The Smelly Spice Asafoetida: Health Benefits!

By: Nutrition expert- Vidula Kozarekar, Mumbai.

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Asafoetida is used as a flavouring agent in food and as a traditional medicine for many diseases in many parts of the world. Asafoetida (Ferula asafoetida) is an oleo-gum-resin obtained from the stems of Ferula plants belonging to the family Umbelliferae. F. asafoetida is one of the important species of Ferula and is more native to Afghanistan and Iran that grows about 2 m in height and is in two types bitter and sweet. Asafoetida is called Hing or Hingu in India (1), (2).

Extraction Process:

Asafoetida is extracted from the Ferula plants which have massive taproots or carrot-shaped roots, around 15 cm in diameter at the crown when they are 4e5 years old. Before the plants flower, the upper part of the living rhizome root is laid bare and the stem cut off close to the crown. A dome-shaped structure made of twigs and earth covers the exposed surface. A milky juice exudes from the cut surface. The exudates are scraped off and a fresh slice of the root cut when more latex exudes, sometimes the resin is removed along with the slice. The collection of resin and slicing of the root are repeated until exudation ceases (3).

Health Benefits: (4)

  • Traditionally used for the treatment of diseases such as asthma, epilepsy, stomach-ache, flatulence, intestinal parasites, weak digestion and influenza.
  • Antioxidant, antiviral, antifungal, cancer chemopreventive, antidiabetic, antispasmodic, hypotensive, expectorant and stimulant.
  • Also been used as a sedative.
  • Thins the blood and lowers blood pressure.
  • Used in modern herbalism in the treatment of hysteria, some nervous conditions, bronchitis, asthma and whooping cough, and to reduce flora in the gut.
  • Might help treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
  • Might protect against high blood levels of certain fats.
  • Chemicals called coumarins in asafoetida can thin the blood.

Toxic Effect:

Large dose intake of asafoetida can lead to swelling of the mouth, digestive illness such as flatulence and diarrhoea, anxiety and headache. The intake of asafoetida is prohibited during the pregnancy (5).


On the basis of the available evidences in the literature, asafoetida can be used as different medicines by its phytochemical and biological activities. It is also widely used all over the world as an aroma spice in different foodstuff. Traditionally it is very much utilized for the treatment of a variety of diseases.


  2. Iran Herbal Pharmacopeia Edition Committee. “Iran Herbal Pharmacopeia.” (2002).
  5. Emami A, Fasihi S, Mehregan I. Medicinal Plants. Tehran: Andisheh Avar; 2010.

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