All about Asafoetida

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Asafoetida is used as a digestive aid, in food as a condiment and in pickles. Its odor, when uncooked, is so strong that it must be stored in airtight containers; otherwise the aroma will contaminate other spices stored nearby. However, its odor and flavor become much milder and more pleasant upon heating in oil or ghee, acquiring a taste and aroma reminiscent of sautéed onion and garlic.

Medical applications

Fighting flu – Asafoetida was used in 1918 to fight the Spanish influenza pandemic. Scientists at the Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan report that the roots of Asafoetida produce natural antiviral drug compounds that kill the swine flu virus, H1N1. In an article published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Natural Products, the researchers said the compounds “may serve as promising lead components for new drug development” against this type of flu.

Digestion – In Thailand, and India it is used to aid digestion and is smeared on the stomach in an alcohol or water tincture

Asthma and bronchitis – It is also said to be helpful in cases of asthma and bronchitis. A folk tradition remedy for children’s colds: it is mixed into a pungent-smelling paste and hung in a bag around the afflicted child’s neck.

Antimicrobial – Asafoetida has broad uses in traditional medicine as an antimicrobial, with well documented uses for treating chronic bronchitis and whooping cough, as well as reducing flatulence.

Contraceptive – Asafoetida has also been reported to have contraceptive/abortifacient activity,and is related (and considered an inferior substitute to) the ancient Ferula species Silphium.

Antiepileptic – Asafoetida oleo-gum-resin has been reported to be antiepileptic in classical Unani as well as ethnobotanical literature.

Balancing the vata – In Ayurveda, asafoetida is considered to be one of the best spices for balancing the vata dosha.

Regional usages

In India, In the Jammu region, Asafoetida is used as a medicine for flatulence and constipation by 60% of locals. It is used especially by the merchant caste of the Hindus and by adherents of Jainism and Vaishnavism, who do not eat onions or garlic. It is used in many vegetarian and lentil dishes to both add flavor and aroma and reduce flatulence.

Bait – John C Duval reported in 1936 that the odor of asafoetida is attractive to the wolf, a matter of common knowledge, he says, along the Texas/Mexico border. It is also used as one of several possible scent baits, most notably for catfish and pike.

Avoiding spirits – In Jamaica, asafoetida is traditionally applied to a baby’s anterior fontanel (Jamaican patois “mole”) in order to prevent spirits (Jamaican patois “duppies”) from entering the baby through the fontanel. In the African-American Hoodoo tradition, asafoetida is used in magic spells as it is believed to have the power both to protect and to curse. In ceremonial magic especially from The Key of Solomon the King, it is used to protect the magus from daemonic forces and to evoke the same and bind them.

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