Asafoetida - a well kept secret

I had never heard of Asafoetida until I was working with an Indian woman a few years ago. She is a Mother of four and I was heavily pregnant with my second child. She spoke of it so highly, she had been using it her whole life and used it on her children as well, even as infants so I decided to get some and try it for myself. I love hearing about new remedies or tips and tricks to do with health, especially when they can help with young children and babies. I could feel that she was so passionate about it and how it had worked for her so I looked into it further and picked up a bottle at my local Indian shop, cheap as chips. Side note, my local Indian shop, Shaji's Royal Masala is an absolute gold mine for health products. I could spend hours pouring over what the entire contents of the store are. It is literally packed to the brim with goodness, (it's a little overwhelming!), and I always have great chats with Ankit there about health products, and more often than not come away having learnt something new.

So what is Asafoetida? Asafoetida is the dried latex from the rhizome or tap root from several species of Ferula, a perennial herb which is native to the deserts of Iran and the Mountains of Afghanistan and is cultivated in nearby India. It has a strong small which in cooked dishes delivers a smooth flavour not dissimilar to leeks.

It is known as food of the gods, amongst other names.

In Ayurveda it has been used as a:

  • Antiflatulent – It reduces the growth of indigenous microflora in the gut which reduces flatulence. In the Jammu region of India, asafoetida is used as a medicine for flatulence and constipation by 60% of locals.
  • Digestion aid - I have used it on myself by putting ¼ tsp in some water and drinking it. It's not uncommon to drink this, and then a short while later expel a rather large burp. I have also used this on my two youngest babies when they seemed to have digestive issues. For them, as they were just on breastmilk at the time I rubbed a small amount on their abdomen in a clockwise motion. You can add some water to make more of a paste if that is easier.
    It can be added to, or taken in conjuction with dishes containing meat, to help digest the meat in the colon more effectively.This is one of the very strong smells you can smell in curries!
  • Asafoetida in a tincture form was evidently used in western medicine as a topical treatment for abdominal injuries during the 18th and 19th centuries. There are cases where it has been used in tincture form as a topical solution for wounds for healing.
  • Fighting Influenza. Asafoetida was used in 1918 to fight the Spanish flu pandemic. In 2009 researches reported that the roots of Asafoetida produce natural antiviral drug compounds that demonstrated potency against the H1N1 virus in vitro.
  • Remedy for asthma and bronchitis. A traditional folk remedy for childrens colds: mix it into a pungent-smelling paste and hang in a bag around the childs neck.
  • It is antimicrobial: Asafoetia has a broad range of uses in traditional medicine as an antimicrobial with well documented uses for treating chronic bronchitis and whooping cough.
  • Balancing the vata and kapha. In India according to Ayurveda, asafoetida is considered to be one of the best spices for balancing the vata dosha. It mitigates vata and kapha, relieves flatulence and colic pain.
  • For cooking; it typically works well as a flavour enhancer, and is often used alongside turmeric as a standard component of Indian cuisine, particularly in lentil curries such as dal.
  • For repelling spirits: In Jamaica, asafoetida is traditionally applied to a baby's anterior fontanel (Jamaican patois mole) 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.
Now, I can't say I've tried it for repelling spirits, but I am partial to a good old fashioned sage smudging so who know, maybe I'll add that to the repertoire...

But, I can tell you that I've used it in the kitchen, on myself, and on my babies. It tastes quite leeky/oniony and is quite pungent. In my experience I've found it really does help with digestion, and has certainly been a real life saver for me for helping ease obstructed wind from my young infant.

Give it a go!

To your vitality,

The HH x


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