Herb: Asafoetida

Latin name: Ferula foetida

Family: Umbelliferae

Medicinal use of Asafoetida:

Asafoetida has long been used as a food flavouring and medicinal herb. It is still sometimes used in modern herbalism where it is especially valued in the treatment of hysteria, some nervous conditions, bronchitis, asthma and whooping cough. It was at one time employed in the treatment of infantile pneumonia and flatulent colic. The gum resin is antispasmodic, carminative, expectorant, laxative, sedative. The volatile oil in the gum is eliminated through the lungs, making this an excellent treatment for asthma. The gum does have a vile taste and so it is usually taken as a pill or as a suppository.

Description of the plant:


100 cm
(3 1/4 foot)

May to


Habitat of the herb:

Sandy deserts. Rocky hillsides.

Edible parts of Asafoetida:

Leaves and young shoots - cooked as a vegetable or eaten raw. A gum-resin from the root is used as a food flavouring. It is much used in India, despite having an offensive odour. It is an essential ingredient of Worcester sauce, and is also used to flavour a wide range of dishes and drinks. Popular in natural food cuisine as a garlic substitute.

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. The gum exudes and hardens and a fresh slice is then made. 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:

Sandy deserts. Rocky hillsides.

Known hazards of Ferula foetida:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.