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Ferula assa-foetida (Umbelliferae)

ASAFETIDA, DEVIL'S DUNG, FOOD OF THE GODS

 

Resin from the root, also named devil's dung because of its nasty smell, is given by herbalists for colic, indigestion, bronchitis, and irritability. Ayurvedic uses are similar.

 

The foetid unpleasant smell of this plant is acknowledged in its Latin name and in the common name devil's dung. It was used medicinally in Arabia in the 2nd century, and was recorded by the Welsh physicians of Myddvai around the 13th century. Indian cooks use it as a condiment with "windy vegetables", and it is contained in the secret spice mix of the famous Worcestershire sauce. Asafetida is native to Afghanistan and Iran, where it grows up to 1,300 m (4,000 ft) above sea level. A tall perennial, it has large fern-like leaves, a thick rootstock, and flowers in the spring of its fifth year.

 

PARTS USED

Oleo-gum resin from the root.

 

ACTIVE INGREDIENTS

Resin; gum; volatile oil; ferulic acid; coumarins.

 

ACTIONS

Reduces muscle tension and spasm; relieves wind and colic; expectorant.

 

MEDICINAL USE

Given for indigestion, flatulence, colic, nervous irritability (particularly in children), and bronchitis. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is prescribed for similar purposes, as well as for whooping cough, epilepsy, asthma, paralysis, and worms.

 

PREPARATIONS

Powdered resin, tablets.

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