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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.




ASAFETIDA
aka Asafoetida, Devil's-dung, Food of the Gods, Giant Fennel, Gum Asafetida
(Ferula assa-foetida syn F. foetida)
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CONTRAINDICATED: Not used during pregnancy. Not used during acute inflammations of the digestive system. Not used during infant colic. Not used when peptic ulcers are present.

CONTAINS: 62% resin, 25% gum, 7% oil; asaresinotannol, azulene, bassorine, ferulic acid, pinene. Of the approximately 40-64% resinous material there is ferulic acid, umbelliferone, asaresinotannol, farnesiferol A, B, and C; about 25% of gum composed of glucose, galactose, L-arebinose, rhamnose and glucuronic acid; 3-17% volatile oil composed mostly of disulfides with monoterpenes, free ferulic acid, valeric acid and traces of vanillin. A source of sulfur.

A perennial member of the Umbelliferae family which is native to Afghanistan and eastern portions of Iran and grows from 2000 to 4000 feet above sea level. It grows from 5 to 8 feet tall, has downy foliage with basal leaves 1 to 2 feet long, large spindle shaped roots with bristles and a very nasty odor. A strongly foul smelling herb with a sulfurous odor, but in very tiny amounts is used to flavor cooking, and the gum resin is much used in Ayurvedic medicine. The odor is said to be greatly tenacious and will cling for a long period of time to whatever it touches.
First found in the desert of Aral in 1844, it had already been well-known since the 15th century. It had a history of being the most adulterated drug in the marketplace. It was often mixed with inferior asafetida as well as red clay, sand, stones and gypsum in an effort to increase its weight and thereby gain added profits. In the Middle Ages a small piece of gum was worn around the neck to ward off disease. In ancient Persia (Iran) it was used as a condiment and called "food of the gods". Another variety which was once found in commerce is Scorodosma foetida. Narthex asafetida aka Thibetan asafetida (Ferula narthex) can still be found in commerce. Persian Sagapenum or Serapinum was once imported from Bombay to Britain and used in the remedy called Confection Rutea (British Pharmacopoeia Codex). It has been used in Chinese medicine since the 7th century. It is a major ingredient in the Ayurvedic formula Hingashtak (Hing in Sanskrit).

PROPAGATION: By fresh seed sown in late summer.
NEEDS: Tropical climate, sandy soil and good moisture.
HARVEST: Several sources report slightly different variations on the same method. The plant, which must be at least 4 years old for quality production, is cut down in early summer before flowering. The cut includes the top portion of the root. A milk resin exudes from the cut surface which is allowed to remain for several weeks (being shaded from the sun) at which time it is scraped away and saved. Another slice is removed and allowed to remain several weeks. Over the course of a 3 month period the root will be exhausted by successive slicing and the harvest of the resin complete. The gummy resin is formed into "tears", lumps or paste. When collected the resin is placed into containers and allowed to harden in the sun. In India the leaf-bud in the center of the root produces a very fine product called Kandaharre Hing which is used in Ayurvedic medicine. It appears as red-yellow flakes and gives out an oil when squeezed.
PART USED: Gum resin [e wei] which softens by heat without melting and is difficult to powder.
SOLVENT: Alcohol. With alcohol it forms a clear tincture which becomes milky when water is added.



