Asafoetida is seen as an archaic remedy for flatulence, colic and other digestive disorders but the truth is that this ‘Food of Gods’ is still boasting its potent of treating various disorders from toothache to impotency for more than 5,000 years, where it’s use has been documented in Ashtanga Hridaya, which is one of the ancient text of the world’s oldest healing science known as Ayurveda.
Highly carped for its pungent aroma, Asafoetida has never failed in adding that extra spice to numerous traditional dishes in various countries including India, Europe, North Africa and the United States.
Known as Rāmaha, Badhika and Sahasravedhi in Sanskrit, Heeng and its essential oil has been prescribed in the Ayurvedic medicine for treating flatulence, whooping cough, painful menstruation, premature ejaculation, impotency, diabetes, asthma, intestinal worms and toothache.
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Historical importance of Heeng (Asafoetida):
Asafoetida is native to Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. Botanically known as Ferula assa-foetida, it is a member of the Apiaceae plant family and the commercial part used is the oleo-gum resin extracted from the thickened roots and rhizomes. It is also known by other famous names like hing, narthex, heeng, food of Gods, devil’s dung, haltheeth, giant fennel, ting and stinking gum.
Ayurveda quotes “Asafoetida is a grounding herb that can therefore balance an overactive, over emotional, turbulent system“. It was one among the common herbs prescribed for the treatment of hysteria. It was used in 1918 to combat the Spanish influenza pandemic. It was also used as a topical remedy for relieving abdominal injuries.
Heeng is a popular spice all over the world and is used as a digestive aid, flavoring agent and as a condiment in food varieties and in pickles. It is used in daily food preparations in India especially by the followers of Vaishnavism, Jainism and by the merchant caste. Asafoetida was the most prevalent folk remedy for treating flatulence, colic and cold in children and as a contraceptive medicine.
The Arabian pharmacists and scientists like Avicenna, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi and Ibn al-Baitar have talked about the positive effects of Asafoetida on digestive system and the respiratory system. It is used in magic spells in the African-American Hoodoo tradition for its power to protect as well as to curse.
Asafoetida is also used in the Jamaican culture for protecting babies from evil spirits. The Jewish literatures like Mishneh Torah and Mishnah have also talked about this spice.
Chemical constituents and therapeutic properties of Heeng oil:
The remedial properties of Heeng essential oil are nervine, carminative, aphrodisiac, vermifuge, abortifacient, antispasmodic, stimulant, anti-flatulent, antimicrobial, analgesic, antiseptic, anti-epileptic, fertility enhancer, contraceptive, anthelmintic, expectorant, bronchodilator and emmenagogue. The major chemical constituents are phellandrenes, α-pinene, hendecyl-sulphonyl acetic acid, ferulic acid and ethers of sesquiterpenes with coumarines like farnesi feroles.
Ayurvedic health benefits of Heeng (Asafoetida) oil:
Asafoetida is a promising Ayurvedic remedy for treating digestive and respiratory disorders for thousands of years. Known as the oldest of all the healing systems on earth, Ayurveda is the mother of all medicinal practices in the world having its roots deeply vested with India, the world’s oldest historical tradition.
Ayurveda is considered as the only healing methodology that considers human body as a temple where the real soul dwells in. It also states that Mother Nature is made up of five vital elements namely fire, water, earth, air and ether. Being a part of Nature, human beings are also made up of these five fundamental elements that pair together and form the biological energies called as doshas.
Just like an individual’s fingerprints, each one of us on earth has a unique individual constitution that comprises of these three doshas namely vata, pitta and kapha. Vata is a representation of air and space and is responsible for respiration, nervous functions, circulation, excretion and creativity.
Pitta stands for fire and water and is accountable for digestion, absorption, metabolism and thinking capacity. Kapha represents water and earth and is in charge for structure, movement of fluids, sustenance and love.
Every individual has a dominance of any one of these doshas and it determines their characteristics, temperament and behavioral attributes. Balance between these doshas indicates health and imbalance causes illnesses. Ayurvedic remedies are prescribed in a such a manner to set right these doshic imbalances.
Heeng and its essential oil in Ayurveda is said to increase Pitta energy and balance vata and kapha dosha with its pungent taste and enormous healing properties. In the Ayurvedic text Ashtanga Hridaya Su Chapter l it is mentioned that “Asafoetida mitigates vata and kapha, relieves flatulence and colic pain. It is pungent taste and at the end of digestion. It aggravates pitta, enhances appetite, taste and digestion. It is easy to digest”.
The major Ayurvedic health benefits of Heeng oil are:
1. Benefits to the digestive system:
Just by hearing the word ‘Asafoetida’ anyone in India would just say that it is the best natural remedy for treating flatulence, colic and indigestion in children as well as elderly people. With its anti-flatulent, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, Heeng essential oil aids in relieving from abdominal gas, stomach pain, intestinal gas and bloating.
It cleanses the intestinal flora and augments the digestive fire. By this way it eliminates all kinds of stagnation in the gastrointestinal tract, relieves cramping and drives out intestinal gas. The strong herbaceous aroma of this oil assists in soothing the lining of the stomach and intestines, reducing distention, treating spasms and increasing the appetite.
Gently massaging your tummy and abdomen with 2 drops of Asafoetida oil blended with 1 ml of sesame oil will be of great help in treating all types of stomachic and intestinal problems in a comforting manner.
You can also add 1 drop of Heeng oil to warm bathing water or to diffuser in the dining hall to stimulate the process of metabolism and for enhancing the stamina, as this oil is known to nurture the earth element that is responsible for strength and vigor.
