Asafoetida is a hard aromatic resinous gum collected from certain species of giant fennels, plants of the genus ferula. It is sold in blocks or pieces as a gum and more frequently as a fine powder, sometimes crystalline or granulated. It is called devil's dung because of its strong pungent smell due to the presence of sulfur compounds. Asafoetida is believed to have gotten its name from the Persian word aza (mastic resin) and a Latin word foetida meaning stinking.
Asafoetida is a useful antidote for flatulence. It is also claimed to be useful for the treatment of bronchitis and hysteria. Here are some traditional use of asafoetida in healing:
1. Asafoetida is used for stomach pains: There are anecdotal evidence that strong stomach pains can be cured by taking asafoetida.
2. Asafoetida prevents insect bites: It repels mosquitoes, gnats, and other insects. It is described as the ultimate insect repellant. (More effective if you add some garlic to the mixture)
3. Headache Remedy: A folk remedy very popular in Kazakstan is decoctions from pieces of the dried gum. It is often prescribed to patients suffering from excruciating headaches. John Heinenman, in his book, "healing Herbs and Spices" reported that asafoetida was found effective for tension headaches. He put 1/8 teaspoon crumbled dried asafoetida in 1-1/2 cups hot water and let simmer for 15 minutes before drinking. People using this reported positive effects against tension headaches.
4. Preventing Snakebites: Afghan people would rub small chunks of asafoetida over their boots to keep away deadly snakes or vipers in the environment they lived in.