Asafetida is said to be endowed with magical powers and thought to ward off evil spirits. It was believed that the strong pungent smell of the plant could keep certain diseases at bay. For that reason, it was a practice in some European countries for children to keep small cloth bags containing the herb close to their chest, as an amulet to protect them against infectious diseases, especially colds.
In Chinese herbal medicine, asafetida has been used since 600 AD mainly as a nerve stimulant in the treatment of neurasthenia (nerve weakness). The herb is also widely used in traditional Indian medicine (Ayurveda) as a brain stimulating herb.
In East Asia, the resin has been used as herbal medicine for centuries as an expectorant and diuretic. There it is also used against intestinal worms, convulsions, and hysteria. In Iran, the herb has a reputation as an aphrodisiac. 1
Current Medicinal Uses of Asafetida
Most of the medicinal application of asafetida is based on traditional and folk uses, and not many scientific studies have been done on the plant’s health benefits and therapeutic properties.
When asafetida is intended as an internal remedy, it is often used in conjunction with other herbs. Internal uses include treatments for inflammation and spasm conditions in the digestive tract, colic due to intestinal gas, belching and cramps.
The essential oil extracted from asafetida has, in the same manner as garlic, expectorant properties. The herb is therefore often used to treat bronchitis, bronchial asthma, whooping cough, and other respiratory ailments.
Two double-blind trials have been done on the herb in homeopathic form as a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome where it was reported that the plant had a significant positive effect. 2 3
Additionally, the herb may be used to reduce cholesterol and regulate blood sugar. 56
There are reports that suggest that the herb also has an antihypertensive effect and could be used to lower blood pressure naturally.