Asafoetida: 10 health benefits of the culinary wonder

Asafoetida or hing typically works as a flavour enhancer and, used along withturmeric, is a standard component of Indian cuisine, particularly in lentil curries, such as dal as well as in numerous vegetable dishes.

Udita Madan

The name Asafoetida comes from the Latin word “foetid” which means “smelly”. Rightly so, since Asafoetida, also known as 'hing' in Hindi, has a very distinct, pungent smell. This spice is used as a digestive aid, in food as a condiment, and in pickling.

While on its own, the smell may strike you as overpowering and somewhat unpleasant, in cooking it mellows out and produces a flavor similar to onion and garlic.

However, this smell becomes a minute fault of the spice when it comes to its huge range of health benefits.

Asafoetida has its own place in Indian cuisine. It is used most commonly to season dals (lentils), sambars, pickles and various other spicy vegetarian dishes. But the herb is known to be anti-flatulent, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, laxative, nerve stimulant, expectorant and sedative.

To help you acquire its health benefits, we have listed out a few below. Take a look!

1. Blood pressure/Hypertension:

Asafoetida or hing contains coumarins which aid in the thinning of blood and prevent blood clotting. This anticoagulant property of hing along with its healing powers protects against high triglycerides and cholesterol. It thus helps lower high blood pressure.

2. Indigestion:

The anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties of asafoetida help alleviate digestion problems like upset stomach, intestinal gas, intestinal worms, flatulence, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It is also acts as an excellent laxative and prevents constipation.

3. Pain:

Headaches and migraines have become a part and parcel of our hectic schedules. To relieve these aches and pains, dissolve a pinch of hing in water and drink. A piece of hing mixed with lemon juice works wonders for an aching tooth as well.

4. Respiratory disorders:

Hing has been used since times immemorial to treat respiratory tract infections. It acts as a respiratory stimulant and expectorant to release phlegm and relieve chest congestion. Hing mixed along with some honey and ginger have the power to alleviate problems like dry cough, whooping cough, bronchitis, influenza, and asthma.

5. Nerve disorders:

Asafoetida is recommended for hysteria, convulsions, syncope and other nerve disorders.  It protects against these nerve ailments by stimulating the nerves.

6. Menstrual issues:

A host of women’s menstrual problems like pain, cramps, and irregular periods can be treated with the healing properties of asafoetida. The herb is also useful in the treatment of various other vaginal infections.

7. Cancer:

Hing is a powerful anti-oxidant and is known to protect body cells from free radicals. According to studies, the anti-carcinogenic property of hing stops the growth of malignant cells.

8. Diabetes:

Asafoetida helps pancreatic cells secrete more insulin, thereby decreasing the blood sugar levels.

9. Skin problems:

Many skin care products as well as dermatologists use hing’s medicinal properties for effective skin treatment. It can also be applied directly to the skin to cure corns and calluses.

10. Swine Flu/H1N1:

Studies have shown that antiviral drug compounds produced by the roots of the asafoetida plant can kill H1N1, the swine flu virus and can be used for new drug development against the virus.