Asafoetida is a plant with a bad smell and bitter taste and gets its name from the Latin word foetid, which means stinking, a plant that is also known as devil’s dung. It is used as a fragrance in cosmetics and as a flavouring ingredient in foods and beverages. Asafoetida is also used in products meant to repel dogs, cats, and wildlife. A member of the umbelliferae plant family, it originally was a native of Persia, Afghanistan and neighbouring regions where the plant is greedily eaten with relish by the native people and sheep of the region. The gum resin consists of the milky sap obtained from an incision of the green matured root. Asafoetida acts on the respiratory, digestive, circulatory and neurological systems and will increase sexual libido.
Asafoetida health benefits are many; it is an antiepileptic, antimicrobial, laxative, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, antispasmodic, and anti-flatulent agent. It is one of the oldest remedies to be used for treating respiratory tract infections, acts as a respiratory stimulant and expectorant to release phlegm and relieve chest congestion. Mixed with honey and ginger is used for respiratory disorders such as chronically dry cough, whooping cough, bronchitis and asthma. It has also been successfully used to fight influenza.
The herb is beneficial in the treatment of impotency. About 6 centigrams of asafoetida should be fried in ghee and mixed with honey and a teaspoon of fresh latex of banyan tree. This mixture should be taken once daily for 40 days before sunrise. It is also considered a specific medicine for premature ejaculation. The herb is considered useful in the treatment of several problems concerning women such as sterility, unwanted pregnancy, pre-mature labour, unusually painful difficult and excessive menstruation and leucorrhoea. Asafoetida is also useful for women after childbirth. Owing to its anti-flatulent and digestive properties, the herb can be taken with beneficial results during the post-delivery period.
With all its beneficial qualities, asafoetida has its disadvantages as well. It can cause unpleasant side effects like vomiting and nausea; excessive consumption of asafoetida can cause irritation in throat, swollen lips, burping, stomach gas, and diarrhoea.