USES

MEDICINAL:
NOTE: One source indicated that it was stimulating to the circulation and raised blood pressure. Stimulant for brain and nervous system, expectorant, tonic, laxative, diuretic, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, anthelmintic, aphrodisiac (in some cultures), antispasmodic. The herb produces a sensation of warmth without any rise in body temperature.
Has been used for croup, whooping cough, colds, bronchial problems, infantile coughs and catarrhs complicated with disorders of the nervous system, debility, measles, pulmonary consumption, all diseases of the chest in which the lungs do not perform properly, stomach irritation, hysteria, spasmodic nervous diseases, hypochondria, flatulant colic, spasms of the stomach and bowel not associated with inflammation, restlessness, nervous irritability, insomnia, spasmodic asthma, double vision, spermatorrhea (flow of semen and sperm without sexual stimulation), dysmenorrhea (painful or difficult menses), gastric irritation and nervous colitis.
The emulsion has been used in cases of infant colic and as an enema in cases of infant convulsions.
Has been used as an aid in prevention of miscarriage (stimulates ovarian and intestinal activity).
Acts mainly on the digestive system, cleansing and strengthening the gastro-intestinal tract. Has been used to relieve pains and spasms, encourage productive coughing, is hypotensive and anticoagulant (perversely, it is also said to increase blood coagulation). An enema is used for typhus associated with excessive air in the bowels, tympanitic abdomen, hysteric paroxyms and convulsions.
An evening enema (2 drachms in 4 oz. of tepid water), and held all night has been used for hysteria and the habitually nervous.
Has been combined with other herbal remedies in constipation with flatulence.
In Chinese medicine it is considered alterative, anthelmintic, antispasmodic, antiperiodic, carminative, cordial, deobstruent, deodorant, digestive, expectorant, laxative, sedative, stomachic, and vermifuge. It has been used for cough, gas, hysteria, neurasthenia, indigestion, flatulence, colic, constipation, intestinal worms, dysentary, whooping cough, bronchitis, convulsive illnesses and externally for painful joints.
In Ayurvedic medicine it is considered to be spicy, bitter and hot with particular action on the liver, spleen and stomach; used for damp, cold spleen conditions associated with Candida albicans overgrowth; it is also thought to exercise a stimulant action on the brain; it is used as a local stimulant to mucous membranes (particularly as pertains to the alimentary canal); it is used as a carminative in cases of flatulent colic and is useful in laxative medicines; used for stomach ailments and rheumatism. Used for indigestion, bloat and gas and to calm hysteria.
The volatile oil is believed to be eliminated through the lungs making it useful in cases of asthma, bronchitis and whooping cough.
In ancient Mesopotamia it was used for rheumatism and as an expectorant.

DOSE = TRADITIONAL DOSAGES FOR PROFESSIONAL NOTE ONLY
All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully.
0.2 to 1 gram of resin 3 times daily.
Due to its vile taste has usually been given in pill form (3 grains of oleo-resin gum to one pill)
The emulsion has been given to infants rectally.
Powdering the resin is done immediately before use as the volatile oil dissipates quite quickly.
EMULSION = 4 parts asafetida to 100 parts water, or, 1 oz. of powdered resin to 1 pint of boiling water; when cooled it is taken in small quanity (about 1 Tbsp for an adult). Dose is 10 grains.
TINCTURE = 1/2 to 1 fluid drachm (about 1/8 oz.) or from 1/4 to 3/4 of a teaspoon.
PILL = 3 grains of oleo-resin to one pill.
ANTISPASMODIC FORMULA = Mix 1 dram each of powered asafetida, powdered valerian root, 10 grains of powdered capsicum and fill #4 capsules. Also used for congestion or inflammation of the brain, double vision and meningitis.
SYRUP = 1 oz. gum in boiling water; add 2 lbs. sugar and enough water to fill 1 pint.
AYURVEDIC "HINGASHTAK" = Equal parts asafetida, caraway, long pepper, black pepper, cumin, omum seeds and rock salt; sprinkled on food to eliminate gas and bloat.

CULINARY:
Minute amounts are used to flavor legumes, vegetables, sauces, pickles.
Much used in Indian cuisine.
A standard ingredient in Worcestershire sauce.
Widely used in spice blends and condiments.
The extract is used in soups and even ice cream.
The leaves are cooked by local natives as greens.
Cabbage-like folded heads are eaten by natives.

CRAFT:
Used as a potpourri fixative.





©2000 by Ernestina Parziale, CH

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