Hing, a gum resin also known as asafoetida, is a familiar spice in Indian homes. Often used by the Jain and Brahmin communities to replace onion and garlic, this strong-smelling spice is native to Iran, Afghanistan and India. Not many would know that asafoetida has a long history of use in Europe, and the distinctive flavour of Worcestershire sauce is also obtained by the addition of this gum. In Iran, this herb is highly valued and is referred to as the ‘Food of the Gods’. It is also a major component in many Ayurvedic medicines.
Besides hing being used as a condiment, its medicinal use as a digestive aid to treat flatulence is well-known. Owing to its ability to aid digestion, it helps in building the immune system and clearing mucus. It’s not surprising that it has historically been used for inflammatory conditions like bronchitis and asthma.
Recent studies reveal an interesting aspect in its ability to fight dementia. While it is well-known to improve nervous conditions, its link with Alzheimer’s disease is relatively new.
Recent studies, including pharmacological and biological ones, have also shown that asafoetida possesses anti-oxidant, anti-viral, anti-diabetic and antispasmodic properties.
As per a study published in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and other Dementia, in 2015, it was found that chronic administration of asafoetida could prevent and treat learning impairment and memory deficit induced in adult male mice.
In general, people prefer to use medicinal plants rather than chemical drugs, and research for finding novel therapeutic agents from medicinal plants is growing rapidly.
Asafoetida, prized for centuries for its culinary use, has also been used therapeutically. More research on its health benefits in treating chronic diseases would be valuable to support traditional beliefs and medicines.