Asafoetida is used as a traditional medicine for treating constipation and flatulence in 60% people of Jammu and Kashmir, India and this wonder herbal medicine lessens the development of indigenous microflora in the gut, thus helping in reducing flatulence. It has also been used in western medicinal system as a topical remedy for treating abdominal injuries since the 18th century.
2. Benefits to the respiratory system:
Heeng and its essential oil is an ancient folk remedy for treating cold especially in children. This is mainly due to its antimicrobial and expectorant properties along with its ability to reduce kapha dosha, which is responsible for excess phlegm and mucous deposits causing cold and other respiratory problems.
Add 2 drops of Heeng oil to steam inhalation or to vapor rub and massage it on your chest, neck and back for expelling mucous and phlegm deposits in the bronchial, nasal and respiratory passages. Asafoetida has antimicrobial values that arrest the growth of infectious organisms that worsen cold and cough and pave way for chronic respiratory conditions.
It has been proven effective in the treatment of asthma, bronchitis, chest congestion, whooping cough and other respiratory problems. There are numerous home remedies with Asafoetida for treating respiratory disorders and various other health conditions.
One popular home remedy with Heeng is mixing half teaspoon of asafoetida powder with fresh betel leaf juice and white onion juice along with honey every day for treating whooping cough, bronchitis and asthma.
A 2009 study on ‘Influenza A (H(1)N(1)) Antiviral and Cytotoxic Agents from Ferula assa-foetida’ have proved the effectiveness of Asafoetida in combating the harmful effects of H1N1 virus with its antiviral and cytotoxic elements. This study concluded that Asafoetida exhibited greater potency against influenza A virus and against HepG2, Hep3B, and MCF-7 cancer cell lines, correspondingly.
3. Benefits to the reproductive system:
Asafoetida addresses male and female reproductive problems in a natural way. It is known to cure impotency, premature ejaculation and spermatorrhoea in men by increasing the libido and it also acts as an effective aphrodisiac.
Mix 2 drops of Heeng oil with 1 ml of olive oil and gently massage on your lower abdomen or add 1 drop of this oil to your bathing tub before going to bed. Regular use of this therapy can show effective results as the therapeutic molecules present in this oil penetrate deeply into the system through the skin and stimulate the male reproductive system.
Heeng as a powerful herb and a strong essential oil has emmenagogue properties and has been in use as a natural contraceptive. It will be of great assistance in treating dysmennorhea or painful menstruation, excessive bleeding, irregular or delayed periods, leucorrhea, nausea, fatigue, anxiety and other symptoms associated with menses.
The best way to use Heeng oil for menstrual discomforts is by massaging your lower abdomen with 2 drops of this oil mixed with 1 ml sesame oil or add it in a hot compress for improved results.
As a contraceptive or abortifacient, Heeng oil can be used in treating unplanned abortion, sterility in women and premature labor. It is also effective in improving the quality and quantity of breast milk in nursing women. Using Asafoetida in post-pregnancy period is recommended for relieving colic, indigestion and other digestive difficulties in both the mother and the baby.
4. Benefits to oral health:
Human mouth has the highest possibilities of being affected by millions of micro-organisms that not only cause hazards to oral health but also to the entire body. Heeng essential oil has potent antimicrobial and antiseptic properties that aids in treating toothache, bleeding gums, bad breath or halitosis and harmful cavities.
Add 1 drop of Heeng oil in a cup of warm water and use it as a gargle for getting rid of various oral problems. You can also add 1 drop of this oil to a piece of cotton and dab it on your aching tooth for immediate relief.
5. Benefits to the entire system:
Asafoetida and its essential oil are beneficial to the entire system in a number of ways. It has been proven effective in stimulating the pancreatic cells to secrete more insulin as improved insulin levels are known to bring down the blood sugar levels to normal.
According to certain studies, the antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic properties of Asafoetida curbs the growth of malignant cells causing cancerous tumors. Since the ancient times, this condiment has been used as a powerful antidote for opium as it is identified to counter the effect of the ingested drug.
Asafoetida is defined as ‘Tamasic’ in Ayurveda for its properties of resistance, dullness, inertia and darkness on the mind and it can balance the over emotional, hyperactive and chaotic system.
This condiment is also used as a pesticide and insecticide for protecting crops from pests and for repelling mosquitoes and certain other insects.
This article is only for informational purpose and is not directed to diagnose or replace any prescribed medicines or professional medical advice. Never take essential oils internally and always dilute essential oils before using it topically. This is because organic and pure essential oils are highly concentrated liquids and can cause allergic reactions if used in an undiluted manner.
Remember to consult your Ayurvedic practitioner before choosing the most suitable essential oil for your unique constitution and health condition. Avoid using Heeng oil if you are a pregnant woman as it has strong abortifacient properties.
Thought for the day:
Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light. -Theodore Roethke
- Ayurveda & Aromatherapy: The Earth Essential Guide to Ancient Wisdom and Modern Healing by Dr. Light Miller, Dr. Bryan Miller
- Ayurvedic Healing Cuisine by Harish Johari
- Herbs: An Inside Look Into The World of Alfalfa, Basil, Asafoetida, Burdock, Catnip and More by Vanesa Payne
- The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine by David Frawley, Vasant Lad
- Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide by Burton Goldberg Group
- Asafoetida by Wikipedia
- Asafoetida (Hing) Benefits by Speedy Remedies.com
- Asafoetida by The Spices Board India
- Asafoetida – A Grounding Herb by American Botanical Council
- Influenza A (H(1)N(1)) Antiviral and Cytotoxic Agents from Ferula assa-foetida by Lee, CL; Chia-Lin Lee, Lien-Chai Chiang, Li-Hung Cheng, Chih-Chuang Liaw, Mohamed H. Abd El-Razek, Fang-Rong Chang, Yang-Chang Wu, College of Pharmacy, China published in PubMed