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Botanical Description & Habitat

Ferula assafoetida


Common Names

Devil's dung
Gum Asafetida

Indigenous to Eastern Iran and Western Afghanistan


Perennial plant, the gum resin is obtained from the dried roots and rhizomes. It appears to cover the herb, in tear-drops varying in color from yellowish white to a violet-streaked pink and finally to reddish brown.

Medicinal Parts
Juice from the fresh rhizomes and roots.

Historical Properties & Uses

Asafetida is a popular spice in some parts of the middle east, but its strong pungent taste is usually too much for Western preferences, though it does appear in very small amounts in certain Western sauces and beverages.

It remains a popular folk remedy in the African-American culture.

Asafetida yields an oleo-gum resin which has expectorant properties and has been used in both bronchial and allergic asthma, as well as to treat pertussis and other respiratory problems.

The plant is also has antispasmodic properties for which it is used to produce relief of gastrointestinal distress, nervous problems, delayed menses, cramps, sluggish intestines as well as intestinal spasms, and so forth.

An hypotensive property has been established, as well as blood thinning properties similar to those of garlic, cayenne, turmeric and other curry herbs. Asafetida is most often combined with other herbs. For example, in the treatment of gastrointestinal problems, one sees it combined with other carminatives, such as milk thistle, chelidonium, boldo and dandelion root. Combined with valerian root, it is used as a sedative to treat hysteria, hyperactivity and general nervousness.

Method of Action

The Pharmacology of Asafetida
The main active ingredients of asafetida are the gum resin, essential oil, propenyl-isobutylsulfide, umbelliferone, and vanillin. The resin and gum produce a disinfectant action in the gastrointestinal tract, while several of the other volatile constituents produce a sedative effect. The blood thinning property has been experimentally validated.

Most authorities in the field of herbal medicine accept the validity of the main uses of the herb, simply by recognizing the known properties of the primary constituents. Those uses are: sedative, carminative, anti-spasmodic, and expectorant.

The British Pharmacopoeia recognizes the carminative, spasmolytic and expectorant properties of asafetida, and suggests it be considered for treating flatulent colic, chronic bronchitis, pertussis, laryngitis, and hysteria, with a special emphasis on intestinal flatulent colic.

Drug Interactions & Precautions


Asafetida has coumarin constituents and therefore acts as an anticoagulant.

Possible Interactions
The antacid nature of this herb may decrease or delay the absorption of nalidixic acid and the sulfonamides.

Due to the spasmolytic nature of this herb it may interact in unknown ways with CNS depressants or stimulants.

Veratrum alkaloids may potentiate the activity of asafetida (up to 50%).

Additive effects may occur between the hypotensive property of asafetida and dopamine receptor agonists such as bromocriptine mesylate. Asafetida should be used with caution in conjunction with CNS depressants or stimulants.

The hypotensive effect of asafetida may be potentiated by anoretic drugs such as fenfluramine whose effects are mediated by brainstem serotonin, and may be additive with analgesics nalbuphine HCl and propoxyphene HCl. Asafetida should not be used with methotrimeprazine, a potent CNS depressant analgesic.

The hypotensive property of this herb may be additive with the CNS depressant activity of the analgesic nalbuphine HCl. The same is true of the analgesic propoxyphene HCl.

Due to hypotensive principles, it would be wise to avoid using asafetida with procarbazine antineoplastic agents, to eliminate the chance of CNS depression.

In the absence of other hard data, it may still be assumed that observable interactions may occur between the many central nervous system drugs and the psychoactive principles in asafetida.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

Asafetida is generally regarded as safe to use in recommended amounts. The gum, applied topically, may induce rash.

The FDA has approved the use of asafetida in food.

Preparation & Administration

Caution: Serious consideration should be given to using this only under medical supervision.

Use three times daily

Powdered Resin
Use 0.3-1g.

Use 2-4ml


British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, British Herbal Medicine Association, 1983.

Braun, H. & Frohne, D. Heilplanzen-Lexikon Fuer Aerzte und Apotheker. Gustav Fisher Verlag, Stuttgart, New York, 1987.

Duke, J. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs, CRC Press, Inc., Florida, 1985

Facts and Comparisons. The Lawrence Review of Natural Products. Jan, 1993.

Mansurov, M., Med. Zh Uzb., 6, 46, 1976 Chem. Abstr., 68, 207y94u, 1968.

Mowrey, Daniel B., Ph.D. Exper. Psych., Brigham Young University. Director of Nebo Institute of Herbal Sciences. Director of Behavior Change Agent Training Institute. Director of Research, Nova Corp.

Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines A Guide for Health-care Professionals. London: The Pharmaceutical Press, 1996:21,45,63,282.

Sarkis'yan, R. Med. Zh.Uzb., 9,23, 1969 Chem. Abstr., 72, 110901t, 1970.

Weiss, R.F. Herbal Medicine. Beaconsfield Publishers, LTD, Beaconsfield, England, 1988.