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Asafoetida (Ferula assafoetida)

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Also listed as: Ferula assafoetida
Related terms
Background
Evidencetable
Tradition
Dosing
Safety
Interactions
Attribution
Bibliography

Related Terms
  • Asafetida, Ferula assafoetida, Ferula assa-foetida, Ferula assa foetida, Ferula foetida, Ferula rubricaulis.

Background
  • Asafoetida, or asafetida (Ferula assafoetida), is a plant native to Iran that has a strong sulfurous smell. The sap of the stem and roots is dried and crushed to form an onion-tasting powder that is frequently used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. Jains (followers of the Jain religion, an ancient faith based on the teachings of the prince Mahavira, 599 - 527 BC) also use it as a substitute for onions.
  • There is currently little information available on the pharmacology and medicinal uses of asafoetida. Limited animal research suggests that asafetida may increase the calcium and zinc content in bone after exposure to radiation. However, there is currently insufficient evidence in humans to support the use of asafoetida for any indication.

Evidence Table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. GRADE *
* Key to grades

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use
B: Good scientific evidence for this use
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)


Tradition / Theory

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

  • Abortifacient, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, cancer, colon inflammation, digestion, food uses, high blood pressure, insecticide, osteoporosis, radiation protection.

Dosing

Adults (18 years and older)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose for asafoetida.

Children (under 18 years old)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose for asafoetida.

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • Avoid in individuals with known allergies or sensitivity to asafoetida (Ferula assafoetida), its constituents, or members of the Apiaceae family.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Limited information is available on the potential adverse effects of asafoetida. Asafoetida is likely safe when used in amounts consumed in foods.
  • In laboratory research, an asafoetida extract was toxic to various types of cells, including ovary cells, lymphocytes (white blood cells), and Vero cells. The extract also inhibited thymidine uptake into DNA.
  • Asafoetida may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in patients with bleeding disorders or in those taking agents that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.
  • Asafoetida has traditionally been used as an abortifacient.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • Asafoetida is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to a lack of available scientific evidence. In laboratory research, an asafoetida extract was toxic to various types of cells, including ovary cells, lymphocytes (white blood cells), and Vero cells. The extract also inhibited the thymidine uptake into DNA. Asafoetida has traditionally been used as an abortifacient.

Interactions

Interactions with Drugs

  • Asafoetida may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants ("blood thinners") such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, anti-platelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).
  • Asafoetida may lower blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking drugs that lower blood pressure.
  • Asafoetida may reduce inflammation.
  • Asafoetida may kill cancer cells. It also inhibited the thymidine uptake into DNA.
  • Ferula asafoetida gum extract may have antispasmodic effects.
  • Asafoetida may increase bone calcium after radiation.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Asafoetida may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.
  • Asafoetida may reduce inflammation.
  • Asafoetida may kill cancer cells. It also inhibited the thymidine uptake into DNA.
  • Ferula asafoetida gum extract may have antispasmodic effects.
  • Asafoetida may increase bone calcium and zinc content after radiation.
  • Asafoetida may lower blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking herbs or supplements that lower blood pressure.

Attribution
  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

Bibliography
  1. Abd El-Razek, MH, Ohta, S, Ahmed, AA, et al. Sesquiterpene coumarins from the roots of Ferula assa-foetida. Phytochemistry 2001;58(8):1289-1295.
  2. Appendino, G, Maxia, L, Bascope, M, et al. A meroterpenoid NF-kappaB inhibitor and drimane sesquiterpenoids from Asafetida. J Nat Prod 2006;69(7):1101-1104.
  3. Carrubba, RW. The first report of the harvesting of Asafetida in Iran. Agric Hist 1979;53(2):451-461.
  4. Duan, H, Takaishi, Y, Tori, M, et al. Polysulfide derivatives from Ferula foetida. J Nat Prod 2002;65(11):1667-1669.
  5. Fatehi, M, Farifteh, F, and Fatehi-Hassanabad, Z. Antispasmodic and hypotensive effects of Ferula asafoetida gum extract. J Ethnopharmacol 2004;91(2-3):321-324.
  6. Harve, G and Kamath, V. Larvicidal activity of plant extracts used alone and in combination with known synthetic larvicidal agents against Aedes aegypti. Indian J Exp Biol 2004;42(12):1216-1219.
  7. Ren, D, Yang, W, and Zeng, G. [Effects of microwave radiation on the content of five elements in mice bone tissue]. Wei Sheng Yan.Jiu 2001;30(4):201-202.
  8. Singh, UP, Singh, DP, Maurya, S, et al. Investigation on the phenolics of some spices having pharmacotherapeuthic properties. J Herb Pharmacother 2004;4(4):27-42.
  9. Uma, Pradeep K, Geervani, P, et al. Common Indian spices: nutrient composition, consumption and contribution to dietary value. Plant Foods Hum Nutr 1993;44(2):137-148.
  10. Unnikrishnan, MC and Kuttan, R. Cytotoxicity of extracts of spices to cultured cells. Nutr Cancer 1988;11(4):251-257.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)


The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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