Stinky Winky Asafoetida

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
Carrots, Fennel
Colour: Resin turns brown with exposure to air
Season: All year round
Store: Room Temperature double bagged
Cooked, powder form in tiny amounts
Taste: Pungent
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

Interesting Facts:

  • 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.
Antibiotic Properties
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
Flu Prevention
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.

Recipe Ideas:
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.


4 thoughts on “Stinky Winky Asafoetida

    • i am new to it. I love Indian food and recently bought it. I have seen it in loads of recipes and it always said optional as I suppose it’s hard to find. It won’t be in your local supermarket but you will find it in an Indian supermarket. Supposed to keep for a year, There is an expiry date on the bottom of the pot. I was curious about this spice, if not just for the fact of the spelling, then the fact it was stinky, how stinky, the mellowing of flavour, and the supposed benefits. Not to mention how it is harvested. Everything about it is interesting. It is worth putting up with the smell.

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