at the end of digestion. It aggravates pitta, enhances appetite, taste, and digestion. It is easy to digest.<ref>p. 74, The Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amadea Morningstar with Urmila Desai, Lotus Light, 1991. Template:ISBN.</ref>

Other uses

  • Bait: John C Duval reported in 1936 that the odour 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.<ref>U.S. Patent No. 306, 896 Mixture for Fish-Baits. Inventor - Carol F. Bates of Hughes Springs, Texas. Ingredients are asafoetida, oil of anise, and honey (lines 12-13).</ref>
  • Along the coasts of south India it is used to kill unwanted trees by boring a hole in the tree and filling the hole with asafoetida.
  • May also be used as a moth (Lepidoptera) light trap attractant by collectors—when mixed by approximately one part to three parts with a sweet, fruit jelly.Template:Citation needed
  • Commonly used in Pennsylvania Dutch braucherei (folk magic) to prevent illness, it would be stored in a pouch on a lanyard and worn around the neck.
  • 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.Template:Citation needed
  • In ceremonial magic, 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.<ref>Template:Cite book</ref>

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. It emerged into Europe from an expedition of Alexander the Great, who, after returning from a trip to northeastern ancient 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' time, the true silphium of Cyrene became extinct, and asafoetida became more popular amongst physicians, as well as cooks.<ref name="Dalby">Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices. Andrew Dalby. 2000. University of California Press. Spices/ History. 184 pages. Template:ISBN</ref>

Asafoetida is also mentioned numerous times in Jewish literature, such as the Mishnah.<ref>m. Avodah Zarah ch. 1; m. Shabbat ch. 20; et al.</ref> 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."<ref>Mishneh Torah, Laws of Opinions (Hilchot Deot) 4:8.</ref>

Asafoetida was described by a number of Arab and Islamic scientists and pharmacists. Avicenna discussed the effects of asafoetida on digestion. Ibn al-Baitar and Fakhr al-Din al-Razi described some positive medicinal effects on the respiratory system.<ref>Avicenna (1999). The Canon of Medicine (al-Qānūn fī'l-ṭibb), vol. 1. Laleh Bakhtiar (ed.), Oskar Cameron Gruner (trans.), Mazhar H. Shah (trans.). Great Books of the Islamic World. Template:ISBN</ref>

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 Garcia de Orta's European guest. "Nonsense," Garcia replied, "nothing is more widely used in every part of India, both in medicine and in cookery. All the Hindus to add to their food."<ref name="Dalby"/> During the Italian Renaissance, asafoetida was used as part of the exorcism ritual.<ref>Template:Cite book</ref>

Cultivation and manufacture

The resin-like gum comes from the dried sap extracted from the stem and roots and is used as a spice. The resin is greyish-white when fresh, but dries to a dark amber colour. 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 or maida (white wheat flour) and gum arabic.

Ferula assafoetida is a monoecious, herbaceous, perennial plant of the family Apiaceae. It grows to Template:Convert high, with a circular mass of Template:Convert leaves. Stem leaves have wide sheathing petioles. Flowering stems are Template:Convert high and Template:Convert 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.<ref name="Ross">Abstract from Medicinal Plants of the World, Volume 3, Chemical Constituents, Traditional and Modern Medicinal Uses. Humana Press. Template:ISBN (Print) 978-1-59259-887-8 (Online). DOI 10.1007/978-1-59259-887-8_6. Ivan A. Ross. http://www.springerlink.com/content/k358h1m6251u5053/</ref>


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.<ref name="Singhal">Handbook of Indices of Food Quality and Authenticity. Rekha S. Singhal, Pushpa R. Kulkarni. 1997, Woodhead Publishing, Food industry and trade Template:ISBN. More information about the composition, p. 395.</ref> The volatile oil component is rich in various organosulfide compounds, such as 2-butyl-propenyl-disulfide, diallyl sulfide, diallyl disulfide (also present in garlic) <ref>Ferula asafoetida: Traditional uses and pharmacological activity. Poonam Mahendra and Shradha Bisht. Pharmacogn Rev. 2012 Jul-Dec; 6(12): 141–146. Template:PMC Template:PMID</ref> and dimethyl trisulfide, which is also responsible for the odor of cooked onions.<ref>Asafoetida. Katrina Kramer. Royal Society of Chemistry Podcast. 22 June 2016. https://www.chemistryworld.com/podcasts/asafoetida/1010150.article</ref> The organosulfides are primarily responsible for the odor and flavor of asafoetida.


The English name is derived from asa, a Latinized form of Farsi azā, meaning "resin", and Latin foetidus meaning "smelling, fetid", which refers to its strong sulfurous odour. In the U.S., the folk spelling and pronunciation is "asafedity". It is called हिंग (hinga) in Marathi, हींग "(hīng)" in Hindi, ହେଙ୍ଗୁ "(hengu)" in Odiya, হিং "(hiṅ)" in Bengali, ಇಂಗು (ingu) in Kannada, കായം (kāyaṃ) in Malayalam, ఇంగువ (inguva) in Telugu and பெருங்காயம் (perunkayam) in Tamil . In Pashto it is called, هنجاڼه "(hënjâṇa)".<ref>Pashto-English Dictionary</ref> In 14th century Malayalam it is called 'Raamadom" and are sold by special Traders called "Raamador.' Its pungent odour has resulted in its being known by many unpleasant names; In French it is known (among other names) as merde du Diable, meaning "Devil's shit",<ref name = Vegatopia /> in English it is sometimes called Devil's dung, and equivalent names can be found in most Germanic languages (e.g., German Teufelsdreck,<ref>Thomas Carlyle's well-known 19th century novel Sartor Resartus concerns a German philosopher named Teufelsdröckh.</ref> Swedish dyvelsträck, Dutch duivelsdrek<ref name = Vegatopia>Asafoetida: die geur is des duivels! Vegatopia (in Dutch), Retrieved 8 December 2011. This used as source the book World Food Café: global vegetarian cooking by Chris and Carolyn Caldicott, 1999, Template:ISBN</ref> and Afrikaans duiwelsdrek). Also, in Finnish it is called pirunpaska or pirunpihka, in Turkish it is known as Şeytan tersi, Şeytan boku or Şeytan otu<ref name = Vegatopia /> and in Kashubian it is called czarcé łajno.

See also



External links

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