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Asafoetida is ideal for cleansing congestion throughout the body


Ferula asafoetida Apiaceae

The strong pungency of asafoetida has made it an excellent stimulant proving particularly effective in shifting stubborn congestion within the digestive tract.

Sustainability Status

Sustainability status

At risk from overharvesting and habitat loss. Commonly sourced from the wild though may also be in cultivation. Only source cultivated supplies or from certified sustainable wild collection. Read more about our sustainability guide.

Potential replacement(s): Garlic

Key benefits
  • Digestive remedy
  • How does it feel?

    Asafoetida is a herbaceous plant from the Umbeliferae family. The part of the plant used for medicinal purposes is the extracted oleo gum resin obtained from the plants roots. This plant is native to central Asia, eastern Iran and Afghanistan. It is primarily grown in Iran and Afghanistan. The roots of this plant can grow up to 15cm in diameter and, just before the plants flower in March and April, the roots are cut into sections so that a milk like juice can exude from them. The white juice is periodically collected and then dries into the dark amber gum-like resin that we now associate with this plant.

  • What can I use it for?

    Asafoetida is highly effective at cleansing deep seated heat and congestion throughout the body. Its pungent constituents enable it to clear toxic accumulations in the digestive, reproductive and nervous systems. Asafoetida is a superb anti-spasmodic used to halt intense spasmodic pains, proving particularly effective in the digestive, nervous and respiratory systems.

  • Into the heart of asafoetida

    Asafoetida has a long traditional history as a medicinal herb in Ayurveda and is a major ingredient in a digestive formula called ‘hingvastakacurna’.

    Its sharp, hot and unctuous properties helps to clear the digestive tract, treating bloating, flatulence, colic and undigested food in the stools. These characteristics also make asafoetida useful for stagnations within the nervous system, particularly where they have been influenced by exhaustion or blockages. Similarly, in both the male and female reproductive systems, conditions associated with high levels of congestion such as menstrual clotting, delayed menses and also low libido can be successfully targeting by herbs like asafoetida due to its pervading strength and pungency.

    Asafoetida addresses flora imbalances in the gut, especially Candida albicans and worms. Its hot quality strengthens the digestive fire, boosting metabolism and efficiency. However, due to its pungent and heating nature it may aggravate a highly sensitive digestive tract.

    Asafoetida is an excellent anti-spasmodic in the digestive and respiratory systems, indicated in cough, asthma, cramps and intestinal spasm. It is of benefit in conditions such as paralysis, sciatica and epilepsy as it nourishes a congested nervous system.

    The stimulating properties of asafoetida indicate it in cardiac pain, to help remove any potential obstructions and congestion that may be exacerbating pain levels.

    Asafoetida has a powerful influence on the menstrual cycle. It can specifically clear leucorrhoea and any associated congestion in addition to having a beneficial effect on ovulation and menstruation through warming the uterus and preventing spasms.

    As a hot and stimulating herb, asafoetida is excellent for cold and sluggish conditions such as low libido and impotence. It can also benefit infertility from when there is a congested uterus.

  • Traditional actions

  • Traditional energetic actions

    Herbal energetics are the descriptions Herbalists have given to plants, mushrooms, lichens, foods, and some minerals based on the direct experience of how they taste, feel, and work in the body. All traditional health systems use these principles to explain how the environment we live in and absorb, impacts our health. Find out more about traditional energetic actions in our article “An introduction to herbal energetics“.

  • Did you know?

    Asafoetida is also known as ‘Devil’s Dung’ due to its omni-pervasive sulphurous smell! It is best stored in an airtight container away from other aromatic herbs as its smell spreads everywhere. It’s not known as ‘devil’s dung’ for nothing! It is usually blended with flour or maize to be used as a powder in cooking.

Additional information

  • Safety

    No drug herb interactions are known.

