Recent discussion about asafoetida on The Flaming Vegan inspired me to write this post. Commonly called 'Heeng' in India, it is a cooking ingredient and also used as a medicine. I mentioned it first in my post "Cheela - Quick Vegan Omelette for Everyone to Love!" mainly because of its Anti-flatulent property.
Asafoetida is a perennial herb, mostly grown in Afghanistan and is widely used in Indian cuisine. It is actually a resin but is very hard and is available in market in powdered form. It also comes in resin form but is not used much. Apart from cooking, it is a useful remedy for different ailments related to the stomach. It is also effective when applied externally. It is a common practice to rub it on the belly of a little baby to aid better digestion.
It has a pungent, Sulphur like smell and it takes some time for people to get used to it. Excessive intestinal gas is called flatulence and since it prevents that it is said to be an Anti-flatulent. Most lentils and few beans are known to create gas movements in the stomach, and hence asafoetida is used with almost every dish that includes lentils (dals), chickpeas, dry peas etc.
Apart from improving digestion, it also works against cough and bronchitis. It has a strong smell and even that smell has its medicinal properties. It is often hung in a cloth near the patient and is still effective. Indians add it to a spoon of hot ghee (Indian clarified butter) to reduce its odor and taste better.
It is used in Unani as well as Ayurvedic medicine for its antimicrobial, antiepileptic and anti-viral properties (destroys disease causing micro-organisms, prevents epilepsy, fights viruses). It is also known to balance the air element in the body, according to Ayurveda.
It is known by different names in different states of India and outside. Few common names are hing/heeng, ting, giant fennel, devil's dung (due to its smell), stinking gum etc.
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