An extremely Important ingredient in Indian cuisine, asafoetida is not only known for the way it helps flavor dals and curries. This herb also known as ‘hing’ has long been recognized for its amazing health benefits to the body and for the skin.
If you would like to find out more about asafoetida and how it can benefit your health, you have come to the right place.
What is Asafoetida?
Asafoetida is also commonly referred to as hing or ferula asafoetida. Hing is a latex gum which is extracted from a species of herb called ferula. It has a distinctive flavor that is valued in the kitchen especially in India where it forms an essential part of many wonderful recipes.
As well as its culinary uses, hing has a number of excellent medicinal properties including antibacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory diuretic, vermifuge and carminative properties. These actions give the herb a wide variety of potential uses from digestive and respiratory health to treating the skin and hair.
Asafoetida is usually available in the form of a dried powder. It has an extremely pungent odor but it adds flavor as well as texture to various Indian dishes such as curries, soups and dals. The herb is native to Afghanistan and Iran but is now cultivated widely in various parts of the world including the Indian subcontinent.
Because of its many amazing health benefits, the herb is commonly referred to as the ‘food of the Gods’. But does this herb deserve such widespread acclaim? This article will explore the many purported health uses of ferula asafoetida and help you to make up your own mind.
Traditional Uses of Asafoetida
Here are some of the traditional uses of asafoetida in various parts of the world : (1)
- In China a decoction is taken by mouth to treat parasites.
- In Afghanistan a hot water extract of the gum is taken for whooping cough, hysteria and the treatment of ulcers.
- A hot water extract from the dried root is also used extensively in Egypt as a natural diuretic, antispasmodic, analgesic and vermifuge.
- In Malaysia, ferula asafoetida gum is chewed to treat amenorrhea.
- In Saudi Arabia, the gum is used to for a range of respiratory conditions including asthma, bronchitis and whooping cough.
- Men in Brazil use an extract made with the leaves and stem as a natural aphrodisiac.
Health Benefits of Asafoetida
One of the most impressive benefits of hing is its ability to ease a wide variety of common digestive conditions and to improve your overall digestive health.
It has excellent anti-inflammatory and carminative properties and can be used to ease indigestion, bloating and gas as well as easing an upset stomach. It is also used to help soothe stomach cramps and even by people with digestive health issues like irritable bowel syndrome.
Studies have also found that extracts of the herb can help treat gastric ulcers. (2)
To help boost your digestive health and treat many of the most common symptoms of poor digestion, you can simply consume a pinch of hing each day. While you can consume hing by adding it to your cooking, it may be more convenient to add a little to a glass of water and drinking it down each day.
Asafoetida is also commonly used to treat a wide range of respiratory ailments from bronchitis to asthma.
Hing contains excellent, natural antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties that are idea for clearing up colds and coughs. It also contains antibacterial properties that can help treat various infections such as bronchitis.
Not only does hing help kill the pathogens responsible for the illness but it can also help treat congestion and help you breathe more easily. According to proponents, hing can act as a type of expectorant by freeing up mucus and phlegm and helping you expel the gunk that disturbs your breathing.
To treat many of the symptoms of cold and flu, you can use your asafoetida powder to make a topical paste. Simply add water to a small amount of the powder and stir until you have a smooth paste then apply the paste to your chest.
Another great way to make use of the herb is to add a teaspoon of the powder and an equal amount of ginger to a glass of water and drink it down. Stir in a spoonful of good quality honey and drink up whenever you are suffering from congestion or cold.
Blood Pressure and Circulation
Asafoetida may also help reduce your blood pressure naturally. It can help to thin the blood and is also rich in coumarin and other compounds that help improve blood flow through the body.
Animal studies have showed that the herb has a vasodilatory effect which helps improve blood circulation. (4)
Studies done on both on rabbits and dogs have both demonstrated that asafoetida helped reduce blood pressure. (3) (4)
Women’s Health Issues
Women can benefit from using asafoetida especially when it comes to their monthly periods. For many women, menstrual pains can be agonizing and debilitating. Fortunately, when taken orally, asafoetida can help relieve menstrual pain and soothe cramping in the abdomen and the back.
Asafoetida has natural anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties and has been used traditionally for many years to help treat pain. Try adding a pinch of the powder to a glass of water and drinking it down whenever you feel a headache coming on.
A number of in vitro and animal studies have found that asafoetida may have anti-cancer properties.
One study found that an ethanol extract of the plant was active against human lymphocites. (5) Animal studies have also found it to be effective against ovarian and breast cancer cells. (6) (7)
The signs are promising regarding the anti-cancer activity of asafoetida but human trials will be necessary before its effects are confirmed.
Blood Sugar Control
According to animal studies, asafoetida may also be an effective way to keep your blood sugar level under control.
In one study, the researchers noted that asafoetida had a blood sugar reducing effect on diabetic rats given an extract of the plant for a four week period. (8)
The effects are likely due to the presence of tannins and ferulic acid.
For Bites and Stings
Asafoetida has traditionally been used to treat insect stings and bug bites. It has natural anti-inflammatory properties that can help ease irritation to the skin and might promote faster healing.
Mix your hing with water and make a smooth paste then apply the paste to the affected area.
Because of its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial properties, asafoetida may have a number of applications for your skin. You can mix it with rose water and apply it to your skin to improve your skin’s overall appearance or to help deal with a range of skin conditions.
Combine a little rose water with some asafoetida powder and mix it up well. Apply the mixture to the affected area several times a day and you should notice the difference.
As well as taking care of your skin, asafoetida can also do wonders for your hair especially the dry and frizzy variety.
One popular treatment is to combine hing with yogurt and almond oil to make a home made hair mask. Apply the mask all over your hair and let it sit for at least an hour before washing it out. Try this treatment a few times a week and you should notice that your hair is moisturized, nourished and more attractive.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Hing good for?
Asafoetida has a number of potential medicinal uses. It is used to promote better digestive health especially to relieve flatulence and upset stomach. It is also used to treat a range of respiratory ailments like bronchitis and asthma. Many people also apply hing topically to help treat the skin and hair.
How do I use Hing?
Hing or asafoetida can be used as a flavoring for food. It is a popular ingredient in Indian cuisine despite its pungent smell that many people find off putting. If you can not find it in your local stores, it is also available in supplementary form including tinctures and capsules.
- Asafoetida also known as hing is a popular ingredient in Indian cuisine but it also has a number of medicinal benefits.
- It was used traditionally to help treat digestive health, pain and respiratory issues like bronchitis and asthma.
- These days, the plant is still used to treat a variety of health issues. Studies suggest that it can help boost digestion, ease flatulence, reduce blood pressure, improve circulation and may even have an anti-cancer effect.
- Hing is also a popular remedy for skin issues like acne and can be applied to the hair to help moisturize it.
(3) Boyd LJ. The pharmacology of the homeopathic drugs.I. J Am Inst Homeopathy. 1928;21:7.
(4) Sarkisyan RG. Effect of Ferula on arterial pressure. Meditsinskii Zhurnal Uzbekistana. 1969;1969:23–4.