  • Dosage

    Use a low dose – 100mg to 1g/day or 1-3ml/day of a 1:3 at 75% tincture

An ‘aromatic’ remedy, high in volatile essential oils, was most often associated with calming and sometimes ‘warming’ the digestion. Most kitchen spices and herbs have this quality: they were used both as flavouring and to ease the digestion of sometimes challenging pre-industrial foods. Many aromatics are classed as ‘carminatives’ and are used to reduce colic, bloating and agitated digestion. They also often feature in respiratory remedies for colds, chest and other airway infections. They are also classic calming inhalants and massage oils, and are the basis of aromatherapy for their mental benefits.
Astringent taste
The puckering taste you get with many plants (the most familiar is black tea after being stewed too long, or some red wines) is produced by complex polyphenols such as tannins. Tannins are used in concentrated form (eg from oak bark) to make leather from animal skins. The process of ‘tanning’ involves the coagulation of relatively fluid proteins in living tissues into tight clotted fibres (similar to the process of boiling an egg). Tannins in effect turn exposed surfaces on the body into leather. In the case of the lining of mouth and upper digestive tract this is only temporary as new mucosa are replenished, but in the meantime can calm inflamed or irritated surfaces. In the case of open wounds tannins can be a life-saver – when strong (as in the bark of broadleaved trees) they can seal a damaged surface. One group of tannins, the reddish-brown ‘condensed tannins’ are procyanidins, which can reduce inflammation and oxidative damage.
Bitters are a very complex group of phytochemicals that stimulate the bitter receptors in the mouth. They were some of the most valuable remedies in ancient medicine. They were experienced as stimulating appetite and switching on a wide range of key digestive functions, including increasing bile clearance from the liver (as bile is a key factor in bowel health this can be translated into improving bowel functions and the microbiome). Many of these reputations are being supported by new research on the role of bitter receptors in the mouth and elsewhere round the body. Bitters were also seen as ‘cooling’ reducing the intensity of some fevers and inflammatory diseases.
Blue-purple colouring
Any fruits with a blue-purple colouring contain high levels of the polyphenols known as anthocyanins. These work 1) on the walls of small blood vessels, helping to maintain capillary structure to reduce a key stage in inflammation, and improving the microcirculation to the tissues; 2) to improve retinal function and vision; 3) to support connective tissue repair around the body.
Traditional ‘cold’ or cooling’ remedies often contain bitter phytonutrients such a iridoids (gentian), sesiquterpenes (chamomile), anthraquinones (rhubarb root), mucilages (marshmallow), some alkaloids and flavonoids. They tend to influence the digestive system, liver and kidneys. Cooling herbs do just that; they diffuse, drain and clear heat from areas of inflammation, redness and irritation. Sweet, bitter and astringent herbs tend to be cooling.
Traditional ‘hot’ or ‘heating’ remedies, often containing spice ingredients like capsaicin, the gingerols (ginger), piperine (black or long pepper), curcumin (turmeric) or the sulfurous isothiocyanates from mustard, horseradich or wasabi, generate warmth when taken. In modern times this might translate as thermogenic and circulatory stimulant effects. There is evidence of improved tissue blood flow with such remedies: this would lead to a reduction in build-up of metabolites and tissue damage. Heating remedies were used to counter the impact of cold, reducing any symptoms made worse in the cold. .
Mucilages are complex carbohydrate based plant constituents with a slimy or ‘unctuous’ feel especially when chewed or macerated in water. Their effect is due simply to their physical coating exposed surfaces. From prehistory they were most often used as wound remedies for their soothing and healing effects on damaged tissues. Nowadays they are used more for these effects on the digestive lining, from the throat to the stomach, where they can relieve irritation and inflammation such as pharyngitis and gastritis. Some of the prominent mucilaginous remedies like slippery elm, aloe vera and the seaweeds can be used as physical buffers to reduce the harm and pain caused by reflux of excess stomach acid. Mucilages are also widely used to reduce dry coughing. Here the effect seems to be by reflex through embryonic nerve connections: reduced signals from the upper digestive wall appear to translate as reduced activity of airway muscles and increased activity of airway mucus cells. Some seed mucilages, such as in psyllium seed, flaxseed (linseed) or guar bean survive digestion to provide bulking laxative effects in the bowel. These can also reduce rate of absorption of sugar and cholesterol. .
New-mown hay aroma
The familiar country odour of haymaking, of drying grass and other plants, is largely produced by coumarins (originally isolated from tonka beans – in French coumarou) and widely used in perfumery. They are chemically categorised as benzopyrone lactones and are important phytochemicals, with strong antioxidant activity in the laboratory and likely effects in modulating inflammation. They were most often associated with the calming effect linked to their use in stuffing mattresses and pillows and plants, high In coumarins were commonly used for these properties.
Resins are most familiar as tacky discharges from pine trees (and as the substance in amber, and rosin for violin bows). They were most valued however as the basis of ancient commodities like frankincense and myrrh (two of the three gifts of the Three Wise Men to the baby Jesus) and getting access to their source was one benefit to Solomon for marrying the Queen of Sheba (now Ethiopia). Resins were the original antiseptic remedies, ground and applied as powders or pastes to wounds or inflamed tissues, and were also used for mummification. With alcohol distillation it was found that they could be dissolved in 90% alcohol and in this form they remain a most powerful mouthwash and gargle, for infected sore throats and gum disease. They never attracted much early research interest because they permanently coat expensive glassware! For use in the mouth, gums and throat hey are best combined with concentrated licorice extracts to keep the resins in suspension and add extra soothing properties. It appears that they work both as local antiseptics and by stimulating white blood cell activity under the mucosal surface. They feel extremely effective!
The salty flavour is immediately distinctive. A grain dropped onto the tongue is instantly moistening and a sprinkle on food enkindles digestion. This easily recognisable flavour has its receptors right at the front of the tongue. The salty flavor creates moisture and heat, a sinking and heavy effect which is very grounding for the nervous system and encourages stability. People who are solid and reliable become known as ‘the salt of the earth'.
The sharp taste of some fruits, and almost all unripe fruits, as well as vinegar and fermented foods, is produced by weak acids (the taste is generated by H+ ions from acids stimulating the sour taste buds). Sour taste buds are hard-wired to generate immediate reflex responses elsewhere in the body. Anyone who likes the refreshing taste of lemon or other citrus in the morning will know that one reflex effect is increased saliva production. Other effects are subjective rather than confirmed by research but there is a consistent view that they include increased digestive activity and contraction of the gallbladder.
In the days when most people never tasted sugar, ‘sweetness’ was associated with the taste of basic foods: that of cooked vegetables, cereals and meat. In other words sweet was the quality of nourishment, and ‘tonic’ remedies. Describing a remedy as sweet generally led to that remedy being used in convalescence or recovery from illness. Interestingly, the plant constituents most often found in classic tonics like licorice, ginseng are plant steroids including saponins, which also have a sweet taste.

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