Herb: Asafoetida

Latin name: Ferula assa-foetida

Synonyms: Ferula asafoetida

Family: Umbelliferae

Medicinal use of Asafoetida:

Asafoetida is a very effective medicinal herb that acts mainly on the digestive system, cleansing and strengthening the gastro-intestinal tract. It is much used in the Ayurvedic tradition. The gum-resin contains a volatile oil that is as persistent in aroma as garlic. They leave the body via the respiratory system and aid the coughing up of congested mucous. The pungently flavoured gum-resin that is obtained from the root is alterative, anthelmintic, antiperiodic, antispasmodic, carminative, deobstruent, deodorant, expectorant, laxative, sedative and stomachic. It is used in the treatment of simple digestive problems such as wind, bloating, indigestion and constipation, and also for respiratory problems such as bronchitis, bronchial asthma and whooping cough. It is also used as a circulatory stimulant, lowering blood pressure and thinning the blood. The resin has a synergistic effect on other herbal preparations such as camphor, valerian and nux-vomica. It is used in tincture as a mild cardio-tonic. See below under "Uses notes" for details on harvesting the resin.

Description of the plant:


2 m
(6 1/2 foot)



Habitat of the herb:


Edible parts of Asafoetida:

Leaves and young shoots - cooked as a vegetable. The plant has a foetid odour, but this disappears when it is boiled. The cabbage-like folded heads are eaten raw as a delicacy. Root - cooked. It needs to be steeped in order to remove a bitterness. A starch extracted from the roots is used to make a porridge. A gum-resin from the root is used as a food flavouring. It is an essential ingredient of Worcester sauce, it is also used to flavour a wide range of dishes and drinks. It is popular in natural food cuisine as a garlic substitute. The resin obtained from this plant is probably the foulest-smelling of all herbs, with a sulphurous garlic-like odour. It is so nauseating to some people that it has been nicknamed "dung of the devil". However, in judicious quantities it gives a surprisingly pleasant flavour to many foods.

Other uses of the herb:

A gum-resin is obtained from incisions in the roots and rhizomes. The stem is removed at the end of the growing season, the root uncovered and a thin slice removed. Another report says that the stem is removed as the plant starts to flower. The gum exudes and hardens and a fresh slice is then made. The gum should be stored in an air-tight container to prevent its strong flavour contaminating nearby substances. The gum is a source of an essential oil which has medicinal properties and is also used as a food flavouring and in perfumery.

Propagation of Asafoetida:

Seed - best sown as soon as the seed is ripe in a greenhouse in autumn. Otherwise sow in April in a greenhouse. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle. Plant them out into their permanent positions whilst still small because the plants dislike root disturbance. Give the plants a protective mulch for at least their first winter outdoors. Division in autumn. This may be inadvisable due to the plants dislike of root disturbance.

Cultivation of the herb:


Known hazards of Ferula assa-foetida:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.