Synonyms: Hing, Ferula.

Biological source: It is an oleo gum resin obtained from the roots of Ferula foetida Regel, F. Rubricaulis Boissier.

Family: Umbelliferae.

Geographical source: These plants are large and grow in Afghanistan, Persia, and Central Asia.

Collection and Preparation of Asafoetida

Numerous large schizogenous ducts are filled with whitish, gummy resinous emulsion in the cortex of the stem and root. After about five years the roots have stored sufficient reserve and is about thick at the crown. At the end of March, the stems close to the crown are cut off. The exudate flows out from the cut surface and hardened. The cut surface which oozes out the exudates is covered with a dome-like covering of sticks and leaves. The hardened gum resin is scrapped off after a few weeks and again a cut is made to allow the juice to flow out. This process is repeated many times with a time interval of about ten days until the plant ceases to produce latex. The yield is about 1000 gm per plant. The collected drug is dried properly, packed in tin containers, and marketed.

Asafoetida plant and its tear form
Fig.1: Asafoetida plant and its tear form

Description of Asafoetida

  • Forms: Paste, tear (pure form) and mass bulk (block or lump).
  • Shape: Tears are separate, rounded or flattened.
  • Size: 0.5-4 cm in diameter.
  • Colour: Dull yellow or dingy grey colour which changes into reddish-brown on storage.
  • Odour: Intense, penetrating, persistent, alliaceous smell.
  • Taste: Bitter, acrid and alliaceous.

Mass asafoetida consist of tears agglutinated into less uniform mass and mixed with extraneous substances like stones, earthy matter, calcium carbonate and root slices etc.

Chemical Constituents of Asafoetida

The main constituents are volatile oil (10-17%), resin (40-65%) and gum (1.5-10%). The resin consists of resene (asaresene A) and volatile oil. It also contains 1.5 percent of free ferulic acid and 16 percent of an unstable ester of ferulic acid with asaresinol. The volatile oil contains pinene and various disulphides (C7H14S2, C11H20S2, C10H16S2). Ferulic acid yields umbellic acid, when it is treated with hydrochloric acid, loses water molecules and forms umbelliferone. Free umbelliferone is absent in asafoetida.

Chemical Test of Asafoetida

  1. Reddish-brown colour develops upon the addition of sulphuric acid on the fractured surface of the drug.
  2. A yellowish-orange emulsion forms when asafoetida is triturated with water.
  3. When the drug is treated with nitric acid green colour appears.
  4. Take 0.5 gm of drug and triturate it with sand and hydrochloric acid, add a little quantity of water and filter it. To the filtrate add ammonia blue fluorescence develops which shows the presence of umbelliferone.

Uses of Asafoetida

It is a powerful nervine tonic, used in the treatment of Hysteria, bowel stimulant, expel flatulence, relieves constipation and flavouring agent.

Allied Drug

Galbanum (Ferula galbaniflua) is an oleo gum resin used as an allied drug. The distinction between galbanum and asafoetida is the presence of free umbelliferone. Galbanum contains free umbelliferone whereas asafoetida does not contain umbelliferone in free form.

Asafoetida is also adulterated with red clay, wheat flour, chalk and gum acacia.

Chemical Structure of Chemical Constituents

Chemical structure of Asafoetida constituents
Fig.2: Chemical structure of Asafoetida constituents
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