Common Name: Asafoetida, Asafotida, Devil’s Dung, Asant, Giant Fennel, Hing, Stinging Gum, Food of the Gods
Botanical Name: Ferula Assafoetida
Origin: Afghanistan, Iran, the gum or resin tapped from a root vegetable
Family: Carrots, Fennel
Colour: Resin turns brown with exposure to air
Season: All year round
Store: Room Temperature double bagged
Eaten: Cooked, powder form in tiny amounts
Smell: Unpleasant if raw, pleasant when cooked smells like leeks
Most common form is powder 30-40% pure, mixed with starch
VERY smelly raw, so store in a well sealed container
Substitute for garlic and onion
- Aza means “resin” or “Mastic” in Farsi
- Foetida means “stinking” in Latin
- Hing derives from the Sanskrit word han meaning “kill” perhaps referring to the uncooked smell
- Close cousins to the extinct North African plant Silphium
- Alexander the Great carried this spice on his travels in 4th century BC
- Listed in an inventory of the gardens of Babylonian King Marduk-apla-iddina II
- An ingredient in Worcestershire Sauce
- Used in 1918 to combat the Spanish Flu
- More potent than Amantadine, the active compound in Tamiflu(1)
Relief from Flatulence
Often added to lentil curries/dahls and green leafy vegetable curries.
Used in pickles and sauces as a preservative.
Alleviates bloating after a meal
A pinch of asafoetida to water
Relief from Toothache
A little lemon or lime juice added to the asafoetida powder, warmed, soaked on a cotton ball and place on offending tooth.
Relief from Indigestion
A pinch of asafoetida with a glass of buttermilk
Taiwanese scientists published a paper on the spice Ferula assafoetida, or asafetida containing at least nine anti-viral compounds or phytochemicals more potent (IC50 0.26–0.86 ug/ml) against the influenza A virus (H1N1) than amantadine.2
Amantadine is the active compound found in Tamiflu.
A container of asafetida can be purchased at ethnic shops for NZ$2; the Tamiflu prescription costs about NZ$70. (2)
Hinguwastaka Churna is a powder spice mix of eight ingredients that is used for colic, flatulence, retention of wind in the intestine and constipation. This is a common powder mix in Ayurveda medicine.
Hingu means asafoetida. Ashta means eight. Churna means powder.
People make their own versions but here are the eight ingredients: asafoetida, black pepper, carom seeds (ajwan), cumin, ginger, pipli (Long Pepper), nigella seeds (Kalonji) and rock salt.
Pickles, Lentil Curries, Green Leaf Vegetable Curries
Dr. James (Jim) Duke , Letter to the Editor, Asafetida vs. Amantidine vs. Tamiflu vs. ‘Scamiflu’ vs. H1N1, 2010. here
Chip Rossetti and Michael Nelson, Devil’s Dung: the world’s smelliest spice, Saudi Armco World, 2009 Jul/Aug, p36-43 here
Anjali Damerla of Supreme Spice and Indira Singari here
(1)(2) Lee C-L, Chiang L-C, Cheng L-H, et al. Influenza A (H1N1) antiviral and cytotoxic agents from Ferula assa-foetida. J Nat Prod. 2009 Sep; 72(9):1568–1572.